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Christal Oliver, Pitch It Vincy 2019 winner, centre, is flanked by finalists, from left: Peta Odini Sutherland, Kenna Questelles, Rhondel Dickson, Manyi Florence Fotabong, Kimya Glasgow and Raymond Victory.
Christal Oliver, Pitch It Vincy 2019 winner, centre, is flanked by finalists, from left: Peta Odini Sutherland, Kenna Questelles, Rhondel Dickson, Manyi Florence Fotabong, Kimya Glasgow and Raymond Victory.

Invest SVG’s inaugural Pitch It Vincy 2019 initiative came to ended last week, with a panel of five angel investors selecting Christal Oliver, of Olive Art Designs (OAD), as the overall winner.

On Oct. 29, Oliver distinguished herself amidst stiff competition from six other finalists to walk away with a cash prize of US$2,000, upcoming mentorship from industry experts and capital investment from one of the Angel Investors.

“It hasn’t been easy — of course, nothing in life ever is. There were sleepless nights and it’s the most nervous I’ve ever been in my entire life… It feels surreal!” Oliver said.

“I entered Pitch It Vincy because I saw an opportunity for investment. In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, small business owners face difficulty in acquiring capital for their ideas — especially if they don’t have collateral. I believed in my product and I felt that even if I didn’t win, whatever came from it would be exactly what I needed for OAD at this moment.”

This initiative, which was executed in collaboration with Caribbean Export Development Agency, opened for application in June 2019 and saw many Vincentian entrepreneurs enter Invest SVG’s pilot programme. In August 2019, seven finalists were shortlisted, and from that point onward, they received both group training and one-on-one sessions.

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“It has really helped in identifying areas of weaknesses and has helped to improve in many areas … My team and I are looking forward to what’s around the corner. I know that this will open a lot of doors, and I’m looking forward to what’s in store. I’m looking forward to showing that here’s another area that my country can excel at.”

The six other finalists were: Manyi Florence Fotabong (Afro Chips SVG), Kimya Glasgow (Kimya Glasgow Inc.), Kenna Questelles (Link Up), Peta Odini Sutherland (Peta Odini), Raymond Victory (Plumbtech Pro) and Rhondel Dickson (XO Delights).

Minister of Finance, Economic Planning, Sustainable Development and Information Technology Camillo Gonsalves attended the finals and lauded Invest SVG for introducing this “incredibly exciting” venture to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The finance minister also commended the finalists on having “excellent ideas and products”.

“I think that they will benefit from the process even if they are not ultimately successful in becoming the winner,” Gonsalves said. 

“They will … learn to pitch their ideas, learn to shape them in a way that is attractive to entrepreneurs and people [who] have the resources necessary to take this to the next level.”

Gonsalves also said that he is grateful for the support from Caribbean Export Development Agency, Caribbean Business Angel Network and, ultimately, to the panel of angel investors who agreed to be on the panel.

The panel comprised of Nicholas Brisbane (from St. Kitts and Nevis), entrepreneur, engineer and managing partner at Brisbane, O’Garro and Alvanga Architectural Services; Andy Thorne (from the United Kingdom), entrepreneur and owner/founder of Kestrel Liner Agencies Ltd. and also connected to St Vincent and the Grenadines; Ruben John (from St. Vincent and the Grenadines), chartered accountant and Senior Partner at BDO Eastern Caribbean; McHale Andrew (from St. Lucia), independent consultant and OECS country advisor for Caribbean Business Angel Network; and Jeanelle Murray-Noel, operations officer at Caribbean Export Development Agency.

Invest SVG Executive Director Annette Mark also spoke at the final event last week.

She described Pitch It Vincy as a “realistic source of financing for MSMEs, innovators and start-up businesses”.

“Unlike traditional lenders, they (angel investors) understand the perceived risk associated with MSMEs and start-up businesses and generally have a higher tolerance for risk,” Mark said.

The Invest SVG executive director commended the winner and the finalists for their “bravery and commitment to thinking outside of the box”.

“This is only the beginning,” she pointed out. “…we at Invest SVG and you all would still have succeeded in bringing awareness to the fact that Business Angel Investing is very much available to MSMEs.”