Your Next Move: Entrepreneur’s Seminar Interview with Melanie Jones, head of Lex Caribbean’s Entrepreneurial Business Unit

29 April 2016

By: Ryan Wills, Dazzle Magazine

Lex Caribbean held its first breakfast summit for start-up entrepreneurs at the Marriott in March this year. A packed room of both young and mature business persons eagerly awaited the featured speakers of Andrea King, Erica Smith, Melanie Jones, Tara Frater and Lalita Vaswani who brought expertise and experience to the morning’s proceedings.

The event was conceptualised by the well-known law firm because it felt that in order for the Barbados economy to be sustainable, entrepreneurial business must become a vibrant pillar of the economy. Melanie Jones, Partner at Lex Caribbean conceived and set up the firm's Entrepreneurial Business Unit (the “EBU”), which is dedicated to providing expert responsive legal advice to start-ups at significantly discounted rates. As part of the work they do, they engage in activities designed to grow and support the ecosystem, including attending and speaking at entrepreneurship-related events and putting on seminars like this one. In addition, they work with other organizations such as the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation (“BEF”), of which she has been a director for 5 years.

Lex Caribbean is a full service law firm that can advise across a very broad spectrum of legal disciplines and deal under one roof with a myriad of different legal scenarios and issues. Typically, with start-ups they see the need for advice on structuring, corporate commercial issues, finance, private equity and IP. They also deal with entertainment and media law issues. Being a Caribbean firm with offices in Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica and Barbados, they are also ideally placed to advise start-ups with a Caribbean vision.

With the summit behind them, the team at Lex clearly sees this as an investment in the future of entrepreneurs and, as such, in the future of Barbados as an island with a sustainable economy. They are looking forward to planning and speaking at other events like this one and expect to host at least two more seminars this year. They really welcomed the participation of event sponsors, Barbados Public Workers’ Cooperative Credit Union and their subsidiary Capita Financial, and look forward to working with them again.

The above article is based on extracts from an interview conducted with Melanie Jones. To read the full interview, please see below.

DAZZLE: Tell us why Lex decided to host the event?

LEX: We at Lex Caribbean believe that in order for Barbados’ economy to be sustainable, entrepreneurial business must become a vibrant pillar of the economy. For that to happen, we and other members of the private sector must make a sustained and focused contribution to the development of an entrepreneurship ecosystem in Barbados. We must be social entrepreneurs and engineers in order to create the right environment in which as many entrepreneurs as possible can pursue their ventures and as many of those as possible can succeed. For this reason I conceived and set up the firm’s Entrepreneurial Business Unit (the “EBU”), which is dedicated to providing expert responsive legal advice to start-ups at significantly discounted rates. As part of the work we do, we engage in activities designed to grow and support the ecosystem, including attending and speaking at entrepreneurship-related events and putting on seminars like this one. In addition we work with other organizations such as the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation (“BEF”), of which I have been a director for 5 years, to partner on other events and projects geared towards entrepreneurs. These include the BEF’s summits, forums and mix and mingle events, the BEF’s Barbados Free WiFi project, which I lead and the BEF’s Trident Angels investor network. The hosting of Lex Caribbean's event at the Marriott is closely aligned with the other social entrepreneurship undertakings of our firm.

DAZZLE: Who were the speakers for the event and why did you choose them?

LEX: The speakers consisted of Andrea King, Director of the Cultural Services Authority, Erica Smith, CEO of COSCAP and Melanie Jones, Tara Frater and Lalita Vaswani of Lex Caribbean. We chose each speaker for their expertise and experience in the areas which they covered. We want to offer start-ups access to mentoring and technical information delivered by leaders in the relevant fields or spheres of activity. We also believe that the collective of entrepreneurs is a very diverse group of people and we embrace the enormous advantages of facing those entrepreneurs with a diverse group of speakers and personalities who together create a dynamic chemistry and cover a variety of the critical topics for start-ups.

DAZZLE: Tell us a bit about Lex's entrepreneur services?

LEX: Lex Caribbean is a full service law firm so we can advise across a very broad spectrum of legal disciplines and deal under one roof with a myriad of different legal scenarios and issues. Typically with start-ups we see the need for advice on structuring, corporate commercial issues, finance, private equity and IP. We also deal with entertainment and media law issues reasonably frequently. For entrepreneurs in property development or whose businesses require physical locations and plant, we have experienced Real Estate/Conveyancing lawyers. In the event of contentious issues arising, our litigation department, headed by our firm's Managing Partner, Garth Patterson (who also joined us in the audience at the event) can advise. Lalita Vaswani, who spoke at our event, works with Garth in litigation. Being a Caribbean firm with offices in Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica and Barbados, we are also ideally placed to advise start-ups with a Caribbean vision. Our International Business Group ("IB Group"), which I also head up, is one of the market leaders in Barbados for international business and so we are also ideally placed to advise start ups who intend to go global. Tara Frater, Christina Maycock and I are dedicated members of both the IB Group and the EBU and as such we were honoured and delighted to represent Lex at the event. Mary Mahabir, our firm's founding partner attended the event. She also handles international business transactions and works with entrepreneurs. In addition a number of Lex's professional support and accounting staff attended the event to support us and to support entrepreneurship. We have a great team and as a firm we take the provision of services to entrepreneurs very seriously.

DAZZLE: What is Lex hoping to get out of the recently held summit?

LEX: We see the recently held event as an investment in the future of entrepreneurs and, as such, in the future of Barbados as an island with a sustainable economy. Our dividends will be the growth of entrepreneurship and the consequential creation of jobs, private wealth and public revenues (the latter through appropriate levels of taxation on successful businesses).

DAZZLE: What other plans you have as it relates to supporting entrepreneurs through events like this?

LEX: We are excited about planning, hosting and speaking at other events like this one which we designed and built ourselves. Within the EBU we have a professional support team, Latoya Miller, Janelle Gill and Dennice Bend who collectively orchestrated the seminar as if they were seasoned event planners. With the benefit of our technical expertise and our accomplished administrators we plan to host at least one - and more likely, two - more seminars this year. We also look forward to being involved in events staged by partners and collaborators such as the BEF and the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development. We will seek to work with other stakeholders and agencies towards the development of the entrepreneurship ecosystem. We especially value the opportunity to work with sponsors such as the Barbados Public Workers’ Cooperative Credit Union and their subsidiary Capita Financial. They were very proactive about supporting our event and are clearly committed to supporting the growth of entrepreneurship. They have already graciously approached us again about working together in the future. We also felt warmly supported by our audience and we enjoyed their comments and questions tremendously. We look forward to engaging with a room full of entrepreneurs soon again.