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America’s Cup hands out 59 vendor licences

Big days ahead: Vendors getting ready for the America’s Cup World Series, from the left are Michelle Weldon, Carlita Burgess, BEDC’s executive officer Erica Smith, Miki Richardson-Caines and Dakia O’Brien

It promised to be a mini-business boom for street vendors, and next month’s Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series event is on track to deliver.

Almost 60 official vendor licences have been issued to small and medium-sized business across the community.

A selection of the enterprising Bermudian entrepreneurs who have secured official licensee status have spoken about what it means to be involved in one of the biggest sporting events to come to the Island.

Michelle Weldon, owner of cupcake business Xquisite Treats, heard about the opportunity for local businesses to become involved in the America’s Cup through the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation (BEDC).

She has been baking cakes and making desserts as a side business for five years, and was enrolled in a BEDC course for budding entrepreneurs when she was made aware of the chance to get involved with the America’s Cup as a vendor.

“I filled out the application form and waited for the reply, and they came back and said I had been accepted,” she said.

The BEDC helped to spread the word about vendor opportunities linked to October’s World Series event, along with other organisations including the Chamber of Commerce, and the America’s Cup Event Authority.

Erica Smith, BEDC’s executive director, said: “Michelle is a great example of someone with passion who has followed through. She can launch her home baking business into something fully fledged. I’m sure people at the America’s Cup will try her cakes and want to know where they come from and how they can get them.”

Ms Weldon said she is looking forward to the opportunity to be involved in the event, which takes place from October 16 to 18.

Another food supplier to receive a vendor’s licence is Dakia O’Brien, owner of Wild Wing Wednesday.

Ms O’Brien operated Dae N’ Night Catering before launching the fast food take-out Wild Wing Wednesday on Parsons Road, Pembroke, last November.

She said many customers had told her she should get involved in the America’s Cup. She attended one town hall meeting, where she discovered the organisers were encouraging local vendors to apply for a licence.

“They wanted something different and unique, so we applied and were accepted. I think we are one of the smallest businesses involved,” she said.

“I did not think we would get it, as there is a lot of competition out there and we’ve only been going for less than a year. It is going to be a big jump.”

Wild Wing Wednesday has previously been assisted by the BEDC. Ms Smith said she believes the America’s Cup will provide an opportunity for Ms O’Brien and her business to become known beyond Bermuda’s shores.

Ms O’Brien said: “It will definitely bring us exposure, and I see this as a chance to push ahead and show other young Bermudians what you can do if you apply yourself and follow the stepping stones.”

There was a similarly positive message from Miki Richardson-Caines and Carlita Burgess, who run LifeStyles Co Ltd. The business provides a wide range of services, including home and office decor, guest supplies and other “essentials for everyday living”.

After launching in December, the pair researched the America’s Cup in order to prepare for the possibility of getting involved. They attended Bermuda Tourism Authority events and town hall meetings featuring the America’s Cup organisers, and they accepted guidance from the BEDC.

Those efforts paid off when LifeStyles was accepted as an official vendor.

Ms Burgess said: “I think each of the vendors views this as an opportunity to see where we can go. It gives us a great opportunity to expand.”

While Ms Richardson-Caines said: “People coming to the America’s Cup will want to know about Bermuda and Bermudians.” She added that it was good for the Island to have vendors who are proud to live in Bermuda and be part of the America’s Cup.

“Who is better to showcase Bermuda than Bermudians?” she asked.

A total of 59 vendor licences have been issued for the World Series event, along with about 50 service provider licences. There were between 90 and 95 completed applications for the vendor licences, coming from 500 initial enquiries.

Looking ahead, the BEDC’s Ms Smith said: “There are still opportunities that will present themselves in 2017, and I hope beyond that.”