Author: Terri Henry | Date: 06 February 2012
Sam Raphael is the developer and owner of Jungle Bay, an eco-luxury resort in Dominica which has won high acclaim and numerous awards since opening in 2005. I met with Sam to find out what advice and insights he could give to young entrepreneurs beginning their journey.
Terri Henry : How would you define an entrepreneur - what are the key qualities?
Sam Raphael: An entrepreneur is someone who has figured out how to turn their creativity into a revenue generating enterprise. It's not enough to be an artist, you have to use this creativity and combine it with other ideas if you are to make money. Entrepreneurs can also see things that need improving and build businesses from that. They love to do things differently and continue to improve their products.
TH: Tell us in a nutshell what drove you to be an entrepreneur.
SR: I was motivated from a young age to seek solutions to issues of social justice, inequality and environmental problems. I was an activist but knew that in order to really effect change I would need resources. Having a business is a great way to create social change. Now, through Jungle Bay, we are able to contribute to women's empowerment, community development, support other local entrepreneurs and develop environmental conservation.
TH: What are the main benefits of running your own business?
SR: Again for me it would be the resources to create change. I'm not in my business to make money for a flashy lifestyle. I can live very simply. My business was developed to show how we could do Caribbean tourism in a sustainable, environmental way that would support local communities. It wasn't enough for me to talk about these things; I had to show through my business that these could be done.
TH: In your opinion what is the current entrepreneurial climate?
SR: The climate is always good for entrepreneurs! They are the people who have ideas to change things when it's not looking good. When you see problems that need to be solved and apply creativity you have the start of a great business. Entrepreneurs like to have flexibility to keep changing and innovating. There is always room for improvement. For example at Jungle Bay we were doing well with the American market and would have continued if the market had not crashed in 2008. That made us look into other sources, create new structures and keep innovating to stay fresh. This is what makes it exciting and worthwhile - having a problem to solve.
TH: What essentials does an entrepreneur need to start a business?
SR: You need access to the resources to enter your business environment and the skills set to be a successful business person. Someone beginning a business must be prepared to work hard, work consistently and make personal sacrifices to get to where they want to go. The person must have good self discipline and control, especially in financial matters. When the money starts coming in you have to pay all the bills and reinvest in the business before you take your own profit. An entrepreneur will often take more pleasure from satisfying their customers than from the money they are making.
They must also be able to execute a plan. When creating a business plan treat it as a living document. The entrepreneur has to embody the plan, it has to BE you and you have to have the ability to make that idea work.
TH: Would you advise an entrepreneur to have a mentor or business coach?
SR: Some might find this helpful. It can be useful to get information from others and the entrepreneur community is often open and shares with comraderie. If specialized coaching offers some motivation and inspiration then that is positive but I would caution that over-reliance on mentorship is a sign that you do not have the skills and readiness to begin the business. Internal motivation is the most important; a willingness to push through when everything seems to be breaking down. The fun in being an entrepreneur is achieving what others say is impossible! I've often started something to have people say it will never work and that has motivated me to go and complete my plan.
TH: How does person stay committed to a vision when it takes a long time to manifest?
SR: You have to focus on the success and it has to be deeply worthwhile to you. If it's not worth it, you will not succeed. It could be a great idea but unless you put your all into it then it can't work. When you know what you are doing is on purpose and meaningful to you then you can stay motivated even when it gets challenging.
TH: How does an entrepreneur get sources of funding to start their business?
SR: Firstly you have to have some of your own money to put in. You have to have the discipline to save. My mother used to say to me 'If you have 5 cents save 1, if you have 10 cents save 2' and so on. So you personally must invest in your business before you expect anyone else to. When you do this, prospective investors know that you believe in yourself and you will stick with it.
Ultimately an investor will invest in the person and not the idea. They have to have real confidence in that person. It is useful to show a past record of successful implementation. At this stage in my entrepreneurial career I am approached by investors who want to invest in my next project without even knowing what it is going to be. Because I have 30 years of consistently making things work they have that level of trust and security. Whilst a young entrepreneur just starting will not have this, they must still bring some type of track record to the table because a good reputation is worth more than even the best business plan.
TH: When an entrepreneur becomes an employer, what does it take to share their personal vision with others in a way they can feel an ownership of it?
SR: You have to care about the people around you - your customers and your staff. Remember that a person works for themselves, they do not work for you. So find out what motivates each individual, their strengths and weaknesses so you can create opportunities that meet their needs. When a person's needs are fulfilled they have a vested interest in the business. When you provide a comfortable environment where staff can continue to learn and exercise their creativity they have a reason to keep the business thriving for themselves.
TH: Sam this has all been incredibly useful and insightful. Is there some overall closing advice you would give to a young entrepreneur?
SR: Look within you and not around you. See if the fire is burning within you because ithasto be burning. The environment around you will not make you an entrepreneur, it is within. Many people try to keep themselves hidden but if it's calling you then know it's a life that you would not trade for anything else in the world, even if you don't make a dime! The entrepreneurial life is rewarding and so much better than sitting somewhere with regrets for not swimming out into the deep. If you are an entrepreneur you will stay afloat no matter what. A true entrepreneur can swim.
Sam Raphael is also a member of Waitikubuli Entrepreneurs Leve (WEL) which in conjunction with the Dominican Youth Business Trust (DYBT) hosts an annual retreat for emerging entrepreneurs during Global Entrepreneurs Week in November. The 7-10 day retreat which is hosted at Jungle Bay provides opportunities for training, networking and skills development. The group also has quarterly reconnection meetings. The goal of WEL is to support the creation of 10 new Dominican businesses each year.
Photo Credit To Dominica Central
Editor-in-Chief's Note:Terri Henry is freelance contributor to MNI Alive. She is a writer & wellness consultant with a focus on natural health, ecological awareness, and sustainability. She is also a mother of two and blogs on the subject of natural parenting at 'Child of the Nature Isle' (www.childofnatureblog.com)