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Interview With Aldain Reid

At 34 years old, he is carving a niche as an entrepreneur; he is also the president of the Young Entrepreneurs Association. Aldain Reid speaks with Amitabh Sharma on his foray into business, what he has learnt and his expectations of the future.

What prompted you start your own enterprise?

Although I have been involved in various business activities for a long as I can remember, it has been about two years since I made the decision to leave my corporate job and start my own company. This move was driven by the desire for self actualization. Leaving a stable paycheck, great co-workers and 11 years of tenure with one company was perhaps one of the scariest things I'd ever done.

And yet looking back, it was the defining moment not only of my career, but of my personal development as well. The fact is, I am now so captivated by the spirit of entrepreneurship that I could never go back—I am hopelessly, incurably, unemployable.

How do you think your past experiences helped you in your venture?

While it is often said that past experience as an entrepreneur is no guarantee of future success, I believe that my journey to date has contributed positively to my growth in business. As I reflect on the many ventures that I have been associated with, I am convinced that my strategic management and leadership skills have improved over time as a result of these experiences.

What was the reaction from your peer group, superiors of your decision?

I benefited tremendously from strong support of my family, friends and work colleagues when they learned of my decision to enter into full-time business. Of those persons who knew me well, some were of the opinion this move was inevitable, others questioned why I took so long.

Recount the path to the present, brief on the highs and the lows along the way?

The entrepreneurial bug bit me from my school days, at the university I often engaged in a variety of on-campus business activities. I studied Electrical Engineering, which led me to a career in Energy Engineering at the local electric utility, the Jamaica Public Service Company where I worked for 11 years.

In 1999 I founded an IT company; Solutions 2000 which at its peak was serving a significant commercial client base across the island, providing computer hardware and software solutions for businesses. I sold this company in 2003.

In 2004, I was presented with a business opportunity to partner with the second largest provider of distance learning education worldwide, Resource Development International (RDI).

Since introducing this opportunity to the local market, the RDI student base has grown rapidly to over 400 Jamaicans enrolled in top UK University programs ranging from Diplomas, Bachelors and Masters Degrees.

In 2004, I extended my foray into the education sector by forming Eduventures Jamaica, an international education marketing firm which provides consultancy and strategic marketing support to a growing number of international academic institutions seeking to do business in Jamaica.

This has turned out be an excellent complement to the RDI business and has expanded considerably into a well respected partner in the national plan for the growth of tertiary education in Jamaica.

Our flagship event, ‘The Eduventures International Education Fair' is an annual educational exposition, which sees over 40 international institutions from across the world converging in Jamaica each October, providing eager students with a broad range of academic options at all levels of study. The third staging of this event is scheduled for October 2007.

My most recent business venture is the formation of an Energy Engineering consulting firm, First Energy Solutions which caters to medium and large business customers providing energy portfolio management, energy consultancy services and corporate energy efficiency programmes.

With the spiraling costs of energy continuing to be major concern for business, First Energy has positioned itself as a critical partner in the effort to promote energy efficiency in the national context.

Has age been a barrier, in terms of clients the 'experience' and seriousness?

I have not had any major difficulties in business, as it relates to my age. I believe if one exudes confidence and maturity in their professional capacity, then instances of prejudice should be minimal. Furthermore if you look within the global context, there is an ever increasing cadre of young CEOs who are making a significant impact on the world economy.

I therefore see an advantage; in fact this is typically my approach to imaginary barriers such as this. Remain positive and focus on delivering superior service to your clients and you will be taken seriously, regardless of your age.

What have you learnt along the way?

I have gained quite a bit of practical knowledge and skill with respect to the tools necessary to achieve success in business within the global marketplace. Whether its through the MBA programme, which I'm currently pursuing, or my professional interactions while employed in corporate Jamaica, or my social interaction with my peers in business, or the encouragement of my family and close friends, or the support from the fantastic team at RDI Jamaica and Eduventures, I continue to be inspired towards being the best I can be.

As the president of the YEA, what are your hope and expectations?

I hope to bring my wealth of entrepreneurial experience and leadership attributes to bear during my tenure as President of the Young Entrepreneurs Association. Our members see themselves as partners in development of our nation. We intend to harness the vast resources of our membership to build a credible voice for entrepreneurship in Jamaica. Working in partnership with other public and private sector business organizations, we will seek to build a national vision for present and future generations.

How do you foresee the future of entrepreneurship in the coming years?

I see a bright future for entrepreneurship in the Jamaican context. Technology and innovation are transforming our daily lives and forcing structural changes to achieve greater productivity. From an economic perspective, this will be good for Jamaica in the long term. Entrepreneurs will play a major role in shaping our country's 21 st century's economic landscape. It is therefore incumbent on policymakers to recognize and support them.

It is my hope that through the YEA, our hope of transforming the Jamaican mindset towards entrepreneurship will be achieved.

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