Ryan Hamilton Davis
John Paul Anderson has been an entrepreneur since he was young and founded a magazine at the age of 16. This journey as an entrepreneur has helped him work with several multinational companies, developing websites and helping businesses stay ahead of the curve during the pandemic.
Now at 25, with multiple companies and an e-book to his name, Jamaican-born Anderson is showing that the next generation of entrepreneurs is ready to take their place in the business world.
The next generation
“Now is the right time and opportunity to engage the next generation in this wave of new ideas, technological developments and innovations,” Anderson said in an interview with Business Day. “We have the energy and the passion.”
Anderson said his experiences as an entrepreneur — he’s owned six businesses ranging from a cookie dough shop to social media marketing and website development — have taken him many places, but as he continues to move up, he always sees fewer people of his generation who have the ideas and energy to take businesses and economies at large to the next level
“A lot of what I did was designed to challenge the business climate,” he said. “I feel I have a responsibility to get people to do the same. Many people may not know that what I experienced as an entrepreneur can and does happen to many and could happen to anyone.”
Anderson founded the Caribbean Tech Talent Pool to address this issue. He said the talent pool, which is basically a WhatsApp group connecting talent with companies, educates both the younger generation of tech-savvy independent contractors and companies looking to improve the way they work by connecting with one another.
“I’m trying to build a talent pool that can be recruited as is without having to change it.”
His other endeavor to encourage the younger generation of business people and entrepreneurs can be found in his book. You Deserve Success reinforces the idea that everyone should be okay with being successful.
“People said to me, ‘Why are you dressed so nicely?’ or ‘Why are you working so hard?’ and I would say, ‘Why not?’”
He said the book focuses on three areas that destroy the mindset for success.
“I started out exploring how to accept who you are and how to get real with the current realities of your life, a kind of internal SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats).
“Then I broke down how you’re not afraid to put yourself out there — to be a star.”
“Finally, I decided to continue. I’m talking about how to move on to the next idea that will keep changing.
“Success is like a ladder – it always takes you up.”
Turn pain points into gains
From day one, Anderson had big dreams of becoming an entrepreneur, he said. But his business ventures have always arisen from a need or desire to address a specific pain point that he has either experienced or observed himself.
“I feel the world around me and I recognize when I’m facing a challenge and I ask myself, ‘What do I have in my own toolbox?’ And if I don’t have it, I’ll find an opportunity to develop it.”
He said he grew up in Jamaica and always read the newspaper. When his family moved to Trinidad, Anderson went to school at St. Mary’s College. As a student he started his magazine Teen Link because he needed a platform for people his age.
“My goal was to have a central point where teenagers could identify with TT, have a voice and see themselves. I realized it hadn’t really existed at the time and I embraced that platform.”
He said the idea came from other magazines, one from a Jamaican magazine called Youth Link and another from TT, Teen Vibe. He said a friend of his who developed the local magazine helped him set it up.
He also started developing websites at this age, his first for a friend’s mother who sold curtains. He said he took an online sales course and through that course learned to create websites.
“It was definitely ahead of its time back then. It was colorful and bright. But looking back, I’ve definitely grown.”
Through developing websites, he saw the need to learn computer graphics and did internships in technology companies after school. His colleagues also taught him how to use Illustrator and Photoshop.
“But I wanted to make an app because I felt like people didn’t really take me seriously as a developer for my age. So I created an app called Invoicer which arose out of another problem of being able to (not) manage my own invoices. I listed this app on flipper.com and someone bought it from me.”
That same need to address vulnerabilities was what prompted Anderson to open Dou, a cookie dough shop on Picton Street, Port of Spain.
“I’ve been trying to transition from a web developer to what I like to call an ‘actual entrepreneur’. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it on any track.
“I also wanted to bring something new to TT because I was pretty bored with the food choices at the time… Edible cookie dough wasn’t very popular, and neither was crazy novelty desserts.
“Kids loved it. We had busloads of kids coming from all over to buy the dough.”
He overcame the challenges of opening a brick-and-mortar store, including rent, construction and production costs. He used the income he made from his web development business to pay rent and renovate the building to suit his needs. He said it took him five months to finally open the store, adding that his experience promoting businesses online was instrumental in generating interest and popularity for the company.
“From day one, I knew I had to grab the attention of the internet to flood the story. The modern philosophy is “Sure, face-to-face is great, but attention will also come from online.”
“Even if I was in a mall, I always thought that if I was only dependent on mall traffic, I wouldn’t have any control over foot traffic. It would just be what the mall is doing on the day. So with social media I was able to control how many people are going to come to this business.
“When we opened everything was worth it, both culturally – the impact we made was great; and we made a bit of sales too.”
His web development company, Hublab, also made big profits by collaborating with companies like Bed Bath and Beyond and a shoe store, Aldo. He described it as a one-stop shop where new things could happen and experiments could take place.
He said during the pandemic, when it was thought no one would want to buy items online, he helped local Bed Bath and Beyond stores generate over $120,000 in revenue in the first two days after launching a virtual shopping website.
He said when it comes to building websites and shopping online, people want simplicity.
“I believe in drives that are elegant, powerful and simple, where the product should be the focus and the customer’s ability to customize it and just click and buy it. Anything else is a plus.”
You deserve success
Anderson said his focus now is to encourage people, particularly those of his generation, to believe they deserve success.
“Success should be normalized. It’s this attitude towards success that made me start a magazine when I was 16. It was this attitude that made me think I deserved to be a businessman and it made me want to learn about website development and marketing.”
He said people deserve to feel successful because of their efforts, and when they don’t feel that way, they deserve a framework to help them get to the point where they feel successful. That has always been his vision.
“My colleagues should be able to say that they are successful because they graduated from university or because they are in the field of their choice.
“I started with a big vision and now I’ve come full circle. Many people were skeptical and many people have worked with me to make my vision a reality.
“My experiences as a young entrepreneur have evolved me to want to go beyond any other 16 year old like me and focus on my Caribbean community. I want to teach them how their ideas can impact them, and their ways of supporting and improving lives.”