The JEDI Challenge

The JEDI Challenge Returns

The JEDI Challenge

The JEDI Challenge Returns

The Parker Avery Group recently concluded the second iteration of what we consider one of our most impactful initiatives since our firm’s founding 16 years ago. In our typical consulting projects, we work with billion-dollar, global retailers and CPG companies on current state assessments, capabilities roadmaps, business process design, system selection, system implementations, and of course advanced analytics.

But this particular effort has none of those elements.

This life-changing project was focused on “micro businesses” dreamed up by young entrepreneurs operating in less than favorable economic and social conditions. What began early in 2021 as a simple sponsorship of RetailROI’s SuperSaturday event, evolved into a program that has not only provided economic opportunities in the interior parish of Clarendon, Jamaica but has the potential for far-reaching impacts across the globe.

Called the “JEDI Challenge” (Jamaican Entrepreneur Development Initiative), the mission is to teach and coach budding entrepreneurs in Jamaica how to successfully launch or expand their businesses as well as provide seed funding. To accomplish this mission, select members of the Parker Avery team built and delivered an intensive, eight-week course that covers fundamental elements of a comprehensive business plan. This is the second year of the JEDI Challenge program.

The Jamaican entrepreneurs (affectionately referred to as the “JEDIs”) ranged from ages 17 to early 20s. Their business ideas included a healthy candy company, a crochet apparel company, a poultry farm, a jewelry company, a lip-gloss company, and a soap manufacturer. The diversity of businesses and personalities among the JEDIs was an enjoyable mix as new learnings were discovered and applied to their personal business journeys. We were impressed by the resilience these six young people exhibited to persevere through intermittent connectivity issues, tropical storms, and flooding, along with balancing normal family, work, and school commitments.

Witnessing the confluence of Jamaica’s beautiful interior countryside and mountains with the small parishes that are struggling to survive shows just how important this program is to these young entrepreneurs.

To cram a lot of learning in a very short time, this course was intense. We met via Zoom weekly at night for eight straight weeks, and each week included detailed homework assignments. The business topics covered vision and mission statements, organizational structures, marketing plans, SWOT analysis, financial plans, and analysis of funding sources.

This was by no means an easy classroom experience. Our team of instructors (the “JEDI Council”) gave the participants honest, constructive criticism, which the JEDIs took with grace. We encouraged each of these young entrepreneurs to speak up and share their personal experiences as well as present their homework during class. They were all assigned a Parker Avery “mentor” who lent a helping hand outside of class with course content, homework, or just to provide coaching and motivation during this rigorous process. As a bonus, this year’s JEDIs were also able to hear from the inaugural JEDI 2021 class, who offered support, insight, and motivation to power through the tough times and continue to pursue their dreams.