Cleveland welcomes Latin American and Caribbean entrepreneurs

After almost leaving his agribusiness startup, Brent Eversley traveled from Trinidad and Tobago to Cleveland with hopes of reviving the company.

The co-founder of Green Farm Nation Ltd., which brings advanced technologies to agriculture production, spent four weeks this fall collaborating with Cleveland’s Rid-All Green Partnership. Eversley is one of 250 entrepreneurs from Latin America and the Caribbean that came to the United States in October and November as part of the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative.

“I was on the verge of quitting as an entrepreneur and engaging in a regular 9 to 5 job because my journey was becoming very difficult, and I encountered too many failures,” Eversley says.

After strong encouragement from a close friend, Eversley applied for a YLAI spot as a last-ditch effort to spark his competitive nature.

Created by the U.S. Department of State in partnership with the Meridian International Center, YLAI participants were chosen from around 3,000 applicants. The 250 selected were split among 24 U.S. cities and paired with companies aligning with their business interests as entrepreneurs-in-residence.

The Cleveland Council on World Affairs partnered with Meridian to place 10 of the selected entrepreneurs, including Eversley, in Cleveland with businesses specializing in energy technology, graphic design, event planning and more. Eversley learned about Cleveland’s urban agriculture from Rid-All Green Partnership. Started by three childhood friends, Rid-All has a three-acre urban farm in the Kinsman neighborhood that produces healthy food for the area. It also provides community outreach and educational training for youth and adults.

Keymah Durden, a co-founder of Rid-All, was inspired by Eversley, who he sees as one of the “committed stewards of the earth.”

Brent Eversley, front and center, with other YLAI fellows in Cleveland

During his fellowship, Eversley participated in training activities revolving around compost, greenhouse production and aquaponics management. Eversley believes Rid-All’s operations can be “replicated anywhere in the world and generate the same results as regards to social, health and community impact.”

The 10 YLAI fellowships in Cleveland further established the city as a center for business leaders, unique collaboration and a place for future entrepreneurial success.

“I was ecstatic to be a Clevelander for the last four weeks,” says Eversley after the program’s completion. “The business environment is one that allows fostering of networking and relationships, while the people and spirit of the city is one that allows growth and easy communication for the greater development effort.”

Having arrived a beleaguered entrepreneur with no prior knowledge of Cleveland (other than LeBron James), Eversley departed his new home away from home as an ambitious go-getter with a “nothing is given” resiliency. Along with motivation to continue his agribusiness, Eversley is inspired by Rid-All to create community education and outreach programs in Trinidad and Tobago.

At the end of the program, all 250 entrepreneurs reconvened in Washington, D.C., to share experiences from their city visits and compete in a national pitch competition. The national YLAI program first launched with 24 Latin American and Caribbean fellows in spring 2016. By the end of this year, the initiative’s goal is to generate $1 billion for emerging business and social entrepreneurs by helping fellows find new investments and in-kind resources. 

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