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Mr. Phillip Bernard (left), General Manager of JN Small Business Loans (JNSBL) shakes hands with Miss Lisandra Rickards (right), Entrepreneurship Programme Manager at Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship Caribbean (BCoEC) at the signing of the agreement to disburse loans to three entrepreneurs at the JNSBL Offices recently. The three were the winners in the BCoEC Pitch To Rich competition last year. Looking on are: Victoria Silvera, owner of Touch By VLS (second left); Michelle Jones, Executive Producer of Vibes Cuisine (third left); Joshua Chamberlain, who manages Special Projects at Alpha Boys School (centre); and Thelma Yong, Credit and Risk Assessment Manager at JNSBL (second right)

Mr. Phillip Bernard (left), General Manager of JN Small Business Loans (JNSBL) shakes hands with Miss Lisandra Rickards (right), Entrepreneurship Programme Manager at Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship Caribbean (BCoEC) at the signing of the agreement to disburse loans to three entrepreneurs at the JNSBL Offices recently. The three were the winners in the BCoEC Pitch To Rich competition last year. Looking on are: Victoria Silvera, owner of Touch By VLS (second left); Michelle Jones, Executive Producer of Vibes Cuisine (third left); Joshua Chamberlain, who manages Special Projects at Alpha Boys School (centre); and Thelma Yong, Credit and Risk Assessment Manager at JNSBL (second right)

Three promising entrepreneurs have benefitted from a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the JN Small Business Loans (JNSBL) and the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship – Caribbean (BCoEC), which will result in the island’s leading loan company collaborating with the non-profit organisation to fund entrepreneurs recommended by the Centre.

Michelle Jones, Joshua Chamberlain and Victoria Silvera were the first Branson Centre entrepreneurs to receive loan funds for their operations under the MOU, which was signed in July. They were presented with contracts on November 25, at the JNSBL Head Office on Duke Street, downtown Kingston.

The three were the top performers in the ‘Pitch To Rich’ competition at the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship – Caribbean last year where they had the opportunity to pitch their business to Virgin group founder, Sir Richard Branson, and an audience of entrepreneurs and partners. After their stellar pitches, Richard offered a loan to each of the three participants.

“I am grateful. As a young entrepreneur, I have been able to generate profits and slowly purchase my own kiln– but this sizeable award will allow me to completely expedite my expansion goals,” said Victoria Silvera, owner of Touch By VLS, a ceramics manufacturer, which has been in operation since 2013. “I can now purchase a large shipment of raw materials, and take care of my IP issues, to enter the global market.”

The BCoEC was launched in 2011 to support entrepreneurs at different stages of development, so that they can make a positive impact on the economy through job creation and revenue generation.  The BCoEC offers training programmes to develop the entrepreneurs’ abilities to structure, scale and present their businesses so that they can benefit from investments and partnerships.

The BCoEC began building out its Access to Finance stream in 2013; and, when Richard visited the Centre in Montego Bay in November of that year, he gave it a kick-start by offering the loans.

Michelle Jones, Executive Producer of Vibes Cuisine said, “We are very excited. This loan will help us to expand overseas and deliver our content to new, global markets.” Her company, which has been in operation since 2006, produces a Caribbean culinary travel programme for local television.

Joshua Chamberlain, who manages Special Projects at Alpha Boys School and who was also the winner of the Pitch To Rich, competition said the funds will assist the Alpha Students to continue manufacturing their clothing line, Alpha WEARJA, which he launched on behalf of the school in 2013.

“The loan will certainly help us to do more for the Alpha students who are the real beneficiaries. Alpha has a screen printing programme, which started about a year-and-a-half ago. It trains students to screen print, as well as make shirts and tote bags. With this loan, we will be able to buy bulk textiles, which will enhance our product offering and give us better pricing from our suppliers.” he said.

Under the terms of the Agreement, the JNSBL and the BCoEC will collaborate to appraise each loan applicant to determine if their business is viable. The JNSBL will administer the loans on behalf of the Centre and will waive the fees associated with processing the loans.

Philip Bernard, General Manager of JNSBL said he was pleased that the island’s leading micro finance company could partner with the BCoEC to help entrepreneurs to fund their businesses.

“The JNSBL has always been committed to helping young entrepreneurs to find their way and realise their dreams. This MOU with the Branson Centre will help us to continue assisting new entrepreneurs. We commend Victoria, Joshua and Michelle for their efforts to become, and assist others in becoming entrepreneurs; and we wish them all the best,” he said.

Lisandra Rickards, Entrepreneurship Programme Manager at BCoEC said, “We are excited to build out our access to finance services through our partnership with JNSBL; as well as, to answer the calls we hear from our early-stage entrepreneurs, and make capital more accessible to them.”

It is her hope that the lessons from the ‘Pitch to Rich’ participants will inform a larger programme of financing options for Branson Centre Official Entrepreneurs in the coming years.

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