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Yaneek Page | Starting a work and travel business in Jamaica

Published:Sunday | December 3, 2023 | 12:10 AM

QUESTION: I need your advice on how to successfully start a work and travel business in Jamaica. – Ms D BUSINESSWISE: The best way to successfully start this business is to take a disciplined strategic planning approach. Remember, this is a...

QUESTION: I need your advice on how to successfully start a work and travel business in Jamaica.

– Ms D

BUSINESSWISE: The best way to successfully start this business is to take a disciplined strategic planning approach. Remember, this is a mature industry where strong competition already exists, and the environment is constantly evolving.

Getting your slice of the pie won’t be a cake walk. As we say in Jamaica, you will either be planning to ‘box food out of someone’s mouth’ by attracting their customers, or you’re carving out a niche that no one is serving. Either way, once making money is involved, someone will be coming to compete with you, if not today then tomorrow.

Strategic planning anticipates and plans for successfully navigating competition and changing circumstances. This involves evaluating your entrepreneurial readiness, extensive industry, and country research, validating the business model fundamentals, sound financial projections, and proactively identifying and managing the business risks, among other areas.

Before we explore your personal readiness, let’s discuss the business model fundamentals because completing this activity will underscore the importance of entrepreneurial capacity.

A business model is like a blueprint to the engine of the company. You’re figuring out what is needed for it to start and run smoothly along your growth journey. In the simplest terms, it’s assembling all the components by asking the right questions in each area and having the most accurate answers. For the work and travel business, there are many potential business variations. You’ll need to decide:

• Are you targeting students who are based in Jamaica who wish to travel outside of the country? And if so which country or countries because each jurisdiction has different regulations governing extended stay and work permits.

• Or are you targeting students who are based outside of Jamaica who may wish to travel to the island and work locally?

• Or is your target adult who require seasonal employment? If so, what areas will you specialise in – hospitality, healthcare, education, information technology, etc?

• Or will you be taking a blended approach and target both students and adults for various programmes?

With those basics out the way, you can flesh out the business model more, expand it by developing a strategic or business plan, then create a pitch deck, if your funding strategy requires investors.

Business model and plan

The first questions I would like you to consider are:

1. How do you define the target markets? You can’t serve people well if you don’t understand them and what they care about. Demographics, such as age, location, stage in life and economic status, must be determined. It’s also important to estimate the lifetime value of the average customer.

2. What problems are you solving for your target customers? What’s the headache they have and how do you fix it?

3. Outside of fixing headaches, what value are you adding to them? Value is at the heart of how you compete.

4. Who is currently doing what you want to do, and what makes you different and better? This is differentiation, which supports value and strengthens your ability to compete.

5. What will your primary revenue streams be? Who is going to pay you? How will they pay, and how frequently will they pay?

6. What will your key activities be, and what/who is needed to execute? What technology and systems are required?

7. Who are your key partners for travel and work in the country or countries?

8. What are the statutory, licensing, or regulatory requirements?

9. What will your primary costs be?

10. How much profit do you expect to make? How reliable are the cash flows? How vulnerable will the business be to changes and shocks?

The good news is that once you have the business model done, you can expand that body of work into a strategic plan. Going back to my earlier analogy, if the business model is the engine, then the strategic plan is the road map to where this engine will take you, also what and who are required for the journey.

Therefore, your destination is typically defined by goals, objectives, and targets.

Financial projections, estimates, and assumptions are the foremost pillars of the plan while the security rests on proactive initiatives to manage business risks. Some of these risks are industry specific such as customers running off and compromising the integrity of the programmes, workers’ rights being violated, and visa changes. Others are general to enterprise such as competition, poor cash flows, system failures, disgruntled customers and reputational damage.

As a new entrepreneur, you’ll realise that just planning for a start-up is complex work and requires myriad skills. You need to be a researcher, marketer, communicator, planner, psychologist, futurist, legal mind, technology guru, operations manager, accountant, project manager, people manager, and the list goes on.

In short, it’s hard to do this if you’re highly skilled, experienced, prepared, and have the best team. It’s almost impossible if you have none of those, so build your personal capacity first, then get on with business planning and execution.

Good luck and one love!

Yaneek Page is the programme lead for Market Entry USA, and a certified trainer in entrepreneurship.Email: