Business Page October 14th, 2001

Entrepreneurial Excellence



Business Page congratulates the five Guyanese entrepreneurs who made it to the finals of the Ernst & Young Caribbean Entrepreneur of the Year 2001. To succeed in Guyana's very challenging business environment is an achievement in itself, but for our five to triumph over entrants from the rest of the region is testimony to the scope of their vision, the tenacity of their determination and the ultimate measure of their success. In particular, BP celebrates the recognition of Mr. Ronald Bulkan, Co-Managing Director of Precision Woodworking Limited as the overall Entrepreneur of the Year as a truly remarkable achievement of which all Guyanese should be proud.

The Finalists

For the benefit of our readers we profile the five Guyanese finalists:

Gerald R. Gouveia - Gerald Gouveia started Roraima Airways in Guyana nine years ago, leveraging on his 15-year stint in the Guyana Defense Force air corps. As a small entity coming into a market where there were already three operators, Roraima had to do things differently, and Mr. Gouveia knew that the area where he could really make a difference was service. As a result, Roraima Airways quickly found favour with the foreign investors who were just beginning to come back into the Guyanese marketplace. In addition to tours and transportation, the company provides search-and-rescue and medical evacuation services and opened an international travel agency in 1996.

Pritipaul Singh - During the time that Pritipaul Singh was a trader traveling between Guyana, Trinidad and Barbados, he identified a new market for Guyanese seafood. He began by buying prawns from Guyanese trawlers and shipping them to Barbados. Singh's seafood export business grew steadily, expanding with more vessels and he began exporting chilled seafood to the United States, as well as the Caribbean islands. Today Pritipaul Singh Investments Inc. is a vast, hustling, complex employing around 1000 people and producing large volumes of processed seafood for export under the Mid-Atlantic Seafoods label.

Ronald Bulkan - In 1983, faced with a depressed Guyanese economy, Ronald Bulkan had two choices - leave the country or set up his own business. He chose the latter and along with his two brothers founded Precision Woodworking Limited. Precision Woodworking began by manufacturing modular furniture as well as mop sticks, broomsticks, and novelty items for export to regional markets. Today Precision designs and produces a line of garden and leisure furniture, 90% of which is exported to some of the most exclusive retailers in the United Kingdom, including John Lewis, Marks and Spencer and Harrod's. The company is believed to be among the top ten producers of outdoor furniture in the world.

Dennis Morgan-Mudlier - With several years experience in the garment industry in Guyana, Dennis Morgan Mudlier entered into an arrangement with Beepat and Sons and started Beesons Industries which would later evolve into his sole proprietorship - Denmor Garments (Manufacturers) Inc. In its four years of operation the company has grown into a 1000-person operation, producing various garments for US retailers including Victoria's Secret, Wal-Mart, Russell Athletic and Frederick's of Hollywood. Denmor's impact on the Guyanese economy has been considerable, bringing to the country much needed foreign exchange, as well as providing gainful employment and skills training for many people.

Mayfield C. French - Mayfield French started her school in 1992 as a small playgroup. Today, "Mae's School" offers tuition from kindergarten to 5th form, with plans to introduce a 6th form class in the near future. The school is known for its high standards and achievements, and based on students' results at examinations it is ranked among the top five schools in Guyana. The student population numbers just one thousand in an effort to keep classes small and manageable in keeping with the tutors' experience, capacity and capabilities. As a result, places are in high demand, but tuition costs are kept at competitive levels for the local market.

Unfortunately for Guyana, three of its finalists, Mr. Pritipaul Singh, Mr. Ronald Bulkan and Mr. Dennis Morgan-Mudlier, were all in the manufacturing and food processing category and two of them inevitably had to be eliminated. While Mr. Bulkan went on to win the overall EOY award, the other two must take satisfaction from knowing that they were eliminated by the year's best. Guyana could take further satisfaction in the fact that Ms. Mayfield French was the only solo female entrepreneur among the fifteen finalists, quite an achievement in the male dominated Caribbean region.

The Judges

The panel comprised accomplished entrepreneurs and business managers from across the region. They were Geoffrey Cave of Cave Shepherd, Barbados; Judy Chang of the Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation; Dr. Leslie Chin, Guyana Volunteer Consultancy; Aaron Moses, Cable & Wireless, Grenada; and Charles Ross, Managing Director of Sterling Asset Management Limited, Jamaica.

Through a process of debate and consensus the judges, from information submitted by the entrepreneur, independently confirmed through on-site visits and interviews, chose the finalists for each of the categories. The overall winner was selected from among the winning category finalists and, Oscar-style, was announced during a lavish black tie banquet.

Despite their diverse background, judges all privately conceded that selecting the finalists and the overall winner is no easy task. To assist them in the process Ernst & Young provides the judges with eight decision criteria namely:

  • Continued innovation in business approaches
  • Significant growth - financial, sales, employment, exports
  • Evidence of future planning
  • Ability to overcome industry obstacles and challenges
  • Human relations development
  • Demonstrated excellence in the area of business
  • Sound banking and supplier relationships
  • Responsible corporate citizen

Celebrating Guyana's Success

Having been in the EOY programme for only the third year, Guyana's performance could be considered more than creditable. In 1999, our first year of entry, Guyana produced six finalists with two of them Mr. Jad Rahaman of Whitewater Adventure Tours and Mr. Deo Singh of DIDCO Trading Company taking the category awards for Tourism and Hospitality and Food Processing and Distribution respectively. Year 2000, which was anticipated to be elections year in Guyana, was extremely disappointing with Guyana having no finalists.

The Guyana media response to this year's tremendous success has been most disappointing although the Stabroek News carried a report while GTV did a panel discussion and call in programme involving four of the five finalists. It is important that we celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit not only to recognise their achievements but hopefully to help others realise that they can achieve the goals that they set themselves.

As Mr. Peter N. Boos, Executive Chairman of Ernst & Young Caribbean said at the Awards Ceremony "these awards are a public celebration and recognition of their (entrepreneurs) achievements and contributions to our regional economy and society ... hear the compelling stories of our fifteen finalists tonight and you will realise the fantastic impact that our entrepreneurs are having on our Caribbean marketplace and society. They make impossible dreams into Missions Possible."

The Sponsors

The EOY Programme, an initiative of Ernst and Young International, is funded by Republic Bank Limited of Trinidad and Tobago and its subsidiaries across the region, CIBC West Indies Holdings Limited, the Caribbean Development Bank, Clico, Caribbean Media Corporation and Caribbean Communications Network among others. Previous regional winners include Wilbur Balgobin of Willie's Ice Cream, Gary Hunt of Radical Designs and Tony Sabga of Ansa McAl. Previous international winners included Michael Dell of Dell Computers, Jim McCann of 1-800-Flowers and Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems Inc. In 2000, the E&Y offices in the Caribbean decided to have a single EOY programme for the region and the overall winner that year, Mr. Ralph "Bizzy" Williams, went on to win the award for Multiple Enterprise Creation at the inaugural Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, held in May 2001 in Monte Carlo.

Next week Business Page will begin a two part series on "Entrepreneurship" dealing with what constitutes entrepreneurship and the factors that contribute to entrepreneurial success.