Above: Rickards on Jamaica’s sense of community: “It’s good to live in a place where the people are expressive and vibrant.” (photo by Marina Burnel)
I had a strong sense when I was at HBS that the skills I learned there would have a bigger impact back home in Jamaica than if I stayed in the United States. I didn’t want to just take a job. I wanted to have tangible outcomes to my endeavors.
Jamaica is the largest English-speaking country in the Caribbean, with a relatively high number of universities. Recently, we’ve seen government embrace a policy of fiscal responsibility, which wasn’t true when I was growing up in the 1990s. There’s been a real change in philosophy, which entrepreneurship can build on.
The Branson Centre is an accelerator operating out of Kingston that helps entrepreneurs structure their businesses for scale, with the target outcome being external investment.
We still have a number of manual processes here, so we see a lot of scope for more and more businesses in Jamaica to become technology-enabled, particularly in health care, financial services, and agriculture.
There’s been some growth in the business process outsourcing industry, and jobs are also moving up the value chain from call center operations to legal document processing and graphic design.
I do feel optimistic about Jamaica’s future. We’re hoping to see businesses create 50 or 100 new jobs, not one or two. We’ve doubled down on that potential and shifted our whole organization toward moving businesses from startup to scale up.
An entrepreneur in the dental equipment business had just serviced a large government contract, which created issues with inventory. He went through our training program, applied for a low-interest loan through the centre, and turned things around completely. In one year he’s grown revenues by 44 percent and increased his customer base by 32 percent.
No matter what kind of businesses we create or what kind of infrastructure is built, it can all be destroyed in the space of a few hours by a Category Five storm. We need more funds and better planning to adapt in the face of these climate threats. Last year was a wake-up call, and I hope our Caribbean governments take heed.
Class of MBA 2010, Section G