Ashley Mitchell believes himself to be a renaissance man, but not for the reasons you would think. He jests and says, “maybe this is just a fancy way to say I am still finding myself.” After studying biology and Spanish for Cambridge Advanced Levels at his alma mater Queen’s Royal College, Port-of-Spain, he thought he would become a biologist or linguist, but later found his niche grooming other entrepreneurs for success.
He did this at the Small Business Development Company (SBDC) as a business adviser and monitoring officer before leaving Trinidad for the United Kingdom. There, Mitchell worked for nine years with enterprise agencies such as Brent Business Venture, Enfield Enterprise Agency and the Prince’s Trust, where he helped
hundreds of young entrepreneurs stabilize their lives and transform their ideas into successful businesses.
His clients ranged from well-heeled people running established, export-oriented businesses, to ex-offenders, teenaged mothers and other would-be entrepreneurs facing myriad challenges. Back in Trinidad, he accepted a job at the National Entrepreneurship Development Company Limited (NEDCO) when he headed the
Entrepreneurial Training Institute and Incubation Centre (ETIIC) for approximately four years. Here he was responsible for implementing the company’s mentorship programme, business club and business advisory services.
He admits that this field does not pay very well, however, he says when his clients are successful, his sense of fulfillment is unmatched, as he is able to live
vicariously through their success. Mitchell recalls his first taste of entrepreneurship, “In primary school people came to me to draw cars and motorcycles and although there was no monetary exchange, I saw great value in what I did and liked the feeling my talent elicited in others.”
As a boy growing up in Belmont, he along with his cousin also sold aquarium fish and came up with ideas for extra gear and accessories for toy soldiers. He fondly remembers his first sale – a hand-made parachute – to the mother of a wide-eyed boy no older than himself. Years later as an adult, he realised that he was able to add value in a new way by helping entrepreneurs land on their feet using their own innovations. While he says that entrepreneurship is a mind-set and asserts that he has been an entrepreneur all his life, the single dad has operated his own consulting agency for the past four years and says sometimes he has to wear many hats as he tries to juggle his business, parenting, mentoring young people and lecturing part time.
Mitchell shares, “Few people understand the struggles that entrepreneurs go through; yes you have freedom to some extent and you are in charge of your own destiny, but sometimes you are extremely busy working on projects that pay well and other times, you are extremely busy trying to find projects that pay well…it’s often a case of feast or famine.” Still, he finds creative ways to market his business, Enterprise Hub, and stay afloat in these tough economic times. He does this through his website, social media marketing and referrals. In so doing, he was able to win a recent bid for a World Bank contract: Women Innovators Network in the Caribbean (WINC) in conjunction with infoDev which is a global multi-donor programme.
The objective of this project is to assist growth-oriented women entrepreneurs around the Caribbean as far as Suriname, Guyana and Belize in realizing their ambitions and acting as the conduit for change within the wider region and the world. His company assists with logistics, outreach, monitoring, evaluation as well as choosing facilitators for technical and life skills training and other workshops. He says he jumped at the opportunity to be involved in an initiative that empowers women, and cites his mother and sisters who have been pillars of support in his own life.
Mitchell also works occasionally as a consultant with The Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) at the Centre for Enterprise Development’s incubation unit. Here he does one-on-one coaching and facilitates workshops on business modelling and marketing. He says one of his strengths is helping entrepreneurs craft their own narratives through storytelling. “It’s so rewarding when you witness what happens when clients dig deep enough within themselves…the result is that they often realize that they have the answers to the challenges they face.”
For more info: www.enterprise-hub.com or amitchell@enterprise- hub.com