This month, OECS YES In Action connected with Jada Francis, a 21-year-old student-entrepreneur from Saint Lucia whose success in an unconventional Caribbean enterprise is inspiring many other young persons to pursue their passions!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am currently in the final stages of completing my Bachelor's degree in International Development at Humber College. I have a passion for youth development as well as the arts, specifically performing arts and music.
I started my company XONA in February 2020, which is currently focused on tropical wines and wine-based events. The goal is to eventually add more products to the brand, and expand throughout the Caribbean region.
When did you first notice your inclination towards entrepreneurship and development?
I have always wanted to represent my country, since my primary and secondary school days. Whether it was sports, arts or academics, I always thought that I possessed the necessary skills to become an ambassador and therefore, that was the plan.
I started my company XONA with the same idea in mind, 'represent Saint Lucia'. Though it may be slightly unconventional, I believe this company has the potential to do just that.
When did you know that this was something you wanted to pursue in the long-term?
There was never a moment when I decided 'this is it'. I have always been quite tenacious in my endeavours, and where XONA is concerned, finding motivation was never an issue as it constantly and genuinely excites me. The entire process, seeing how people positively respond to your product or brand, is enough to keep anyone going.
Have you encountered any major challenges in your journey to this point?
The biggest challenge was finding suppliers to take me seriously as I was not only a young woman, but I also came from a small island developing state (SIDS). Suppliers questioned my ability to meet their numbers. It took a lot of negotiating and patience to push past these challenges.
What are some accomplishments that you are most proud of?
As a successful 21 year old female entrepreneur from a small island, I believe I have inspired many other young persons to push outside of themselves. I am met constantly by young persons wanting to share their new ideas, tell me about their start ups, or ask for my opinion or feedback. I think I have contributed to an emerging generation of Caribbean extraordinaire and it makes me so proud to see the youth development within the region.
What are the goals you most want to accomplish?
I would like to see XONA become a successful regional luxury brand, with its own culture.
Did you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced your journey? Tell us about them.
My parents have always been extremely supportive of me and all my endeavours. Once they see how passionate and serious I am, they support me entirely.
Kentillia Louis has also been my mentor for years, since I became a student of her performing arts company. Since then, she has become a third parent/guardian/manager and has been on my side no matter what.
The COVID 19 pandemic has had a major impact on young people. How have you been able to cope with the uncertain times brought about by the pandemic?
For me, the biggest issue the pandemic caused was hindering my ability to travel back to Saint Lucia to run the company while navigating online classes. I had to postpone launches and meetings as every flight I booked kept getting cancelled for months until July 2020.
I think the pandemic forced me to slow down and reassess my methods as I may have been moving too fast. By doing so, I think my quality of execution has become ten times better than what it would've been had the pandemic not happened.
What advice would you give to young people as they look to navigate past the COVID-19 era?
Firstly, have patience. It is very easy to get caught up and over confident in your idea because of how passionate you are about it, which makes it easy to be blindsided from the reality of the hard work that goes into it to get the results you want.
Secondly, as much as it is smart to get other people's feedback and ideas, stay true to your vision. It is very easy to change your mind or feel insecure about your ideas when you have other people's perceptions in mind, but remember only you can do it like you.
What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to?
The COVID -19 pandemic has slowed me down in terms of hosting events – due to all the protocols in place. However, as soon as things open up, I look forward to hosting a series of events and expanding the XONA brand.
For more information about the company/brand, follow us on social media @XONAWINES (On all platforms) and check out our website www.xonawines.com!