Five businesses receive funding via Royal Caribbean’s Kickstarter Programme
After eight-weeks of small business training, five innovative and creative entrepreneurs from Royal Caribbean International’s Kickstarter Programme were awarded funding following the first cohort’s final pitch competition.
The first group to go through the program focused on a wide range of tourism-based businesses, several of which are now set to shake up the way things are done within the local industry. From tour companies to rentals for travelers with young children, the ideas of the prize winners considered the many unique facets of Bahamian tourism.
One Big Nut, a startup that took home the top prize, is bringing a fresh perspective to Nassau’s West Bay Street staple — coconut water — and making getting that healthy coconut water fix easier. Whether for sipping on its own or mixing in “gully wash”, fresh coconut water is much-loved, but not always easy to come by, and worries about handling can overshadow the longing for a good gulp.
Co-founder Alex Holden said the company is bringing technology and tradition together, using state-of-the-art equipment to hasten the process of extracting coconut water.
“At One Big Nut we are offering more than just coconut water. We are providing a safe, comfortable, and authentic cultural experience,” he said.
“You can sit down and sip while our friendly staff serves you. Our coconuts come pre-chilled, pre-drilled, and ready to drink, making them more refreshing and fun than any coconut water you could buy from the roadside or the food store.”
Crystal Campbell, director of business integration and destination development at Royal Caribbean International, helped judge the pitch competition. She said One Big Nut received the top prize after receiving the top score in all the judging categories, including innovation and impact, viability, sustainability, capacity, and overall presentation and delivery.
“Their concept reinvented the coconut vendor seen across The Bahamas,” said Campbell.
“They not only sought to create sustainable kiosks that are fun and inviting, but also simplify the process for the vendors with advanced equipment.”
Holden said he didn’t expect to win the competition, but noted that the funding will help to buy machinery and build the “giant coconut” they will operate out of. But Holden noted that the program provided more value than just the funding opportunity.
“The one-on-one tutoring was one of the most valuable parts of the program,” he said.
“Also competing against talented Bahamians with great business ideas forces you to sharpen your skills. We would recommend every Bahamian entrepreneur sign up for the program, just bring your most creative idea and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.”
The Kickstarter Programme, which is a collaborative effort with the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC), provides entrepreneurs with learning and funding opportunities to help start their businesses.
SBDC Executive Director Samantha Rolle thanked Royal Caribbean for its ongoing partnership.
“SBDC’s partnership with Royal Caribbean Group continues to be instrumental in curating entrepreneurial funding and training programs which open doors for a variety of Bahamian businesses in the tourism industry,” she said.
The program begins with an eight-week training boot camp and culminates with a pitch competition, where competitors get the opportunity to win up to $15,000 in funding for their ventures.
Baha Moments, a bespoke tour company founded by D’Asante Small, was another top performer in the recent pitch competition, taking the second-place position with a prize of $10,000 in funding.
Small said she developed the idea for her business in 2020.
“In the midst of the pandemic, I developed what I believe will be a catalyst to the transformation of our tourism industry in The Bahamas,” she said.
“I was inspired to reimagine the way Bahamians access the tourism industry and the way our visitors access Bahamian experiences.”
Small said Baha Moments focuses on curating unique experiences in collaboration with vendors to ensure customers enjoy their time while receiving local perspectives and an infusion of Bahamian culture.
She said she decided to participate in the kickstarter program to tap into the cruise industry directly, to gain insight and industry feedback, given it is a target market for her company.
Small said the program was insightful, noting it helped her fine tune elements of her business plan, website and marketing plan.
“The next step for us is our digital launch, which this seed money will assist to engage influencers and launch our digital ads,” she said.
The third-place prize of $7,500 in funding was won by Lignum Vitae, a Grand Bahama-based store specializing in locally produced goods.
Owner Ariel Ferree said the idea for the store was conceived to both highlight Bahamian creators and innovators while providing sustainable shopping solutions.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for people to embrace a more eco-conscious lifestyle without even knowing it, because one of the biggest things that we can do is sourcing as many things locally as we can,” she said.
Ferree said Lignum Vitae will carry products ranging from home decor to jewelry, and fashion items to locally pressed oil and more.
“It’s going to be a market and deli, so people can try some of the goods as well,” she said.
Ferree said in addition to the funding opportunity, the Kickstarter program provided her with unique networking and learning opportunities.
“Through the program, I was able to connect with some of the people, from Grand Bahama specifically,” she said.
“A lot of them are the makers and the growers and some people I’m working with to have some of their products in Lignum Vitae.”
Tishka Moss, the owner of Traveling Tots Rentals, said she was drawn to the program because of the learning opportunities.
“It was the education aspect that drew me to apply to the boot camp,” she said.
Moss received a $5,000 prize to help fund her business, which was started earlier this year.
Traveling Tots Rentals provides rental cribs, highchairs, strollers, car seats and other equipment needed for traveling with young children.
“It was such a hassle traveling with my young sons, and I thought about all the tourists who come to Nassau with the same issue,” said Moss.
And while she already had a steady stream of rentals before the kickstarter program, Moss said she plans to use the funds to upgrade her website to provide a more user-friendly experience.
For Misty Johnson, who owns AmaziTours, the $5000 loan prize is a stepping stone toward a big dream.
Johnson, who is based in Freeport, said ultimately she wants to start an amphibious tour. But she knows getting there will take time and improvising.
“In order for us to get to that, we need to do something else to raise some money,” she said.
“So, we thought of barbecue boats, which is also a unique tour.”
She said the funding will help her begin the barbecue tours, which allow groups to tour the waters of Grand Bahama and wind up on the beach for a barbecue they will always remember on the barbecue boat. “I knew I wouldn’t have been able to secure an amphibious bike with the prize money, but it’s a start for us to get the barbecue boat,” Johnson said.
Johnson thanked Royal Caribbean for the opportunity to participate in the program.
“This has provided not only the opportunity to launch AMaziTours, but it has also given me a wealth of knowledge,” she said.
“Without this course, I wouldn’t be able to confidently pursue opportunities afforded to small businesses like AMaziTours.”