Jamaican Tech as a force for good
Check out Clare Kelly’s blog feature on Mervin!
Mervin Kerr is a Branson Centre entrepreneur from Jamaica, who over the last three years has channelled his computer science training into building one of the Caribbean’s most state-of-the-art audio visual companies.
Today we’re sharing the story behind his business success, his lessons learnt with the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, Caribbean, and his advice for up-and-coming business owners in the Caribbean.
Tell us the story of how Island Integrators started out
Island Integrators design, implement and support customised, controlled audio visual solutions for presentation space – such as courtrooms, lecture theatres, conference rooms and class rooms. Our offering includes motorised projection screens, video walls, stock market tickers, high resolution cameras, witness protection systems and video conferencing solutions.
The idea for the business came to me while travelling and participating in seminars and conferences overseas. I frequently experienced the use of excellent audio visual and instructional support technologies and noticed that this was not being utilised throughout the Caribbean. I decided to do something about it and started Island Integrators in May 2013.
Where did your passion for business stem from?
I am a fun-loving and driven individual and at four-years old was told by my uncle that the secret to success was to “find something you like to do, then have someone pay you to do it”. My first entrepreneurial endeavor started when I was 10 years-old – I would sell buns, cookies and milk to my friends. I studied Computer Science and Electronics at the University of The West Indies and later studied management information systems. As an undergraduate I ran a small technical support team, we also developed a computer scheduling system for the University’s computer labs. I then worked in IT at the National Water Commission for more than a decade before leaving the safe government position to pursue my dreams and create jobs. I am driven by the reaction from very satisfied customers who make comments such as, “you guys saved the day”, “we are glad we depended on you”, and “that’s why you are the go-to guys”.
When did you first hear about the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, Caribbean?
In July 2013 I read an article on the Branson Centre and found that their mandate aligned with my needs as an entrepreneur. I wrote to them requesting enrolment and exactly a year later, after being trained through their online programme they elated me with a, “You have been selected” email.
How has the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship helped transform your business idea into a reality?
The most important lesson I learned from the programme is the importance for businesses to grow and scale. Being a member of cohort 7, we were the first to use the virtual platform. The implementation of the online training programme by the Branson Centre showed their commitment to growth and scaling their operation, which was the perfect example of them practicing their message.
Within a year the Branson Centre transformed me! Through the centre’s training, coaching, professional services and a well matched mentor in Tyronne Nel at phezulu.net in South Africa. Island Integrators now enjoys excellent customer ratings, 4x revenues, and I was recently a finalist in the Made of More Entrepreneur’s Challenge presented by the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship Caribbean and the Arthur Guinness Project. I’ve created jobs for two full time, two part time, four sub contractors and a paid apprentice.
How are you ensuring Island Integrators has a positive impact in the surrounding community and environment?
One of the areas we choose to focus on is higher education. Our ‘force for good’ philosophy is that we can significantly impact those who will be making decisions that will affect the wider community in a positive way.
For example, technology implemented by us allows medical students attending classes in the city of Montego Bay to view and discuss images of cells presented on screens by their lecturer on a microscope slide (three hours away by car) in another class simultaneously held in the city of Kingston. In addition to time and travel costs, there is significant savings in the costs of educating these medical students.This solution also makes expert lecturers from anywhere in the world immediately available to our country and to larger groups of students. It is our expectation that this use of technology will also change the mindset of the students when they become practitioners. A win for all.
What is the most important thing that running a business has taught you?
My best piece of advice for new entrepreneurs is to take all business decisions seriously – these decisions impact families, the business and the nation.
Click here to read about Mervin’s feature on Virgin.com