This feature is an outcome of infoDev, a multi-donor program administered by the World Bank Group, with a focus on entrepreneurs in developing economies. This piece was originally published on January 24, 2017.
The Women Innovators Network Caribbean (WINC) — a cornerstone initiative of the Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean sponsored by the government of Canada — recently concluded its first acceleration program for women entrepreneurs. Designed to jump-start women-led enterprises across the region, the program provided local entrepreneurs with mentorship, training, and networking opportunities.
One of them, Kenia Mattis, told us the story of her company and how WINC helped her succeed.
Kenia Mattis has always had a great passion for storytelling and education. “We are the stories that we tell ourselves,” says Kenia.
It was only natural that her company, ListenMi Caribbean, would bring together the best of both worlds. With a team of eight digital media producers, educators, and product developers, Kenia’s company aims to build online platforms that can help children develop strong language skills, find inspiration, and cultivate creativity.
“We want to create a community of artists — including animators, illustrators, sound and visual designers — who create meaningful and valuable work that can be an inspiration to kids. We are truly excited about making learning fun and accessible to all,” says Kenia.
With a unique combination of designers and creative talents, ListenMi stands out in the competitive education market, which ranges from traditional textbooks to learning apps.
A friend encouraged Kenia to apply to the WINC mentorship and accelerator program. “I had recently started up my business, and although I hadn’t heard of WINC before I was so impressed with what I could read about the program. I was pleasantly surprised when I was selected.
“I’m interested in the nexus of social entrepreneurship, creative industries, and children’s education. So the technical and the personal development sessions were invaluable and something I never knew I needed,” she says. Through the program, Kenia got access to workshops, business training, counseling, and a network of fellow entrepreneurs willing to share professional and personal insights. “I got information on startup events, opportunities, and initiatives I believe I would not have been aware of otherwise.”
The support from the WINC network is very important to Kenia. And last summer, when she participated in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford University, California, the cheer from her fellow entrepreneurs gave her the energy she needed to win $15,000 at the summit’s “Spark the Fire” pitch competition. “It was all quite surreal. During the first round I recall my ‘WINC SISTERS’ in the WhatsApp group asking for details and celebrating the experience every step of the way. At the end of day one, I was announced one of the top three award recipients. It completely took me by surprise. I was excited and I knew that back home, I had made my fellow WINCers proud.”
Another milestone in Kenia’s entrepreneurial journey was the funding received through the Development Bank of Jamaica’s Ignite Fund. Her WINC facilitator Cecile Watson and WINC member Racquel Brown helped her prepare her pitch. “Their selfless show of support through their in-depth questions and comments was instrumental in helping me prepare. I was successful and went on to receive Ignite’s highest award of $36,000,” she says.
In 2017, Kenia is planning to launch GoLexiGo, a spin-off company specializing on learning games. The new venture will also develop a digital publishing platform where children can write and post their own stories. “I’m so excited about the launch of GoLexiGo, which will boosts kids’ self-esteem through spelling and storytelling. The company is a culmination of all we have been doing thus far and really combines our strengths and passions.”