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FOR entrepreneurs who know the value of networking, nominations have now opened for the 2017 Digicel Entrepreneur of the Year competition, which focusses this year on knowledge transfer – the way in which businesses benefit from communal learning.

“We all know that success in business is about offering something new: a new product, a new idea, or a disruptive new take on what the market wants”, says Denis O’Brien, chairman of Digicel Group.

“Some entrepreneurs say breakthroughs come as a result of vision. Others talk about innovation. Those who favour collaboration say it’s all about ideas sparking off one another. The reality though is that it’s about all of those things – and that their common currency is knowledge.” Done well, knowledge transfer has enormous benefits, says O’Brien. It’s essential for business, good for the economy, and invigorating for society as a whole.

“In business, it leads to aggressively joined-up thinking from concept to marketplace. Where entrepreneurs network, it supercharges their natural ability to innovate. We see it when public institutions learn from the private sector or when companies are inspired by academic insight.

Most of all though, stresses O’Brien, knowledge transfer is “a contact sport”. “It’s about doing rather theorizing. It’s about people and how they interact. It’s about taking risks. And it only works when it’s put to the test in real businesses, by real entrepreneurs. That’s why it’s our theme for 2017.”

As in previous years, the competition will offer five national awards, for companies working in agriculture and the environment, construction, industry, services, and for emerging businesses – all crowned by the coveted Entrepreneur of the year Award, which will be presented at a gala evening later in the year.

All the shortlisted candidates will be interviewed at their place of business and 25 national finalists will be selected by judges using the familiar criteria of business competence, leadership, transparency, vision, creativity, environmental awareness, and ingenuity.

The 25 national finalists will also feature in a six-part TV series aired on national television each Sunday evening – in which they’ll tell their own personal stories and paint a pen picture of their businesses and how they’re working and growing. The series will culminate in a special programme from the national finals in December.

Another familiar feature – consistently described as “invaluable” – is the executive education programme, where finalists have a fantastic opportunity to learn from experts in the business field, as well as to learn from one another in a high-pressure “incubator” environment – in association this year with SOFIHDES.

Joining the awards this year as official support partner will be IDB (Inter-American Development Bank), a key source of finance across Latin America and the Caribbean, who’ve been welcomed by Digicel Haiti’s CEO, Maarten Boute.

“The decision by IDB to take up the role of official support partner is an important vote of confidence in the competition, yet another sign the positive impact the awards have had over the past seven years on the Haitian economy, and of their pivotal role in promoting and building an enterprise-driven economy.”

Another step towards building that future was taken by last year’s winner, Myrtha Vilbon, who raised $2.4 million to fund Glory Industries, Haiti’s first indigenous toilet paper and napkin manufacturer, which employs more than 100 staff.

With 80 percent of Haiti’s population subsisting on less than three dollars a day, research had consistently shown that for the poorest 40 percent toilet paper simply didn’t feature on the list of life’s essentials – until, that is, Myrtha Vilbon, decided she had the skills to disrupt such conventional thinking.

In a textbook example of knowledge transfer from her previous commercial experience working for a range of overseas brands, Vilbon had the confidence and expertise to show she was absolutely right.

Similarly, the 2015 overall winner was Pascal Registre, one of life’s natural businessmen, who learned at his mother’s knee at the market, then moved to the US to climb the corporate IT ladder, before returning home to set up a thriving beverages enterprise in Liancourt, in the region where he was born.

If you are an entrepreneur we invite you please to participate in the Digicel Entrepreneur of the Year Haiti 2017.  As a participant, it is also a great opportunity to grow with an energetic community of entrepreneurs.  Enter online at or for further information email:

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