Today, young Barbadian entrepreneur Justin Quinlan is the CEO of a successful start-up, but that wasn’t always the case. Encouraged to focus on an existing career path like the law or medicine, he frequently came up against obstacles to his entrepreneurial dream.
"I remember I had to pitch to one of the bigger lending firms in Barbados which was geared to finding innovation for youth. So I walk into this boardroom and everyone there is about 50 bordering on 60 plus," he describes. "When people don't understand ideas or comprehend ideas, they are afraid. Investment is all about leveraging risk so why would you try and invest in something that you don't know or understand."
Now Justin's making waves within the local digital community, but his trials to prove his innovation was worth the risk is one that many will find familiar within the Caribbean.
A massive 60% of Latin America employees work for businesses with five or fewer employees and this figure grows to almost 70% in the Caribbean. But while entrepreneurship is often considered to be a driver of development, the resulting companies grow at a much slower rate than in other middle-income regions.
What's more, the high percentage of small businesses reflects a lack of quality jobs in the region’s larger or multinational businesses.
"In the Caribbean, almost 70 percent of business owners declared having opened a business out of fear of losing their job or because jobs were not available," summarises the report.
This should ring warning bells.
Over the past ten years, Latin America and the Caribbean has benefited significantly from favourable economic tailwinds. However, as these tailwinds die, growth has to come from within, and innovation is key if the Caribbean is to build upon the social gains of recent years.