Friday, June 27, 2014

VI SBDC: An Ally to Small Businesses in the Territory

Just Threads owners Cyril and Germene Thomas pose for a photo after their business was named the Small Business of the Year on St. Thomas. 
Running a small business, especially in these difficult economic times, can be trying, but with help from the Virgin Islands Small Business Development Center (VI SBDC), businesses in the territory have found an ally. In June, the VI-SBDC celebrated Small Business Week with specialized training sessions and lectures designed to foster business growth. The week culminated with award ceremonies that acknowledge small businesses in the territory that have excelled.

Jennifer Jackson and Lionel Jacobs, owners of Arawak Bay: The Inn at Salt River, LLC, were presented with the VI SBDC Small Business of the Year award on St. Croix. Cyril and Germene Thomas, owners of Just Threads, received the VI-SBDC 2014 Small Business of the Year award on St. Thomas.

“Our 2014 award winners are examples of determination and success,” said State Director of the VI SBDC Leonor Dottin. “Business ownership is about taking risks and working toward minimizing these risks as you grow your business. Our SBDC winners are examples of the success of utilizing services like the VI SBDC to further their dreams and subsequently grow their businesses.”

Arawak Bay: The Inn at Salt River, LLC

Arawak Bay opened in March 2007. Husband and wife team, Jennifer Jackson and Lionel Jacobs were both new to the hospitality business. Jackson was employed at UVI for 23 years. Before she separated from UVI in 2005, she served as the chancellor for the St. Croix Campus. Jacobs, a retired architect by trade, was previously the director of planning and construction at the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority. They opened Arawak Bay confident that their life and career experiences uniquely qualified them for the construction and management of their business.

Arawak Bay, located on the north shore of St. Croix, was designed by Jacobs. It features sprawling balconies, landscaping and colors designed to emphasize the beauty and historic culture of St. Croix. Jackson runs the inn and shares the beautiful features of St. Croix with visitors to the territory.

“We essentially tried to create a hotel with a difference,” said Jackson. “It’s just not a place where people stay while visiting the island. We try to make sure that their stay in St. Croix is enjoyable. Based on their interests we help them plan what to do while on island so that they can enjoy the best features of the Virgin Islands.” They also work with groups, mostly from various mainland universities, and plan their activities to ensure that all guests have an excellent experience.

Jackson thanks the VI SBDC for the honor of recognizing their efforts. “When you start a small business in the Virgin Islands you’re pretty much on your own,” said Jackson. But she found allies in the helpful VI SBDC’s staff and the training sessions offered at the center. The VI SBDC courses that she took with other businesses owners assisted her in remaining compliant as a limited liability company and helped her shift focus from day to day management to planning and marketing and developing strategies for success. “The SBDC courses and their other offerings can be seen as a 101 in how you run a small business,” she said. During those courses, Jackson was also able to network with other business owners and discuss challenges and business strategies.

With the hospitality business being seasonal, Jackson has used many of the techniques learned at the SBDC and continues to strategically market her business. The Arawak Inn received certificates of excellence from the popular Trip Advisor website in 2013 and 2014.

Just Threads

“It was an honor to receive the award,” said Cyril Thomas, of Just Threads. “It shows all the hard work that we have been doing for the community and ourselves has actually made a difference.”

He worked for the Footlocker Corporation for 10 years before partnering with his wife to open Just Threads in Tutu Park Mall in 2002. Cyril Thomas started his career at Footlocker as a full-time sales representative in 1992. Two years later, he was promoted to store manager of two Footlocker stores – one on St. Thomas and one on St. Croix. Later he was promoted to market leader over all stores in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Just Threads is located at the center of Tutu Park Mall and sells all kinds of clothing, including unisex designer dresses, suits and pants. Among their inventory is a variety of caps.

Thomas was pleased with the support, advice and training he received at the SBDC. “While I have years of business experience, the SBDC helped me to add to my knowledge and improve my business outlook,” he said. In the near future, he plans to continue to work with the SBDC to find out how he can promote the business as he moves to diversify his inventory to include sporting goods.

“Small business owners must prepare themselves to strive and further grow their business,” said Dottin. “Through the services offered at the VI-SBDC, they can take advantage of counseling services that are of no-charge to them in areas such as financial management, accounting, marketing, sales, strategic planning, retail, merchandising, social media and other very important areas of business.” She continued, “What is most important is that the VI-SBDC counselors work as a team and they utilize each other’s strengths to further their service potential to clients.”

