Building business success in the BVI
The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in the Caribbean supports entrepreneurs in the region to start and grow their businesses.
The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship opened its doors in 2011 as an initiative of Virgin Unite and Virgin Holidays. Since then, the centre has been a hub for budding entrepreneurs, committed to giving the region’s most promising businesspeople access to knowledge, markets, networks, and resources.
Recently, The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, Unite BVI and H. Lavity Stoutt Community College worked together to offer an incredible entrepreneurship training and mentorship opportunity for 23 aspiring entrepreneurs in the BVI. This programme was a four-month training programme, designed to provide participating entrepreneurs with opportunities to develop sophisticated business skills.
The programme kicked off with a three-week engaging Investment Readiness bootcamp, followed by eight weeks of support via a virtual training platform and eight weeks of mentorship to help the entrepreneurs build winning business strategies.
One entrepreneur who was part of this programme is Akeem Lennerd, founder of Block Works. We caught up with him to find out more…
Tell us more about your business.
My start-up venture Block Works LTD is a company that will manufacture and sell concrete building blocks to the British Virgin Islands. We are based on Virgin Gorda. Currently, approximately 95% of our construction uses blocks and they are 100% imported.
Block Works LTD will be taking our blocks to a next level by making them eco friendly. Each block will have recycled glass sand as an additive. On a weekly basis, we will be using 4,600 glass bottles from our waste stream. This will be the greatest use of recycled glass in the Territory to date.
The idea for Block Works LTD came to me after the devastation of Hurricane Irma in September of 2017. My grandmother’s house walls were still standing although the roof was gone. It was then that I remembered her and my late grandfather telling me that their home, which was 56 years old at the time of Irma, was built with blocks that were made right here on Virgin Gorda with sea sand and brackish water along with a hand pressed mold. I thought to myself “if they could do it then with these items and lack of machinery, then why not now? With proper materials and machinery?” And so the journey began.
It’s been a few years. I’ve started a business almost a decade ago, but I’ve definitely never had the challenges as I have with Block Works. From pandemic to cost of goods rising, it has been a challenge, but we are looking to have our first set of blocks on the market in 2023.
How was your experience with The Branson Centre of Entreprenuership?
I really enjoyed the experience and knowledge gained through the Branson Center of Entrepreneurship Caribbean. There were new things that i learned and they really helped me to create my entire pitch deck which can be used when pitching to potential investors.
What’s your favourite thing about running your own business?
The best part of Running my own business is the feeling and passion it gives me to know that I am making a difference with our environment and the freedom it brings.
What are the biggest challenges you face in getting your business started?
I have faced many challenges in setting up my business for operation but the biggest has been financing. In the British Virgin Islands, currently it’s hard to get funding for a start-up. This pushes you to do it out of pocket.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
I live by Ella Fitzgerald’s quote “it’s not where you came from, but where you’re going that counts.” You may have a dream of a business. It may start small or seem difficult to achieve but you just have to remember where you’re going and what you want to achieve.