For quite some time now we have been hearing about the need for T&T to diversify its economy. But it’s not an easy task because there are many ‘resistors’ to change that prevail and make it a challenge to move outside the box. However, quietly behind the scenes, there is a new generation of entrepreneurs emerging in this country who are developing businesses in non-traditional areas and beginning to reshape the T&T economy from a ‘bottom up’ perspective. This month’s success story is one example of such a new generation entrepreneur.
How did the story start?
It starts with a 32-year old married qualified civil engineering technician in construction and author, Akino Davis, who grew up mostly in a single person household in St. James, Port of Spain. After attending a local primary school and then Diego Martin Secondary School, he completed his tertiary studies at the John Donaldson Technical Institute and also completed a project management course at UWI. His says his mother shaped the person he is today and imbued the values he follows today as well as his entrepreneurial acumen.
When did he first go into business?
Even as a small child in his tween years (12 - 13), he was doing business - selling flower pots for a small business owner. Prior to that, Akino would assist his mother every day at her Charlotte Street vendor stand after he finished school. At John Donaldson he began his first serious business moves and began drawing house plans for individuals and small construction companies that hired him for his skills. In 2003 he registered his first business AD/VJ Civil Engineering Technicians and Consultants which, in 2006, morphed into AD/VJ Construction Services Limited. Their focus was on providing construction related services - something that they still do on a reduced scale today. However, his main passion wasn’t so much civil engineering but digital technologies and so, in 2010, he set up his current business, SME Digital, as an internal marketing division within his construction services business. Demand for the SME Digital services grew fast so a decision was made to turn it into a full-time project - which is where Akino’s primary focus is at today.
What’s the business focus?
SME Digital provides digital signage and customer engagement solutions for businesses using leading-edge technologies supplied by international partners backed up with innovative management systems developed in-house by the SME Digital team. Akino is especially interested in developing and delivering hi-tech solutions for smaller to medium sized businesses that generate strong revenue benefits. As he says, SME Digital wants to take them ‘beyond the point of just having a TV in their buildings. They have developed their own product line and the brand, ‘SVIEW’, which offers a complete package solution to such businesses.
What have been their challenges and successes to date?
As is the case for many small businesses, access to capital has been a real challenge. Another has been finding staff with the right skills sets and positive customer service attitudes. A third challenge has been to convince small business owners that ‘going digital’ will have a positive impact on their business revenue streams and profitability. On the success side, partnering with the Mario’s Pizzeria chain to install and manage their digital advertising network in T&T is something Akino is proud of. Successfully pitching and working on the first Digital Outdoor Interactive Kiosk in Scarborough for the Tobago House of Assembly was another breakthrough. He has also forged some extremely valuable international alliances and partnerships - something he is also proud of as they provide him with a real competitive edge.
Why is this a success story?
Like many success stories, often entrepreneurs start their journey by going into business to satisfy needs and agendas that are not necessarily their true passion. But they become the bread and butter revenue generating vehicle that can support a move into areas that are perhaps higher risk and more ‘outside the box’. However, as Akino has demonstrated, you can make such moves by ensuring that you have a strong network of support around you. In his case, the international alliances and partnerships he has forged with Samsung USA, Infinitus Outdoor from Slovenia, Four Winds Interactive of the US, Signagelive in the UK, Novisign of Israel and others - not just for T&T but also for the wider Caribbean and Latin America - provide him with a unique positioning in the market. His success over the years has been generated by carefully considering what he needs to become a market leader. In addition, Akino has been able to build a team of loyal and supportive customer-focused staff who are helping take the business through to the next level.
What does this mean for T&T?
SME Digital is ready to go offshore. They are clients in the CARIRI Business Incubator at the Centre for Enterprise Development at Freeport and plan to make some significant moves over the next 12 months with the support of the resources available. We are moving into an age where creativity will predominate in almost every aspect of business and life - the ‘Dream Society’. Businesses such as SME Digital are focused on participating as leading-edge players regionally and wider in the rapidly growing digital creative market.
Useful link:The SME Digital Website
Key question: How can we encourage the development of more businesses built around international collaborative alliances?
Original Article: http://www.ttfi.net/article_view/571