Other 2014 SBDC award recipients include:

· St. Thomas Woman-Owned Business of the Year – Jill Farley, owner of Cool Signs

· St. Croix Woman-Owned Business of the Year – Yoki K. Hanley, owner of Itiba, LLC

· St. Croix Entrepreneurial Success Award – Marston Adams, owner of Kiki’s Automotive, Inc. d/b/a Kiki’s Alternators & Starters

· St. Thomas/St. Croix Small Business Advocate of the Year – The Virgin Islands Daily News

The 2014 Small Business Administration award recipients:

· SBA Entrepreneur of the Year for St. John – Curtis Penn, owner of Caribbean Seashells Vacation Villas

· SBA Entrepreneur of the Year for St. Croix – Angel Diaz, owner of the La Reine Chicken Shack

· SBA Entrepreneur of the Year for St. Thomas – Michael S. Barrows, DDS, Happy Teeth Dental Office

· SBA Bank of the Year – Banco Popular de Puerto Rico

All the activities offered during Small Business Week were made available by the support received from FirstBank VI, Virgin Islands Next Generation Network, Banco Popular, Marriott Frenchman’s Reef Resort, and the Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority. The VI-SBDC is a partnership program of UVI and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Entrepreneur Business Institute Opens on UVI’s St. Thomas Campus

Students representing the majority of the Territory’s high schools gathered on UVI’s St. Thomas Campus for the opening of the 2014 Entrepreneur Business Institute.

The 2014 edition of the Entrepreneur Business Institute (EBI) summer program at the University of the Virgin Islands opened on Sunday, June 22, on the St. Thomas Campus. Some 30 students representing the majority of the territory’s high schools are participating in the an intensive, three-week program designed to help them develop entrepreneurial, leadership and business skills, while providing an insight into the college experience and campus life. They will also work with mentors, including successful entrepreneurs and business leaders in the community, and gain the experience of starting with an idea and developing it into a business plan.

The program, which has students living on campus, runs on the St. Thomas Campus from June 22 through July 11. It is sponsored by International Capital & Management Company (ICMC), a management services company based in St. Thomas, in collaboration with the University of the Virgin Islands School of Business.

    Orville Smith                                                   Joshua Murray                                         Marisha Butcher
Several graduates of the 2013 EBI program spoke to this year’s incoming students about their experiences with the program. The students, from left, Orville Smith from the Tutu Church of God Academy, Joshua Murray from St. Croix’ Central High School, and Marisha Butcher from St. Croix’ Education Complex, described their various successes in  business efforts they initiated based on what they learned during the program. Program Director Dr. Paul Fleming, an assistant professor of Business Management at UVI, said the students who returned to share their experiences represent the program well.

Student pose for a group photo on the steps of UVI's Paiewonsky Library.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Kean Senior Morgan Cleaveland Awarded Four-Year ROTC Scholarship to UVI

Kean High School Senior Morgan Cleaveland receives a check representing her ROTC scholarship to attend the University of the Virgin Islands. Making the presentation are, from left, ROTC Professor of Military Science Lt. Col. Robel Ramirez, Cleaveland, Kean High School Battalion Cmdr. Eddie Charles and Master Sgt. Russell Bannister Russell, the senior military instructor on UVI’s St. Thomas Campus.

Ivanna Eudora Kean High School senior Morgan Cleaveland received a four-year Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship to attend the University of the Virgin Islands during a special presentation ceremony at the high school on June 10. Cleaveland, a cadet captain in Kean’s ROTC program, is the fifth student to receive a full ROTC scholarship to attend UVI. The presentation was made by ROTC Caribbean Region Commander Lt. Col. Rodel Ramirez, who is also a professor of military science. ROTC scholarships were also presented to Kean seniors Cadet Lt. Col. Dinelle Cadette and Cadet Maj. Jamaal Al-Ameen during the same ceremony.
U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Herman Bardouille, right, a recent UVI 
graduate, addresses students at Kean High School.  

The presentations were made before other Kean students and each scholarship recipient took the opportunity to speak to their classmates about the importance of focus, hard work and involvement in school activities. Newly minted U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Herman Bardouille, who was commissioned during UVI’s recent Commencement Ceremony on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix in May, was also on hand to discuss the opportunities available to high school students.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

UVI Class of 2014: Destined to Change the World

Harvard professor, award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist and historian Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. addresses the graduates at Commencement.

At University of the Virgin Islands commencement ceremonies on May 17, on the St. Thomas Campus and on May 18, on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix, graduates declared that they are ready for everything that lies ahead.

“We are ready to revolutionize the world and make those who invested in us supremely proud,” said St. Thomas Campus Class Speaker Natalie Richardson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration on the St. Thomas Campus. She said the Class of 2014 will remain optimistic because the class is passionate about the issues which prove their abilities and challenge their potential. “These memories that we have made will live with us forever,” Richardson said. “But even more so the bonds that we have forged, friends that have turned into family, dreams that have turned into reality, and dedication that has turned into success.”

St. Thomas Class Speaker Natalie Richardson
“Our inclusion in today’s ceremony shows, that we have what it takes to sacrifice, to start a project and see it to completion,” said UVI Albert A. Sheen Class Speaker Allison De Gazon, who earned a masters’ degree in business administration. “This academic journey defined us and showed us what we are all made of.”

De Gazon urged her fellow graduates to defy the norm of walking away from their alma mater after receiving a degree. “The baton to build our businesses and our community has been passed to us,” she said. “We must embrace all we have been taught by our professors and utilize everything within us to focus forward and transform this community.”

