Atlantic Canada’s Leading Resource for Women Entrepreneurs Since 1992, located at the RBC Centre for Women in Business, MSVU.

What I Learned on a Trade Mission to Jamaica

July 21, 2016

Anita Kirkbride | Twirp Communications

Anita-Hovey-Kirkbride-Social-Media-Consultant-2-200x300I anxiously awaited my latte, standing in front of the dessert fridge, staring longingly at the most beautiful and delicious-looking cakes.

It had been years since I last enjoyed a Blue Mountain coffee and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to drink a few while I was here. Finally, a hand-crafted latte arrived, so hot not even the sleeve would protect my hand. Having just spent an hour speaking with the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica, I couldn’t wait to sip on this nectar from the gods.

Coffee, which some say is the fuel of social media managers, was really only a side benefit of this trip. I was in Kingston, Jamaica, participating in my very first trade mission, co-hosted by the Centre and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. I didn’t really know what to expect and I tried to keep an open mind for all of the possibilities that would pop up. 13418405_10153456920901621_2123510638440548656_oNot only were the opportunities presented to me plentiful and infinitely interesting, this was an amazing learning experience.

If you’ve only been to the Caribbean on vacation, you may have a skewed view of the region. Here are the top takeaways from my first business trip to Jamaica.

»1. While tourism is highly important, there is also a vibrant non-tourism business community in Jamaica. From construction to telecommunications, there is a wide variety of businesses, just like in Canada. In fact, one of the most innovative ideas I’ve heard of in digital advertising is being developed in Kingston by an entrepreneur I met.

»2. The business community is similar to Halifax in many ways. In all of my meetings I learned the struggles of entrepreneurs here are the same struggles entrepreneurs experience back home; from financing to marketing, from human resources to production processes.

»3. It’s exhausting. Maybe it was the heat and humidity, but I don’t really think so. Having five or more exploratory meetings in a day means you are “on” the entire day. It’s a lot to explain your mission with the same excitement five times in one day.

»4. Ladies, make sure those heels are extremely comfortable. I wear heels all the time, and my heels were quite comfortable, but you will be on your feet more than normal. If they aren’t perfect, don’t pack them!

»5. Drink more water. I was bad at this. I was probably dehydrated most of the trip. I simply didn’t think to grab water to go and only drank with meals or in my room. Keeping an open mind was the best thing I could do on this mission. Meetings I thought would be spectacular bombed and meetings I had little hope for turned out to be the most promising. The best part is that I fully expect to do business in Jamaica in the near future. Had I not stepped out of my comfort zone I would never have made connections with social media managers and consultants, business owners and business associations in Jamaica.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

The Centre helped me do something I’ve never done and my business will be forever changed. 

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