Startups, Visit Jamaica

One/One Cacao: Airbnb promoting downtown Kingston chocolate tour

Airbnb users from across the world are now able to get a real taste of Jamaica, thanks to Nick Davis of gourmet local chocolate company One/One Cacao, one of a handful of Jamaican ‘experiences’ that the online accommodation marketplace is now promoting, globally.

An unlikely Willy Wonka, Nick has been a friend of mine from when were both journalists, and he’s still the BBC’s Caribbean Correspondent. But sitting on my sofa he’s doesn’t have a clue how many tourists Airbnb will be sending his way to “Create custom bars with a chocolatier”. Given that Airbnb has 150 million users, it could be a few.

“Slightly bricking it,” he shrugs.

Showing tourists the real Jamaica

Continue reading

NGOs, Startups

Deaf Can! Coffee: 10 ways to launch a successful social enterprise in Jamaica

Deaf Can! Coffee’s Fabian Jackson, Carlyle Gabbidon, Tashi & Blake Widmer

Maybe you’ve seen them wearing their branded t-shirts serving coffee at events around Jamaica. There are now three full-time and 25 part-time baristas working with Deaf Can! Coffee, just two years since the social enterprise launched. In that short time, founders Blake and Tashi Widmer have learned quite a lot about how to make a social enterprise work in Jamaica.

Based at the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf (CCCD) on Kingston’s Cassia Park Road, Deaf Can! has grown at a time when coffee culture is thriving on the island, as has awareness of social enterprises and their potential impact in Jamaica. Imagine if every wealthy church congregation followed their example and founded their own social enterprise employing youth? I chatted with Blake at Deaf Can’s third location, inside the Toyota Coffeehouse at the dealership on Old Hope Road…

Identify a business opportunity

“I think we are offering a product and a service that nobody else is by being able to deliver a pop-up service at an event with the equipment we have. Also, we’re tapping into an underutilised labour force which is the deaf community, there are a lot of people who don’t have a job or only work part-time and when we have an event we can send out a text and say, ‘Hey we have an opportunity to work at this event this weekend and it’s gonna be such and such hours’.” Continue reading

NGOs, Startups

SlashRoots: apps that help people – from Jamaica to Eastern Europe

slash roots jamaica mobile for development

Call centre jobs, climate change, murders and tiefing – are among Jamaica’s most pressing existential questions, jokes David Soutar of SlashRoots, the Kingston-based social impact organisation that uses technology to tackle some of those issues here and abroad.

Starting out as a still-online Caribbean developers’ community in 2010, SlashRoots’ vision is realised through what most people have in their hands: a mobile phone; and in the other hand, or not as the case may be; decent access to government services. The intersection between governance and tech is where SlashRoots has built a reputation with clients from multi-laterals like the World Bank and to design agencies like Reboot in NYC.

For when you see goats riding on the backseat

The question for every project they choose is simple: is this going to benefit the everyday citizen? My favorite is their app for the Ministry of Agriculture to help prevent predial larceny (agricultural theft). Finally, ready to be launched and available for police to use in the field, the app allows officers to verify the validity of produce and animal purchases against the Ministry’s database. Continue reading

NGOs, Startups

SEBI: purpose plus profit = transforming Jamaica

Saffrey Brown JN, Foundation General Manager SEBI

Saffrey Brown, JN Foundation General Manager

My wife was looking to buy flowers recently for someone struck down by a life-threatening illness when she found a friendly face and the right gift, a cactus, in Petals n’ Roots, a concession inside the HiLo supermarket in Ligunea, St Andrew. On the face of it this was an average transaction, but Petals n’ Roots is anything but your average business – as your purchase helps provide employment opportunities to persons suffering mental illness and donates to MENSANA, a non-profit founded to meet the needs of such persons and their families.

Petals n’ Roots is one of a growing number of social enterprises – their purpose being to create profits to meet social or environmental needs – a ‘third sector’ of the economy thriving in no small way thanks to the efforts of the JN Foundation and USAID’s Social Enterprise Boost Initiative. Continue reading


Branson Centre entrepreneur turning pig s*** into social good

CaribShare biogas jamaica agriculture

Carol with Lascelles Gabbidon, vice-principal of Westwood High School, a farm participating in the CaribShare project. (Photo: Contributed)

One freezing Toronto February day in 2012, Jamaican Carol Lue was learning about how a company called Zooshare was collecting organic waste from supermarkets and yes, the local zoo, to produce biogas. Fast forward four years and through her social enterprise, CaribShare Biogas, Carol is collecting waste from pig farms and hotels to produce organic fertiliser and clean energy.

Carol is a graduate from the Branson Centre Entrepreneurship in Montego Bay, which has helped produced businesses as varied as One One Cacao and EduFocal. As part of the head start the centre gave her, it also gave her the opportunity to share a stage with Richard Branson in New York. And if that sounds interesting, then you can submit your business idea – but hurry as applications for the latest intake close May 19. [Scroll down to apply]

But as Carol’s experience shows, being an entrepreneur isn’t all glamour. For her it’s about the hard work of pig waste; building a biogas plant; benefitting the environment and giving farmers a helping hand. That and being grounded in 10+ years working for corporations and as a research analyst studying development projects for clients like the World Bank and USAID, until she decided upon her own…

We prepared numerous analysis reports on development problems. Yet, I found that regardless of the country or case in question, the same or similar solutions to sustainable development were prescribed. Although known and well-studied, they, however, were not been implemented in practice at the rate that would truly make a difference. Continue reading