Young Entrepreneurs on a Social Mission
Not many people think of businesses as engines of social regeneration, yet social enterprises, are capable of earning profits, while providing a social service, which empowers people and communities.
Although initially unaware of the model of business they were dabbling with, entrepreneurs and life-long best friends, Kadeem Pet-Grave and Simier Landsend, launched a company, at the start of 2015 that has so far proven not only promising; but also to be a social good, educating vast numbers of students about Jamaican heritage and culture; as well as providing employment for several university students.
Welcome to Educatours JA: one of several social enterprises being nurtured by the JN Foundation through the Social Enterprise Boost Initiative (SEBI), in concert with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The innovation provides high school and primary school students with the opportunity to witness lessons in the classroom come to life through bus tours to places of historical, cultural and economic significance in Jamaica. And, the lessons on each trip are complemented by computerised game applications, which engage the students to reinforce the knowledge gleaned on each tour. And, soon Educatours intends to add augmented reality to its games to enrich the experience for its students.
Based at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, where the young men, both in their early twenties, read for their undergraduate degrees in Entrepreneurship, the launch of Educatours was not an overnight achievement.
“We pitched the idea to various persons; however, it all fell on deaf ears, as nobody took on the project. But, one teacher, who saw the vision of the industry, became one of our first participants on a tour for students, which we did at no cost,” Kadeem explained.
The experience was a success and “word began to spread” about the duo’s innovation in education circles, paving the way for other opportunities for the young team.
During the course of 2015, Educatours conducted bus tours for more than 1,000 students, and over the next two years, they plan to expand their services to cater to more than 20,000 students, locally and regionally. Their objective is to expand their gamification tour experience to include exchange-type programmes, for students in neighbouring Caribbean states.
The thought of becoming entrepreneurs was seeded and nurtured early in the minds of the young men. As teenagers attending Jamaica College, Kadeem could remember Simier constantly talking about the need to operate their own business.
“I always knew that I wanted to do business, but if you asked me what pulled me, I would say him,” said Kadeem, pointing to Simier.
“Every day he used to preach that he doesn’t want to work for anybody. That he wants to have his own thing,” Kadeem explained. And, there were other inspirations, such as well-known young entrepreneur Tyrone Wilson, who also attended Jamaica College and had started his eMedia Interactive company while at The UWI.
The pair also internalised unobtrusive lessons from their parents and grandparents and from other experiences they garnered while at university.
“When I was a child, I would travel abroad to spend the holidays with my mother, who lives [in the US]. Every time we are enjoying ourselves, she would say she has to go, because she has work in the morning, so like…every time we are enjoying ourselves you have to leave,” said Simier.
“So I wanted to be in a position, when I became an adult, where I could say…’I am coming in late tomorrow, because I’m with the children.’”
Kadeem also observed his grandfather, who he describes as an entrepreneur and inventor, closely, taking note of his drive.
“He would make wash pans and watering cans from zinc in the pan shop. He also owned a church, bar and lumber yard. He did many things,” Kadeem recounted.
And, as a participant in President Barack Obama’s Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative last October to November, Kadeem also gained invaluable experience. The five-week programme took him to the United States of America for the first time, opening his mind to new ideas and ways of thinking. He also had the opportunity to work at a tour company in Miami, Florida named Dragonfly Expeditions, which sparked some of the ideas to further mould the Educatours experience.
“At Dragonfly Expeditions I learned the art of storytelling among other things from my mentor Charles Kropke, the CEO,” Kadeem explained. “Storytelling was big part of the trip for me.”
And storytelling is a big a part of the duo’s business. Although the two are the face of Educatours and deal with its day-to-day operations, each experience is intricately written by chief creative officer, David Wright. He writes the content for various scavenger hunts for the game applications, and craftily relates the stories about each of the places to be toured, as well as the scripts for the tour guides.
The business also employs a graphic artist, who carefully designs the look of the games and content to meet the taste of its young audience, and students at The UWI are employed as tour guides.
The content of each tour is prepared and agreed with the students’ teachers, who provide the subject they wish to explore with their students.
“First the students take part in the guided tour; and following the tour, the gamification comes into play, where the tour guide provides the students with the tablets; demonstrate how it works; and they all run out to begin doing the scavenger hunt,” Simier explained.
Each hunt is tailored to a particular syllabus, and is tweaked based on the objective of the lessons outlined by the respective teacher.
A business on a social mission, the young men envision that Educatours will soon become a spoke in the wheel towards regional integration, as they expand their services to include cultural exchanges between Caribbean states.
“Don’t look at us as a tour company,” Kadeem urged. “We are not doing what other tour companies are doing. We are creating an experience, which allows students to interact at different levels.”