“Together we are all walking through the door fully equipped with knowledge, faith in God and the ability to lead any institution to success,” she said. “I believe we can have everything we want if we help others get what they want.” De Gazon continued, “At the end of life, it won’t matter how many degrees we have earned, how much money we’ve made or how many material things we have amassed. What will matter is how many people we have served and what our community has to say about our contribution, our affiliation and our legacy.”

View and like Commencement photos on the UVI Facebook page:

De Gazon took advantage of every open door offered by UVI. She participated in the UVI Upward Bound Program, participated in the student exchange program, was president in the Golden Key National Honour Society, president of the debate team, and earned her bachelor’s degree at UVI. Recently, De Gazon participated in the 13D Entrepreneurship Program and took home the top prize of $30,000 for her business plan named Cruzan Organix Farm.

Sheen Class Speaker Allison De Gazon
“Let us embrace the opportunities that lie ahead” she said. “Let us honor our past by demonstrating excellence and leadership in every undertaking. Let’s represent UVI and these Virgin Islands with pride and conviction.”

“I hope your experience here has taught you that your dreams can come true,” UVI President David Hall told the graduates. “I hope you understand now at a much deeper level that your future is within your hands. Dr. Hall continued, “I hope you understand that this university was created for you so you can have the experience that you just had. Now you must go out and create something that allows the dreams of others to be fulfilled as well.”

“UVI has done its work well if you aren’t just looking at what stands behind you, but you are able to see more clearly what lies ahead of you – even if others can’t see,” he said. “At this special moment we want you to peek in the mirror of the past few years and be thankful and joyous for what you see, but more importantly, we want you to look into the window of your endless potential and know that you are destined to change the world.”

The UVI Class of 2014 was addressed by Harvard professor, award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist and historian Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., UVI’s 2014 keynote speaker on both campuses. “You can’t know where you are going until you know where you have been,” said Dr. Gates. “Your education has made you ready to move from point A to point B and beyond. You are ready to go as far as your dreams will take you because you have the strongest validations and the tools of which to build on.” A day after the St. Croix ceremony, Dr. Gates traveled to New York to receive a Peabody Award for his PBS television series “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.”

Dr. Gates, the Virgin Islands’ first elected Delegate to Congress the Hon. Ron de Lugo, and St. Croix baseball legend and youth mentor Horace Clarke were awarded UVI honorary degrees at the 2014 Commencement. De Lugo was unable to attend the commencement ceremony, but his daughter Angela de Lugo received the degree and was hooded in his stead.

At the Commencement Ceremony on the St. Thomas Campus, Dr. Hall presented the cap, gown and hood to the family of the late David Payne, Jr., a UVI alumnus and graduate student who was killed in front of his Anna’s Retreat home in 2012. Payne earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from UVI in elementary education in May 2012 and was enrolled in UVI's Master of Arts in Education program on the St. Thomas Campus at the time of his death. In 2011, he earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in criminal justice. “We are honored to present this regalia to his sister and his son and present it to say to the entire family that David still lives in our hearts, but we especially say to his son that we want you to wear this regalia in honor of your father when you graduate from UVI,” said Dr. Hall.

He said that he believed Payne would have earned his degree had he not have been killed. “You may kill the dreamer but you will never kill the dream,” said Dr. Hall. “Virgin Islanders must strive to do great things in their lives.” After Payne’s death, UVI increased its efforts to reduce violence in the community with the creation of the Anti-violence and Peace Initiative in honor of Payne’s memory in order to ensure that others do not suffer the same end.

On the Sheen Campus, UVI awarded a posthumous nursing associate’s degree to Natalie Fenton, who was working towards that degree while fighting a battle with cancer. She died on April 18.

UVI conferred over 300 degrees at the commencement ceremonies.

ROTC Presents Four-Year UVI Scholarship to Complex Graduate Augustus Laurencin

Shown, from left, are UVI Interim Provost Dr. Camille McKayle, Senior Military Instructor Master Sgt. Jose Delgado, Senior Military Science Instructor Maj. (R) William J. Velazquez, Professor of Military Science Lt. Col. Robel Ramirez, UVI scholarship recipient Agustus Laurencin, JROTC Senior Instructor at Central High School Maj. Fernando Webster, Central High Cadet Battalion Commander Daleena Parker and Sixth ROTC Brigade Commander Col. Brent Barnes. 
Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Professor of Military Science Lt. Col. Robel Ramirez presented a four-year ROTC scholarship to Augustus Laurencin to attend the University of the Virgin Islands in a ceremony at the St. Croix Educational Complex High School on May 16. Laurencin, a former JROTC Cadet at Central High School, was the fourth cadet to receive a full scholarship to UVI. It will cover tuition, books and all educational expenses at the University.

Col. Brent Barnes, ROTC commander of Continental USA 
South East Region, speaks  to JROTC Cadets attending 
Complex High School. (Click image for larger view.)
The ROTC Commander of Continental USA South East Region Col. Brent Barnes, who was on hand for the presentation, spoke to JROTC Cadets attending Complex High School. UVI Provost Dr. Camille McKayle represented the University.