Christopher Boodoosingh

Champion of Business awards: Start Up Entrepreneur of the Year, Christopher Boodoosingh, CEO of Cocoa Republic, from left; Sieunarine Persad Coosal, who was inducted into the Business Hall of Fame; and Anand Pascal, president of Guardian Life of the Caribbean at Friday night’s Champion of Business awards ceremony hosted by the T&T Chamber of Commerce at the National Academy of the Performing Arts in Port of Spain. —Photo: Jermaine Cruickshank

LOCAL businesses need to come together and work with each other to market their products outside of Trinidad and Tobago.

This was the call made by Christopher Boodoosingh, CEO of Cocoa Republic Ltd.

Boodoosingh was speaking at the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce’s 2019 Champions of Business Awards, held on Friday night at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port of Spain. He said local businesses need to stop fighting each other for market share.

“We as Trinidadians need to recognise that instead of using our resources to fight for market share, why don’t we pool it and try to fight the globe for market share? Why try to take two or three per cent from our neighbours and our friends and our families when we could go after Germany and Japan and Saudi Arabia?”

Boodoosingh said local businesses ought to become more collaborative and less competitive.

He made the comments as he collected his award for Start Up Entrepreneur of the year,

Boodoosingh operates his chocolate-manufacturing company which uses high quality locally grown cocoa. The company’s products are sold locally and abroad and include a vegan milk chocolate bar, Hazelo – a vegan substitute for Nutella made with Trinitario cocoa and a vegan ice cream made from cocoa beans.

The company provides chocolate to a high-end distributor that supplies many Michelin Star restaurants in New York city. The company also secured an exclusive supply contract with a producer in Germany which will provide opportunities to export to other European markets. Cocoa Republic has won several awards for its products.

Each year, the T&T Chamber highlights individuals and businesses who have excelled and contributed to the business landscape in T&T.

Awards are presented in several categories including the Business Hall of Fame, Entrepreneur of the Year and Emerging Entrepreneur (sponsored by EY); Internationally Known…TT Owned (sponsored by First Citizens); and a Business Technology category (sponsored by bmobile).

Several businesses were recognised for their achievements. Precision Global, a music production company, took home the award for Emerging Entrepreneur.

Term Finance, the Caribbean’s first completely web-based credit institution, was awarded the bmobile Business Technology Award.

Associated Brands Industries Ltd (ABIL) won the Internationally Known…TT Owned award.

Additionally, Sieunarine Coosal of the Coosal Group of Companies was inducted into the Business Hall of Fame.

Late businessman Osmond Carlysle Hale was also posthumously inducted into Business Hall of Fame. The conferment of this award recognises a lifetime of business excellence and exemplary service to the corporate and national community.

Delivering remarks, Coosal reflected on his humble beginnings in the agricultural village of Todds Road, Chaguanas.

“Even though we struggled financially, there was a common thread that bound us as one – family and love. My father died when I was a toddler, but my mother ensured that all her children were raised with sound morals and values,” he said.

Coosal said he continues to have a strong sense of duty to T&T and has done much to improve the lives of the disadvantaged in society.

Also delivering remarks, president of the T&T Chamber Reyaz Ahamad said he felt a deep sense of pride in the local business community.

“Business can make a difference far beyond the arena of commerce. Business has the power to generate economic wealth — and thereby create stability and certainty for our country. It can address social challenges such as lifestyle changes and habits through products and innovation,” he said.

“It can positively impact consumer behaviour to build awareness of environmental threats. Business has the power to forge a future — by providing jobs and livelihoods for families all across our country.”

Ahamad said the awards serve not only to reward and celebrate leaders of the industry, but to promote their stories – from their first fledgling steps to the pinnacle of success.

He expressed hope that this would inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs.

First Citizens CEO Karen Darbasie also encouraged collaboration between businesses and urged the awardees to take advantage of the networking opportunity at the event.

“Sometimes we do not see all that a connection can evolve into but if we put the effort and hard work into pursing it, there is no telling what can emerge,” she said.

“So too, you are encouraged this evening to explore the power of collaboration. You might be surprised to know that the ideas and experiences behind that next smile or handshake, can have business-changing impact.”

Her comments were echoed by T&T Chamber director Kiran Maharaj who also encourged collaboration.

“The stories that were told tonight underlined our theme of ‘one powerful connection can start your journey,’ and sent a clear message that the people we meet and the way we interact with others can lead to pivotal points in our lives and careers,” said Maharaj.

“It is my hope that the wonderful narratives that we shared tonight will go beyond storytelling and provide motivation and encouragement to those who heard and saw them.”

Each year, the T&T Chamber highlights individuals and businesses who have excelled and continue to provide inspiration to the national community. The awards programme, which grew from the original Business Hall of Fame (introduced in 2005), is one of the T&T Chamber’s three signature events.

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