Laika Blake is his own boss
During his childhood, Laika Blake would assist in his mother's grocery shop in Portland Cottage, Clarendon, not knowing that he was honing his skills to one day run his own business.
"I've come a long and far way. If you had told me then that some day I would have my own business, I would have laughed," Blake admitted.
Now 23, Blake is the owner of Laconic Cultural Work and Travel, established in 2014, based at the University of the West Indies, (UWI) Mona. "We offer the J1 summer work and travel programme. It allows students from tertiary institutions to travel overseas for four months, to explore the culture there while earning an income," Blake explained.
The Glenmuir alumnus said his company, which also sources jobs and living quarters for clients, was conceptualised when he had a very unsatisfactory experience on a work and travel programme.
"I went on the work and travel programme from I started UWI in 2011, and I realised that we pay these agencies so much money, because on average it costs about US$1,200, and we would get such poor treatment. We wanted to give the students better customer service for their money because our parents work so hard to give us the money," Blake recalled.
So far, Blake said the company has been doing well, having sent over 50 students on the programme since year. He told THE STAR that it is the customer service and competitive rates that set his company apart.
"Whenever the students come to our offices, our staff sits and talks with each person on an individual basis. We build a relationship with the students, we get to know them personally. We don't deal with them like customers, we treat them like friends, because we know that the money they are paying is not easy to come by," he explained.
Blake currently has six full-time employees on staff, and takes on interns occasionally. He explained that he plans to expand the business to other UWI campuses in Trinidad and Barbados.
"We have friends in those islands who finish school and can't get a job so I plan to open some offices over there and provide some work for them, while providing students at those campuses the same opportunity to go on the work and travel programme," Blake said.
The young entrepreneur, who recently completed his double major in economics and statistics at UWI, plans to start his law degree in September. He advised that there will be many challenges in one's quest to fulfil dreams but one should remain focused.
"Don't give up. There are going to be lots of challenges. Persons will tell you no, they will ridicule you, they will tell you that you can't do it, but once you know what you want, just go ahead and get it done," he advised.