Antonni James Tops Pitch Competition

By Ruth Chisholm

November 11, 2021

Antonni James smiled brightly when she realized she won. James, who is on her way to being a digital media marketing maven, landed first place in an entrepreneurship pitch competition hosted by the Advance Program.

“It feels amazing to have won. Winning the pitch competition honestly gave me an extra boost,” she said. James added that it was an internship experience that jolted her into digital marketing. She interned at Gwen-Estelle Naturals as a social media manager. At the natural hair care company James helped to create and post content, while working on boosting engagement among the business’ target audience. It was here that a career in digital media marketing came to life.

The 22-year-old Montego Bay Community College student topped a field of ten budding entrepreneurs. It was a tight competition as all ten delivered interesting business pitches ranging from food and beverage production to entertainment management. The virtual award ceremony coupled with their admitted edginess did not hold sway over their passion, which was palpable as they delivered their pitches.

Advance is a workforce development program working with select tertiary partners to contribute to new and better employment opportunities for Jamaican youth. However, not everyone can be hired by a big company as soon as they leave school. Some students would go on to create their own employment and generate opportunities for other young Jamaicans.

So, Advance supported aspiring entrepreneurs with a customized entrepreneurship and coaching component. Over 30 students expressed interest in starting businesses. The ten finalists made it through rigorous coaching and training, with James wowing the competition judges with her focus and strategy.

The JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation added their support by donating funds toward the prizes for first, second and third place. “Innovation is the key to survival and sustainability,” said Foundation CEO Kim Mair. Mair added “JMMB was born out of one woman’s desire to make a change in the financial landscape. Joan Duncan had a simple vision to help Jamaicans from all walks of life to live better lives through targeted financial planning and wealth creation opportunities.” According to Mair, the partnership with Advance on the entrepreneurship component fit with the foundation’s vision. Mair and the foundation team also organized guest presentations on financial literacy and planning for James and the other entrepreneurs.

“Creating my business was such a long process,” James said, while confirming the lengthy research she had to do. She is clear, however, that while her journey is just beginning, she is off to a great start. Just take a look at her LinkedIn page and Instagram feed. “My mission is to empower you coach, I want you to leverage social media to grow your business, drive traffic and increase sales.” James is pursuing clients in need of: social media management, strategy, as well as content and email marketing. 

James has completed her courses and is on track to graduate in the coming months. Advance will continue to support her and the other members of the top ten by facilitating direct coaching from experts in their respective industries, support with business registration and provision of selected start-up tools and supplies.  

Advance is supported by USAID and implemented by FHI 360.

By: Ruth Chisholm and Oneika Young

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