UVI – SHAPING IDEAS THROUGH AN ECOSYSTEM OF INNOVATION
When Karima Reid was introduced to the 13D Competition in 2017, she immediately saw the prospects of expanding her already established small business and that was all the reason she needed to pursue the competition.
“Rather than just selling burgers I was encouraged and challenged to expound upon my small patty business,” Reid says.
As a nursing major, Reid said she coupled her knowledge of food health with her culinary skills, and was determined to win the competition. “I saw the potential to turn my idea into in a full-scale organic restaurant.”
Having been in the business, Reid said she knew what her customers wanted and so her goal was to use the money from the competition to be able to increase her stock.
“I wanted to be able to produce more of the lentil patties, burgers and balls, which are organically made by us and more importantly were always in high demand.”
Since winning the competition, Reid’s business – “Speedy Redemption Deli” has been able to satisfy the high market demand, and is now supplying patties to several supermarkets, grocery stores and even other delis in St. Thomas.
“I still want to improve upon my packaging for my products, but that will happen very soon,” she says, noting that Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 caused her some major setbacks.
“I would encourage any student, regardless of their major, to explore the idea of the 13D Competition,” she says. “You never know where you will end up and the 13D Competition equips you with all the essential skills to successfully manage a business, as I am now doing.”
The framers of 13D have engineered into their psyche that “Ideas won’t keep. Something must be done about them,” a maxim coined by Alfred North Whitehead, a famous UK born philosopher.
Guided by that precept, and intent on eliminating the obstacle of financing for UVI student entrepreneurs, who have great ideas for potentially profitable businesses but no access to start-up capital; 13D was launched in 2012.
“The 13D Business Launch program at UVI is truly a unique entrepreneurship program. What is most unique about it is that we work with the students throughout the academic year instead of having an event such as a business plan competition or an idea pitch competition; our program is a process, not an event,” says Dr. Glen Metts, professor of Management and Entrepreneurship.
While a relative of the Business Design Grant, the 13D Competition is different in that, it provides guidance through the execution of the business and allows for a rigorous competition for seed money to launch the firm. Essentially, 13D brings to life the ideas built in the Business Design Grant and transforms them from paper into action.
“Another unique factor is that the 13D Competition’s goal is to actually launch businesses in the Virgin Islands. This is a very high standard which most such programs do not engage,” says Dr. Metts.
The keenly contested inaugural competition in 2012 was rivaled by eight teams consisting of 14 students eager to actualize their business dreams with dibs on the $60,000 cash prize.
“Since the first competition year, the program has launched over a dozen businesses in the Virgin Islands and the launch rate is increasing each year,” Dr. Metts says.
The program has maintained its momentum, each year reflecting lucrative business plans. A shrimp farm, on-line commercial sites, organic farm, botanical garden, food trucks, digital print shop, event planning and restaurant are a few of the businesses that have been brought to fruition to date.
“The program for me is not so much about winning or the money,” says Cody Richardson, 2016 13D Competition second place winner. “When I think of the 13D Competition, I think of the business relationships that I have established through the program.”
At the time of the competition, Richardson was an undergraduate student majoring in Business Administration, and was awarded the $20,000 second prize for MIST (Made in St. Thomas) Prints.
His concept was to recreate and revolutionize the screen-printing business in the territory by providing high-quality prints with no minimum orders. The firm initially focused on individuals and small businesses that wish to place low-volume orders. A low-energy production process allows MIST to offer high quality products and services with competitive pricing.
Richardson credits his fortitude to continue his business to the constant “follow-through” of Dr. Faley. “To this day, Dr. Faley will contact me to see how things are going, offer recommendations and even establish meaningful business connections for me,” he says.
Richardson believes that key to the longevity of the program is dedication like that of Dr. Faley and Dr. Metts, who he said are the “gel” that keeps the program functioning.
“I honestly believe that the participants’ welfare and interests are first and foremost to Dr. Faley.”
The 2018 cycle saw a bit of re-formatting to the competition. There were no first, second, and third place prizes awarded.
“We changed the competition to look more like ‘Shark Tank’,” Dr. Faley says. “The student teams had to pitch both the viability of their businesses and the amount of funding they were seeking. The judges then had to decide which teams would receive what amount of start-up funding from $60,000 they had available to invest in these businesses,” he said.
An impressive slew of business plans resulted in the judges funding all six teams that presented in the final round; most at the exact level pitched.
The judges are gleaned from a pool of progressive and innovative businesses including its platinum sponsors,13D Research and VIYA, who sponsor the event year to year.
This year’s competition which commenced in January will close-off with 34 participants rivaling for a spot in the final round, which is slated to take place on April 12.
Staying on its current trajectory, UVI’s 13D competition, according to Dr. Faley, “will positively impact the territory by its launching of successful businesses,” Dr. Faley said.
UVIDEA’s ecosystem, although built on the intangible premises of creative thinking and idea implementation, cannot reap successful dividends without substantial financial support. Hence, the programs are made possible through a $5 million gift to UVI from Kiril Sokoloff, an investment strategist and entrepreneur who founded 13D Research, a St. Croix based company. Along with annual entrepreneurship competitions for students, the gift established and endowed the Kiril Sokoloff Distinguished Professorship, the University’s first endowed chair, held by Dr. Faley.