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By: A. Cecile Watson, Founder & CEO, pitchandchoose.com

Paying It Forward, The Secret Sauce To Grow Economies Through Entrepreneurship

Paying it forward should be as safe to do in business as it is in life.  But for us to think so, we must also believe that success is prolific and infinite.

Many of exceptional experiences I have had and the meaningful things I have accomplished came my way because somebody from my community made it happen for me.  And usually it was with no expectation of anything in return.

My family moved to Canada in the early 90’s.  I was a young engineer with a post-graduate level Canadian education and a few years experience managing the Investment portfolio of a leading Caribbean Insurance company.  But I knew few people in the Canadian market.  So when it came time to look for a job, I stalled.  As an MBA graduate from the University of Western Ontario, I had a pretty good resume.  But I was job hunting with no Canadian experience and a thick Barbadian accent.  Now I was quite unaccustomed to rejection at that time, albeit that I’ve had lots of experience with that since.  So after sending out maybe 5 or so job applications, ok – maybe 10 or so, and getting little traction, I was very discouraged.  Patience was not one of my finer qualities back then …still isn’t, but I have gotten way better.

Then things changed when my aunt suggested that I speak to a Barbadian who was a senior vice president at one of the major Banks.  She did not know him personally, but she knew of him.  Calling up somebody out of the blue!  Are you kidding me?  That was awkward for me.  So she made the call to introduce me and I spoke to him over the phone.  He heard me out and, whereas my strong academic credentials would have bolstered my worthiness, I cannot help but believe that it was my Bajan accent that induced nostalgia and his desire to help community.  He asked for my resume.  So I sent it to him by email.  Yes, we had email back then.  On the next day I had a call from the recruiter for the Corporate Development Program.  I went in, had an interview, and my career in banking started shortly thereafter.

I never ever met the gentleman who helped me.  I am embarrassed to say that I don’t even remember his name, although I think if I concentrate hard enough, it will come back to me.  I think of him fondly though.  He was one of my angels in my life.  He helped me to get noticed.  It was probably a very small act on his behalf.  But it had a big impact on me.  It changed my life.  I really had no idea or intention to be a Banker.  Never saw myself that way.  Never wanted it really.  Bankers were boring.  But that all changed when I got there.  🙂

This story is just one example of how as a community we are naturally disposed to help each other.  We don’t have to know each other.  The one random act of kindness of Mr. SVP Banker has taken me to this place today where I am transforming lives and country economies through entrepreneurship. He may never know the effect of his action in setting me on a path that took me into senior banking leadership roles in the Caribbean which also equipped me with the skills to lead and build businesses purposely and fearlessly and to support others also in doing so.

I have many more stories like that.  And I am sure that you can think of a few of your own.  Like the time I got late acceptance to university and couldn’t find anywhere to live.  So I spent a year squatting with a friend.  It so happened that it was a blessing in disguise because it really would  have been an impossible financial burden had I faced the cost of accommodation in that first year.  Her kindness helped me to bridge a year until I could get financing to complete the final two years.  She is also my angel and I hold her with great love in my heart today and always.  I would do anything for her within my capacity that is moral and legal.  Yet all I have been able to give in return is my love and friendship.

We call this the pay it forward culture.  It is that innate leading that causes us to help each other even when we don’t know what’s in it for us.  And in as much as it is inborn, we also seem to be programmed to withhold it when it comes to business.  Yet, from all reports, it may in fact be the secret sauce of Silicon Valley; that one ingredient many countries overlook when they attempt to replicate Silicon Valley or to create, grow and nurture their local entrepreneurship ecosystem.  Steve Blank is a key proponent of pay it forward and he leads by example.  He has also been speaking, writing and advocating for it and the part it has played in creating success for the entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.

Now here’s something to think on.  Pay it forward is ubiquitous to the Caribbean culture.  We get it.  We help each other.  That’s what we do.  That’s who we are.  And we are culturally disposed to do it in business too. My grandmother, Leotta was a shopkeeper in the late 50’s and the story goes that she influenced her friend Cleo to also get involved in shopkeeping.  Grandmother, or Gran Gran as we called her, went on to mentor and coach Cleo in the art of shopkeeping.  Of course they never used those fancy terms back then.  She was just a woman in the community who took it upon herself to help another woman who, like her, was working to improve the opportunities for her family.  Yes, they were competitors. But even more importantly, they were community women outrunning poverty by working to economically empower themselves and to help others in their community.

So as we launch the FundRiseHER crowdfunded grant on pitchandchoose.com, we’re also counting on the pay it forward culture that is at the root of what it means to be community.  We are counting on the community of entrepreneurs and those who lead corporate entities to seed the campaign with attractive rewards that will be appealing to the global community of Caribbean nationals, residents, diaspora and friends.  This selfless giving will give us the foundation to lead a campaign that will create a pool of grant funds of approximately $1Million to fund at least 50 women entrepreneurs throughout the Caribbean in growing and scaling their businesses.

Your small act of random kindness today has the power to fuel an empowered community of entrepreneurs who will be doing their part to grow Caribbean economies.  More success, for more people, benefitting many more!  So yes, we help each other.  That’s who we are.  That’s what we do.

 

FundRiseHERTM is a crowdfunded grant that is created to foster the growth of women entrepreneurs in the Caribbean. Learn more at fundriseher.com

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