PATRICE RENEE’ HARRIS |
ST. THOMAS – Yentyl and Khalarni wake up each day enthused about their new business. Their hectic 18-hour days begins at 6 a.m. Throughout the day, they bounce between jobs, assignments, classes, school organizations, and their new business, leaving little time for a social life. or sleep.
At this time of the semester, many students at the University of the Virgin Islands are worrying about final projects, research papers, carnival celebrations and senior year.
The same cannot be said of 21-year-old Yentyl Levet and 22-year-old Kharlani Rivers. These two students are not ordinary UVI juniors. Yentyl and Khalarni are busy running their own business – The Mix.
The Mix is a recently opened coffee stand located in front of Burger Maxx on the Charlotte Amalie waterfront. The Mix offers frozen and hot organic coffee.
Ultimately, Levet and Rivers wish to turn the coffee stand into a full-blown business by 2016.
Kharlani decided to open The Mix to inspire more Virgin Islanders to become entrepreneurs.
Khalarni said, “As a young Virgin Island male, I realized there weren’t many black locally owned businesses and I wanted to change that.”
The idea to open The Mix began about six months prior to the launch of the business and came as a result for the need to do something greater for themselves and their community.
Establishing this business was also a means to provide funding for their youth initiative- TEHO, To Each His Own- a community project designed to help young adults reach their full potential. Opening The Mix meant more than giving up their social lives; Rivers is now taking fewer credits in order to run the business daily.
Desperate for opportunities and exposure, some students such as Michael McFarlane and Branford Parker did not have to reduce their course load, but gave up video games in their pursuit of becoming business practitioners.
Parker, a freelance photographer and videographer, and McFarlane, a radio personality and disc jockey, are rising Communication majors at UVI.
Both students said that at first they had to provide their services for free to make a name at the university.
While most of their work is freelance, it is their dream one day to open their own companies, but for now, they use the money made from small gigs to fund their schooling.
McFarlane, DJ Temp, plays regularly at nightclubs around St. Thomas and hopes one day to be on the poster for every party. McFarlane believes that he is getting closer to his goal as his weekends are becoming a lot busier.
For many British Virgin Islands students at UVI, like Malisa Ragnauth, their weekends usually include a commute home via the ferry every Friday.
However, Ragnauth is not journeying home just to meet with friends and family. The graduating accounting senior is the owner of her own business, Caribbean Imports, based in Tortola.
Ragnauth said it is not easy commuting every weekend to Tortola but her business depends on her physical presence. For Malisa, one of her greatest regrets is not being physically present to receive customer feedback.
Ragnauth’s business has been in existence for the past two years and was created at first when her parents, originally from Guyana, were not able to find Guyanese products in Tortola.
Malisa’s company imports fresh seafood, spices, seasoning, groceries and clothing from Trinidad and Guyana.
Malisa said she wanted to fill the void left by supermarkets offering American products only.
Kharlani, Yentyl, Branford, Michael and Malisa are not the only students at UVI working to achieve their goals of becoming business entrepreneurs.
The culture of entrepreneurship is being cultivated by the school’s annual 13-D competition. Participants in the program stand to win as much as $30,000 in prizes for their business ideas.
UVI 13D Coordinator, Glen Metts said “This year the competition started out with approximately 20 teams in the fall. The first competitive round was held on March 20th, which declares 6 finalist teams to compete on April 24th,” Metts said. “The competition is very exciting and the remaining participants will present their business ideas to a panel of judges.”