Originally published in  The Jamaica Observer 

ERICA WYNTER was 19 years old when she had her first business opportunity. Naturally artistic, she would often sew trendy outfits exclusively for her sister, Reva Patton, and herself. But with the unsolicited assistance of her sister, who saw much potential in her, she soon became the personal stylist for the ladies of the night who frequented her hometown, Gully Side in Constant Spring.

And though Wynter realised she had a natural knack for business, it was not until the Papine High former head girl started feeling the palpable effects of the 2009 recession that she was empowered to act on her childhood dream of one day owning a business.

“During the recession I realised that I wasn’t being treated fairly at work, and felt like my boss thought he was doing me a favour. On top of that, I was bored and didn’t look forward to going to work. This is when I started doing some research which led to the birth of C&E Innovational Services Limited in the same year,” Wynter told All Woman.

The business, which focuses on supporting small business operators, also comprises a local courier service, and helps those who need help with what Wynter terms the brain of the business, such as choosing the right legal structure, proper record-keeping, consultation and guidance, which she noted can be particularly difficult in the harsh economic environment in Jamaica.

Today, she is president/CEO of C&E Innovational Services Limited, and the programme director of the International School of Entrepreneurship and Business Development Ltd, which was established in 2016 to achieve growth-oriented enterprises through entrepreneurship education and training.

The 36-year-old acknowledges that getting there wasn’t easy, admitting that if she was not resilient, she would have been defeated, having been plagued by personal and structural obstacles.

 “Trying to get C&E off the ground and developing it was difficult. For one, I didn’t have the start-up capital. So I started small with one bicycle bearer, borrowed $60,000 from my grandmother, used my credit card, and months later I borrowed a small personal loan from the bank and started operations from home for the first four months with stationery from my UTech days,” Wynter shared.

Other roadblocks began to emerge. Wynter was finding it difficult to secure clients with so many other established private entities offering similar services. At the same time, she struggled with the issue of Government bureaucracy, including the registration of her business, understanding the complexities of the tax system, as well as marketing.

Having become a mother at 19, Wynter was struggling to manoeuvre personal roadblocks — the most heartbreaking being that she was not able to spend enough time with her son.

“It was difficult in my earlier years; I sometimes feel guilty for not spending more time with my son. However, I’m balancing much better with my daughter. My son is older now and barely has time for me, but we have a good relationship; he is focused and respectful,” Wynter shared.

Fortunately for the mother of two, she did not have to face the challenges alone, because she had the support of family, her assistant Joyce, as well as supportive friends and groups such as the Young Entrepreneurs Association where she served as president for two consecutive years. She has since managed to make several contributions locally and internationally.

“Through my involvement in education, leadership, mentorship and guidance, I have impacted many policy decisions locally as well as internationally. I was able to achieve this through serving on a number of boards at B&E Catering and Training Institute, the Small Business Association of Jamaica, Jamaica Employers’ Federation, the Consumer Affairs Commission, and Self-Start Fund,” Wynter shared.

One of the founding members of the Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs-Caribbean & Canada (CAYE), Wynter is also a lecturer in entrepreneurship and small business management at the University of Technology, Jamaica, and a business advisor and trainer for the Heart Trust/NTA.

This young woman is not quite done yet. She foresees many more milestones on her dream board. At present, she is eyeing entrepreneurship projects across the Caribbean and in India, online training programmes, and writing a few books, the titles of which she has already chosen.