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Entrepreneurs cook up a great idea for Bermuda

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She was the last person to sign up for the first Startup Weekend for budding entrepreneurs to be held in Bermuda.

But Nakia Smith finished out in front as her business idea of creating a shared community kitchen facility was judged the best at the conclusion of the weekend event.

Startup Weekends have been successful overseas as springboard platforms for entrepreneurs to develop a potential business concept.

Teams work together over 54 hours, between Friday and Sunday, to create a ‘minimum viable product' to demonstrate their idea has business potential.

The first staging of a Startup Weekend in Bermuda attracted 42 participants to Mount St Agnes Academy, which was the event venue.

Ms Smith had not planned to attend, but after being encouraged to do so by a friend, she entered just before the closing deadline and had only 45 minutes to come up with a 60-second pitch to explain her idea for a start-up business. Her idea was creating a shared community kitchen.

She has an interest in cooking. Beyond her full-time job she does a small amount of catering on the side.

“I always have a challenge finding a kitchen to prep and prepare for 50 people or more, that's when you need a proper kitchen — and you also have to transport the food afterwards,” she said.

“There is a need for an industrial-size community kitchen, a shared kitchen.”

She said it is a concept that is big in the US.

Twenty-two of the Startup Weekend participants presented an idea pitch. The nine that got the most votes from attendees were given the go-ahead to spend the next two days exploring the possibilities and showing they had a viable business idea.

Ms Smith's idea was one of the nine given the green light.

The other participants were invited to get involved with the project that most interested them or they had the most passion for.

Three of those who joined Ms Smith's group had a background either as small-time caterers or cooking enthusiasts.

“I sold the idea to my team and split the group, so we had a graphic designer, someone to deal with the budget, and others to find out if the idea was viable,” said Ms Smith.

One of the first requirements was to come up with a name. The group's graphic designer Sloane Chinapoo suggested ‘The Kitchen'. A bright, impactful logo was designed.

Phone calls were made to other small-time caterers to see if they would be interested if such a shared facility was available. The feedback was positive and supportive. Ms Smith's team created a Facebook page to promote the idea wider.

The team pulled together to have a viable business product at the end of the final day of the weekend event. That was when each team gave a presentation to show what they had achieved. The event judges then picked the winners.

Ms Smith had all her team involved in the final presentation.

“I wanted my team to know that it was our idea and that everyone had an input into it,” she said.

When the team was proclaimed the winners, Ms Smith was overcome with emotion. “It was overwhelming and I burst into tears,” she said.

The team members were Ms Smith, Ms Chinapoo, Charles and Carlita Burgess, Sam Crew and Andre Swan. They received a variety of prizes from local sponsors, including Apple TVs.

The question now is where the idea of a community kitchen in Bermuda goes from here.

“People have been listening and want to know things about how much space there would be, what the cost would be, and the hours it could be available,” said Ms Smith.

“I've had a few people call looking to invest. Setting up a kitchen is going to cost, finding a proper space will cost, and it would have to be cost-effective for, as an example, someone who wanted to come and make gingerbread for the farmers' market.

“It's a big challenge. We would also need people to commit to the kitchen.”

Ms Smith believes such a facility could be used by small caterers and entrepreneurs, as well as being a place where cooking classes could be held for students.

She praised the Startup Weekend concept and hopes it continues in Bermuda.

“Bermudians have such talent and ideas. We don't give them enough of a chance to show that brilliance.

“I wish more people would be supportive towards entrepreneurs and invest in people.”

And of her team, she said: “It was overwhelming to see people committed to my idea and goal. It was moving.”

Ms Smith was touched that one of her team told her she was happy to be involved because she could see she was doing something that would help others.

“That's how I feel to anyone who would come to The Kitchen — it would be a place to help them reach their goals.”

Ms Smith added: “There was a group dynamic; when it come to crunch time everybody was there and as committed as they had been at the start. I'm proud of my team and grateful to them all.”

Anyone interested in helping to support or move forward the concept of The Kitchen can contact Ms Smith by e-mail at nssmith76@me.com

Ms Smith also runs the Facebook group Cooking with Kiki.

Well supported: A group shot of the participants at the first Startup Weekend Bermuda event, held at Mount St Agnes Academy. The winning team was The Kitchen, which developed an idea for a shared community kitchen. The concept was presented at the start of the weekend by Nakia Smith, pictured front and centre
Top idea: Members of the winning team, The Kitchen, from the left are Charles and Carlita Burgess, Nakia Smith and Sam Crew. Missing is Sloane Chinapoo and Andre Swan
Solid plan: The Kitchen team, with Nakia Smith at the front, and some of the Startup Weekend Bermuda event organisers
The Kitchen team's logo
Winning idea: Nakia Smith
<p>‘Stay tenacious’</p>

The first Startup Weekend to be held in Bermuda aimed to bring together developers, marketers, designers, business managers and aspiring entrepreneurs.

During a 54-hour period, from Friday to Sunday, the participants organised into teams to take an idea from concept to a start-up business prototype launch.

Startup Weekends have proven popular in the US, where they are run in partnership with Google for Entrepreneurs. More than 45,000 people have taken part in the events.

The Bermuda event, held at Mount St Agnes Academy, attracted 42 participants. It was co-ordinated by local entrepreneurs Coral Wells, Nhuri Bashir and Courtney Bushner.

Among the ideas for business that were pitched at the start of the weekend was one by Zaire Lodge, 10, who was keen to create an App that would allow young people to read to seniors and receive a payment.

Nine of the 22 ideas pitched were chosen to be developed by teams over the weekend, before being presented to a panel of judges.

The third place prize went to the Bermuda Hacks team, with an idea for an online platform and App for making life easier in Bermuda.

The runner-up idea came from K.I.M.S List, which aimed to provide online educational resource for parents of children aged 5 to 16.

The People’s Award went to TechChoppers, headed by Dahji Grime, 16, whose business idea involved custom-built gaming computers.

The Bermuda event was supported by Inspire eBusiness, the Department of E-Commerce, and the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation (BEDC). A number of local companies also gave support.

Commenting on the weekend, Nick Kempe, chair of the BEDC, said: “It was truly inspirational to share in the experience of helping entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life.”

Before the weekend got underway entrepreneur and philanthropist Kim Perdikou, who started up the REBBL company, working with entrepreneurs in Peru to provide wholesale beverages for Whole Foods in the US, offered advice and inspiration.

US facilitator Ethan Bagley, of Startup Global, said he had seen something new and impressive in Bermuda — teams working to support opposing teams.

In his final words of encouragement to participants, he said: “Stay tenacious. Stick-to-it-iveness is important as an entrepreneur. Even in the hard times, you can’t let anything stand in your way. You can’t be afraid to be yourself.”

John Narraway, general manager of iClick, which donated prizes for the winning team, challenged participants to move forward with their ideas, and promised Apple Watches to the team that can demonstrate a build-up of 10,000 customers or income of $10,000 by Cup Match on July 31.

For further information on Startup Weekend Bermuda, visit www.inspireebusiness.bm

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Published March 13, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated March 12, 2015 at 8:31 pm)

Entrepreneurs cook up a great idea for Bermuda

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