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Monday 5th July 2010

There’s a saying: luck is when preparation meets opportunity. If so, Lawson Lewis is a particularly lucky young man. He’s recently joined young entrepreneurs from around the world as a member of the Global Village at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. This is all due to the connections made by Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States Deborah-Mae Lovell; financing made possible through the Antigua and Barbuda Development Bank (ABDB); and the hard work and creativity that have positioned Lewis as the force behind several successful advertising campaigns.

The Global Village, a leadership training programme at Lehigh’s Iacocca Institute, named for and started by business icon Lee Iacocca, targets professionals seeking to make a positive change in life and develop an active global network. It’s not a traditional course with lectures and grades; rather it’s a learning experience with each intern mapping out a plan of action for him or herself with the assistance of the staff at the Institute. Of the thousands who apply annually, roughly 85 from all parts of the globe make the cut each year; a total of 1155 young entrepreneurs from 115 countries to date.

Ambassador Lovell described it as an “excellent opportunity”, one she would encourage any young person to embrace. Lewis is doing just that. “In less than one week,” he reports, “I have made lifetime friends from Australia to Madagascar to Afghanistan. I have sat in the board room with the CEO of Olympus at their headquarters to be briefed on my main five week project.” Add to that opportunities to converse with executives from various industries around the world, and his excitement is understandable. “It’s all a bit overwhelming,” he admits, “but it would be an understatement to say it’s a life changing experience.”

That would be music to Ambassador Lovell’s ears. After all, in talking about the programme, she said, “The most important thing is to be able to expose the young people of Antigua and Barbuda to other persons who are in similar fields and fields in which they’re making a difference in their country.”

The Ambassador, who counts education and youth among her priority areas, had not long been appointed, back in 2005, before she nurtured the connections that opened up not one but two roads of opportunity for Antigua and Barbuda – the Global Village and the Governor’s School. The latter has over the past six years given Antigua State College students access to Lehigh, among the top tier of private research universities in the U.S. since 1865. The former, for an identical period of time, has been doing the same for young professionals – like Brucella Marsh, Courtney Burton, Jamion Knight, and Ransford Sims who Donald Charles, General Manager of ABDB, said actually offered to mentor this year’s selectee.

This is the first year ABDB has been involved with the programme.  “We became involved because Ambassador Lovell approached us,” said Charles. “We recognized that it was a good programme that would be of benefit to young entrepreneurs.”

Lewis, selected by ABDB from among “a number of other highly motivated and well rounded young entrepreneurial leaders”, fits neatly into that category. A former art teacher, he teamed up with Jerry Joseph to start Palette Designs, a multimedia studio and production company, in 2005. The company went on to attract clients like IT Clothing Store, Digicel, LIME, and Shampoo. The 2008 ‘I am Carnival’ campaign was done by Palette Designs; the APUA INET re-branding, that was them as well. More recent projects include the music video ‘I Care’ for Dominican hip hopera artiste Marie-Claire, the ‘ABIB Keeps Watch’ ads honouring the human spirit, Anjo Insurances’ ‘Having Good Insurance Pays’, and the ‘Cavalier Kitchen Party’ ad featuring A & B Party Monarch Tian Winter.

ABDB anticipates even bigger opportunities for Lewis. “What we would like to see,” Charles said, “is that Palette Design will see the expansion and growth of its business as a result of the leadership and other skills Lawson would get from participating in the Global Village.”

In emphasizing the need for participants to see it as a business opportunity, ABDB took a different approach than the programme’s previous funding partner, ABIB. Between Lehigh and the bank, the individual formerly received a full scholarship. ABDB is providing, instead, an interest free loan. “We wanted the person to recognize it as an investment,” Charles said. The rationale here is that the truly entrepreneurial minded will see the opportunity as a way to grow their business; to “create more jobs, more revenue, and ultimately more profit,” Charles said. Lewis, he said, could leverage the contacts made during the June 27th to August 7th programme into a truly global enterprise. Lewis’ comments indicate he’s on track to do just that.

Already, Charles said, there is interest in next year’s round of applications and he’s encouraging hopefuls to get a head start on giving themselves a real shot of capturing the prize. The loan is “not stringent” – no collateral, affordable terms – but it does require good credit and a solid résumé illustrating the applicant’s leadership potential. For those who begin to prepare today, ABDB will continue to provide the opportunity; and that’s all the luck they’ll need.


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