NEW GENERATION OF ENTREPRENEURS: Laika Blake, left, owner of Laconic Cultural Work and Travel Limited and current law student, and Sheavon Sally, general manager and current information technology student, have their sights set high. Photo by Cassandra Brenton
Young entrepreneur has winning business solutions for empowering peers
Twenty-three-year-old UWI student, Laika Blake, discovered a unique way of helping his fellow students while also being able to reap financial benefits. An idea sparked in 2011 led to the establishment of Laconic Cultural Work and Travel Limited, a business which today employs a total of 11 people, all UWI students – six full-time and five part-time.
The company seeks to provide “expert, dynamic and satisfactory cultural, travel and work solutions” for students at the tertiary level, as well as provide job opportunities for current students and recent graduates, according to Blake.
Growing up in the community of Portland Cottage, Clarendon, Blake first learned the intricacies of the business world through helping his mother in her shop. “From a young age, I would always work as the cashier and deal with different people. This started when I was going to basic school, all the way up to high school,” he said. The experience caused him to recognise that the best way to succeed in any business was to have
first-hand knowledge or experience in it.
After participating in a work and travel programme during the summer of his first year at The UWI, the then 17-year-old Blake realised that he had some amount of knowledge to not only start a viable business, but to also help other students who were struggling to meet their financial needs. “The experience I got when I went on the work and travel programme for the first time prompted me to start my own business so that I could give other students the same opportunity,” he told UWIMONA NOW.
“As a student myself, I realised how challenging it was for us to obtain money for tuition, books and other living expenses, so after months of thinking, I saw that I could give them the opportunity to go and make money while experiencing different cultures,” he added.
Having begun his tertiary life in the Faculty of Science and Technology, Blake crossed over to Social Sciences when he returned to school after his first summer in the programme. “I came to UWI to do a degree in Renewable Energy and then I went on the work and travel programme. After deciding to start the business, I realised that the degree I was currently doing was not going to help me in what I wanted to do for the programme, so I decided to switch to Economics.” Now the holder of a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics, Blake has been able to translate his degree into a profitable business. “I learned a lot by doing that degree – how businesses work, how employees think, the financial side of the business for sure, how to manage the money, how to manage your assets, your resources and how to get the maximum benefits and the maximum returns out of your investment,” he told UWIMONA Now.
Since its inception in 2011, and sending the first batch of 26 students on the programme in 2014, Laconic Cultural Work and Travel Limited has made great strides. Blake now has a physical location at the Mona Business Support Service on The UWI, Mona Campus, as well as a website – www.laconicculturalworkntravel.com. He currently offers a J-1 Internship and Trainee programme, allowing graduates of colleges and universities to work for 18 months with their degree, in addition to people with at least five years’ experience in their particular field.
In the next few years, Blake hopes to expand the programme across the island, as well as across the Caribbean region. “We come to the university and meet a lot of students from different islands, so the plan is to partner with these people to give other university students the experience that we here at Mona got. I also wanted to employ more people so that we can help more young adults, and I want to be able to help people from my community in Clarendon,” he said.
This young entrepreneur, who is now pursuing a degree in law, has a lot of plans for the future. “I realise that there are a lot of people graduating with their law degree and there’s no employment for them, so, I’ve been thinking of a way to help these students with my law degree and the knowledge I have in economics. I also want to continue to help young adults here in Jamaica through cultural exchange and someday be a politician. My long-term goal is to become prime minister.” With his success in business, his knowledge in law and his genuine love for helping people, it will be no surprise when Laika Blake accomplishes this career goal.