ELEUTHERA, BAHAMAS — Three aspiring agriculture entrepreneurs have been awarded a total of $10,000 in grant funding as the top finishers in the One Eleuthera Foundation’s “Seed to Succeed” business pitch competition, held on June 9th.
This second instalment of the “Seed to Succeed” competition was offered exclusively to students enrolled in the Learn and Earn Hydroponics Program offered through the Centre for Training and Innovation (CTI) in Rock Sound.
To fulfill the Hydroponics Program requirements, CTI students were challenged to put their newly acquired knowledge to use by creating and pitching their own hydroponics business in the Seed to Succeed competition.
The event was organized by OEFSEA, One Eleuthera Foundation’s Social Enterprise Accelerator with grant funding provided through partnerships with the TK Foundation and The Bahamas Development Bank.
The winning trio, Davinia Cartwright-Vanhorn (first place, $5,000 winner), Lynette Ferguson (second place, $3,000 winner) and Michelle Outten (third place, $2,000 winner) each received seed funding to invest in their own unique Hydroponic Farming Systems and businesses based in Eleuthera.
“All the students impressed the judging panel with their enterprise, enthusiasm, and social purpose. The experience exposed the students to a professional environment in which they learned to adapt and think quickly to answer questions and accurately present information. To have the opportunity, to not only create, but also pitch a business plan to a panel of judges, is very unique and something all the students should be very proud of.” says Banu Devi-Nair, Academic Dean, CTI.
Judging criteria was based on the participants ability to deliver a compelling, well thought out pitch as well as other factors including, the overall viability and unique selling proposition of the business, and the presentation of realistic assumptions and financials. The grant award covers expenses for the further development of the business plan, business license fees, and the purchase of products or services required by each respective business.
Davinia Cartwright Vanhorn, won first-place with her pitch to further develop both her businesses, “Da Farm Yaad” and “Da Melting Pot.” Davinia started a successful catering and food business along with her husband in Nassau in 2019, which she recently relocated to Palmetto Point, Eleuthera. “Da Melting Pot” specializes in providing fresh, healthy, farm-to-table meals using the best and freshest locally sourced ingredients. Davinia’s pitch included the integration of a hydroponics farm to supply her catering/food business and expand “Da Farm Yaad’s” output of fresh, organic produce for local sales and consumption. Novel services to be introduced also included pre-packaged wellness boxes comprised of fresh produce with daily deliveries to locals and tourists.
Second place finisher, Lynette Ferguson proposed “Ancient Native Therapeutic Solutions,” a modern apothecary business providing native, holistic solutions steeped in time-honored Bahamian and African healing traditions. The product line would infuse an extensive array of medicinal herbs freshly harvested from Lynette’s organic hydroponic farm along with raw ingredients sourced naturally from the sea and land.
Michelle Outten, earned third place with “Hydro Fresh.” Building on her deep passion for landscaping and growing clean and green, Michelle’s business concept was pitched on expanding her current landscaping business to provide customized hydroponic systems, and seedlings to the local market.
Seed to Succeed competition runners-up also included fellow hydroponics students, Tate Bethel (HydroStart Non-profit), Donald Rolle (Rolle’s Hydroponic Solutions) and Charvette Strachan (B.L.I.S.S. Bountiful Living in Savannah Sound).
“This was our first Learn and Earn cohort that participated in the Entrepreneurship 101 course, and it was a pleasure working with such a capable and energetic group of young Bahamians,” noted Mark Palmer, of the OEF Social Enterprise Accelerator. “I am proud of the achievements of all the students, not just the winners, and see a bright future for them all to continue to build on their business ideas and develop their entrepreneurship skills further.”
Speaking on The Bahamas Development Bank’s involvement in this collaborative effort, Sumayyah Cargill, Unit Head of Strategic Development and Initiatives, (BDB) remarked, “The Bahamas Development Bank is proud to partner with the One Eleuthera Foundation with a $5,000 grant to support youth empowerment in our Family Islands. Innovative, climate-smart food production is a necessity for Bahamian self-sustainability. We look forward to the next round of participants and further financing opportunities on Eleuthera.”
In closing the competition, special thanks were extended to the Seed to Succeed judges, Sharon French, advisor and teacher with Access Accelerator, (SBDC); Deon Gibson, Agricultural Manager at CTI; Michelle Johnson, proprietor of Buccaneers Club and Restaurant; Brenda Harris-Pinder, Financial Services Consultant; and Melanie Rolle-Hilton, CEO of Blueprint Financial.
Reflecting on her experience as a judge, Sharon French of the SBDC remarked, “This program provides a platform to showcase the knowledge acquired in the hydroponics class while combining it with a real-world competitive style project allowing the student to learn the art of a great pitch! My advice is to keep learning, take this knowledge and build on it. Keep moving forward with this initiative. Entrepreneurs are especially important to hydroponics. Learning and creating better models in this area will allow for increased crop production while lowering our carbon footprint making more sustainable food sources.”
OEF’s Seed to Succeed Competition continues to be a transformational and experiential tool providing local entrepreneurs with professional coaching, access to start-up funding, and the opportunity to better develop their business plans and models. This initiative supports OEF’s mission to strengthen entrepreneurship and financial inclusion in our community. The competition was launched in August of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic to assist staff and associates in creating financial independence through entrepreneurial opportunities and personal development.
The Centre for Training and Innovation is a non-profit tertiary education institution and a core partner of One Eleuthera Foundation.
For more information on upcoming courses, and CTI’s Online Courses on its Virtual Campus which offers Professional Development, Workforce, Business Essential and Soft Skills Training call:242-815-3800, email: