31st October 2020 – Port-of-Spain. Over 400 secondary school students were given an opportunity to imagine themselves as manufacturers and regional traders as they listened intently to President Franka Costelloe and Director Roger Roach of the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association (TTMA) speak about the work and activities of the sector. The occasion was the Heroes of Manufacturing webinar at the 2020 Trade and Investment Convention (TIC) on Friday.
Jointly hosted by the Heroes Foundation (Heroes) and the TTMA, students were given a helicopter view of the Manufacturing Sector from Franka Costelloe, and some practical insights about the world of trade and industry from the TTMA Director and CEO of Lazuri Apparel, Roger Roach.
Costelloe highlighted the challenges presented by Covid-19 and its impact on lives and livelihood of persons employed in the sector. She also shared strategies that the Association has implemented to recover market share and to increase regional exports. Explaining TTMA’s Manufacturing Strategy to increase local production and double exports, she emphasised the role of young entrepreneurs and SME’s in market expansion.
Respected for her data-driven conversations, the young businesswoman shared the numbers on the size and scale of the sector and how manufacturing and non-energy exports contribute to GDP. The context met with several questions from the young audience, many curious for information on capital sourcing, business planning, and mentorship. In pointing them to resources, Costelloe also explained that “Good Business models are built on creativity and risk.” She said, “Young, fresh, innovative minds are best equipped to give us fresh new ideas and they have the guts to pursue their dreams. It is up to us, to boost that confidence and inspiration. We can do so through mentorship, internships, training, and providing opportunities.”
Roger Roach challenged the students to pursue the opportunities that exist and not be daunted by the current challenges to global trade. Risk, obstacles, and failure are part of the road to success, he explained. “You have to be able to identify demand and act on that opportunity quickly.” In sharing the advantage of moving quickly on ideas, he gave the Lazuri experience. “We decided last December to set up a garment manufacturing facility. We did the research, bought machinery, hired staff, began testing in March, and then COVID hit.” Faced with the option of closing down the new operation, Roach told the audience that he partnered with the University of the West Indies (UWI) and The Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) through the TTMA to develop a stylish branded facemask with a high filtration rate, and was able to pivot operations to mask production.
Inspired by the advice from Roach and Costelloe, Lutchmi Beharry, a budding entrepreneur from Parvati Girls’ Hindu College is now more confident about her own plans. “The advice given was very realistic and it didn’t scare me. It excited me even more because now I’m clearer on what to expect. I like that.”
Heroes CEO, Lawrence Arjoon described the session as a dynamic exchange of ideas between generations. “At Heroes, we connect youth with industry leaders and experts who generously share their insights and expertise so that our nation’s youth can take us beyond where we are at today. Today, Franka and Roger have helped bring these young participants one step closer to their dreams; and we are now one step closer to growing the base of Proudly T&T manufacturers, entrepreneurs, and global exporters.”