Quamme Joseph is the Founder of Blue Bay International Inc in Grenada. He is one of 248 fellows participating in the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Professional Fellows Program, a presidential initiative that empowers entrepreneurs and innovative civil society leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean. YLAI focuses on strengthening their capacity to launch and advance their entrepreneurial ideas and effectively contribute to social and economic development in their communities.
On October 4, I departed Grenada to start my YLAI journey in the United States. Having already attended our embassy event in Barbados in preparation for departure and having met with the other 15 fellows from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), I was very excited. I must admit my feelings were mixed with both excitement and fear at the same time. I was excited about embarking on this new path, but worried about leaving my three businesses at this crucial stage. Nevertheless, I mustered enough courage to fuel me through, knowing that the YLAI program is indeed a feat certainly worthy of my participation. With this conviction, I began the YLAI fellowship program with the Opening Program in Dallas, Texas
The Opening Program on Wednesday, October 5 was an epic event to say the least. This was the day all 248 fellows across the Caribbean and Latin America converged for the three-day conference in Dallas, Texas. I recall walking into the conference to see a room filled with young leaders, successful entrepreneurs in their own right, all coming together for a common good. One thing that became immediately clear was that they each had two things in common: a great passion for their own ventures and the desire to help make this world a better place. The program was organized and managed by a great team of dedicated staff from Meridian International Center who are as passionate as we are and equally determine to see us succeed. Little did we know that these dedicated and passionate people would become like family.
I immediately felt encouraged by other YLAI entrepreneurs like myself in pursuit of their dreams. I was uplifted by a room filled with positive vibes, driven by this diverse and successful group of people. I saw the future: future successful entrepreneurs and civil society leaders, future heads of government, future world leaders. Meeting this group of young entrepreneurs who will impact us greatly tomorrow convinced me that I had made the right decision to apply.
Our first day was very empowering, and we listened to several speakers. Some presentations were touching and very inspirational. I remembered the one given by Nina Vaca, founder and CEO of Pinnacle Technical Resources. She used her life experience to relate her story, and this caught my attention quickly. My mind started ticking. Her vision of leadership reinforced everything we knew about ourselves and reignited the vision in us all. It challenged me to have very clear visions of what I wanted to do and reinforced the importance of breaking stereotypes, being determined, and being resilient.
Our first day also gave us the opportunity to network and prepare ourselves for the rest of the program. I listened in awe, with great interest. Having heard so many stories, I began thinking that although there are so many negative things going on in the world today, it was good to know that it is being met by a resistance – a strong force of good. There are good people who want to uplift humanity, each of them in their very own way.
Our second day of the summit was equally intense and more explorative. I think the stand-out presentation was the speech given by CEO of GameStop J Paul Raines. Listening to his story was indeed inspirational and it opened our eyes to the qualities needed to build and keep an enterprise.
By the time our final day arrived, we started feeling the effect of a hectic week. Before I knew it the alarm clock went off again, it was time to get up. By 8:30 that morning we were all seated for our forums and breakout sessions and by the time we knew it … it was rodeo time….YE…HA!!!
As I sat on the plane during my journey to Charlotte, North Carolina the next day, I reminisced what had occurred over the last few days in Dallas. I felt inspired more than I have ever been before, meeting all these fellows, getting to know some personally and hearing their stories especially those who were involved in social projects in their own countries. I had a long time to reflect on my own personal values, my own goals and re-evaluate how I can even make a greater impact in this world.
As we flew into Charlotte, we were accompanied by a representative from International House, Ryan Hultgren, who was so helpful to us. Overall I think that we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of work and detail that went into our program. We felt at home.