Approximately 3 years ago, I was introduced to a bright-eyed, young, “Vincy”. He wasn’t older than 20, but he’d already accomplished quite a few things. He had won a few regional entrepreneurship competitions, he was a published author and he played a few musical instruments. I was impressed with what his resumé looked like, but this was the surface stuff. I wanted to pick his brain. Subsequent conversations would lead me to conclude that he didn’t just have an impressive resumé. He had a really good head on his shoulders, he had a great understanding of the regional entrepreneurial space and how it worked, and I knew that whether the project he was working on at the time was successful or not, that he was a name and face that would remain ‘pon the scene. That young man was Cenus Hinds.
True to my assessments, Cenus is friends with resilience and perseverance. The application that he was working on at the time did not become what he had hoped it would be. However, he’s managed to come back stronger, creating and providing two platforms that share the Caribbean Experience with its users. Cenus shares his Caribbean Entrepreneur story with us, below.
What is the name of your company?
Where is your company located?’
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
What products or services does your company provide?
Konservi is a software company, with two subsidiary brands. Carivan, which offers an amazon like e-commerce platform for the sale and trade of Caribbean made products and Cariway, an online platform which connects adventure seeking travellers with locals for authentic Caribbean experiences.
If you were headlining a UN event or Ted Talk, how would you love to hear/see your company introduced?
Konservi is a software company aimed at digitizing the Caribbean experience where possible.
What inspired the birth of this company?
Funnily enough, this entire journey was somewhat organic. While in Community College, I had an idea of a mobile app where persons can see deals and promotions. I proceeded to develop that concept into an MVP (Minimal Viable Product) and it went from there. Over the years, things have changed and I’ve become more and more passionate about effecting a positive change within the region. When I started the Carivan platform, it was all about helping entrepreneurs connect with their customers overseas and Cariway was inspired by a visit to the Dominican Republic after which I felt it was absolutely essential that a platform exist where travelers can accurately experience any Caribbean country on their visit.
How do you think your company solves any of your village, community, country or region’s problems?
The Caribbean is largely still a developing region with numerous dependencies on ‘1st world’ solutions. The problem with ‘1st world’ digital solutions is that they’re for ‘1st world’ countries. Developing countries and regions end up suffering from a lack of infrastructure tailored towards it’s specific needs. Carivan and Cariway solves these problems by enabling the ability of locals to effectively sell aspects of their culture (whether physical or digital products through Carivan, or cultural experiences through Cariway).
Do you have any co-founders and/or notable team members?
I do. Working along with me, I have Zarir Bhesania as the Chief Technology Officer. He does 99% of the development work and the company wouldn’t be where it is right now, without his contribution.
What would you say has been your greatest challenge as a company thus far and how have you overcome it or how are you working to overcome it?
Unity remains the biggest issue within the Caribbean region for me. Getting the word out their about what you’re doing and then being taken seriously enough where persons take meaningful action to help you success is, in my experience, pretty rare. A painful truth also is that you can reach as far as the persons you surround yourself with allows you to. There are always exceptions, but in the Caribbean, you really have to know people in order to get ahead quickly. I’ve since been working on networking strategically in an effort to market more effectively.
What would you say has been your greatest triumph/achievement as a company thus far?
A lot has been achieved in my humble opinion. I see the small victories and great triumphs. However, the moment I am most proud of, besides winning regional competition is probably the most simple. The moment the first sale was initiated on Carivan and Cariway.
What would be your advice to other Caribbean entrepreneurs?
Network Network Network. Hard work is great and all, but the Caribbean is a different kind of ocean to swim in. Make friends, connect, do not burn bridges – because you never know when you may need that bridge. The region is small and it only makes sense that unity would produce triumph.
What is your vision for entrepreneurship in your country or in the Caribbean?
I’d like to see entrepreneurship taken more seriously within my country and ultimately the region. I must say however, from my experience, there’s a rise in entrepreneurial initiatives within the last 5 years at the very least. I think however, the Caribbean would be in a better place once local entrepreneurs are allowed the same or better treatment, through infrastructural and legislative, as foreign investors.
The Man Behind the Company
Country of Birth
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Country of Residence
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Favorite Music Artist
What is the book/books that you’ve given most as a gift and why?
The one book, I most definitely give the most as a gift is “The subtle art of not giving a f*ck – A counterintuitive Approach To Living A Good Life – Mark Manson”. It’s not the most tasteful title, and it’s something a christian may shy away from, but I’m really happy I didn’t. It focuses solely on refocusing your life and goals in an effort to lead the best life possible. The title is absolutely the worst part of the book. This book has honestly transformed my way of thinking and has enabled me to be a lot more productive as I am a lot more focused.
What are the three books that have most influenced your life?
- The above mentioned
- Secrets of Power Negotiating – Richard Dawson
- Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking (really just have to put this in here)
What recent purchase of yours has most positively impacted your life?
I can’t say there’s anything in particular in terms of a purchase that has positively impacted my life, however — I did decide to take a 3 months advanced culinary class to be a certified cook, and that has taught me a lot within my own life towards personal development.
How has a failure of yours set you up for later success?
It’s hard for me to say that the mobile application Konservi (later rebranded to ‘Tapp’) was a failure. I wanted this platform to work, I saw the mere concept as something that would positively impact the Caribbean region. A mobile application that shows you deals and discounts based on category and allowed you to purchase on the phone and have it delivered to you… This is something companies like Groupon strive and make millions on.
Not in the Caribbean. The entire endeavor taught me a very important lesson on technology, mindset, culture and where we are within the Caribbean. Nevertheless, the mobile application is by far my biggest ‘failure’ as an entrepreneur and encouraged me to embrace the ‘web first’ approach, which has resulted in quicker development and overall more success.
What is a quote that you think of often or live your life by?
My favorite poem – Invictus (Ernest Henley)
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
More accurately, the last stanza speaks to me on the deepest of levels: It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.
In the past three years what belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life?
The understanding that everyone is human and no one would accomplish your goals for you. I’ve struggled in the past with doubting myself and whether or not I was capable of doing what I was trying to do. At this present moment, I live with the belief of if I don’t do it, no one else will… This drives me positively forward.
When you feel overwhelmed/unfocused what do you do?
A lot of my friends would say I am a workaholic… I don’t see it. I always keep myself busy however. Music helps, I play the piano, bass, guitar and drums. Whenever I get the chance, I’d play an instrument, this helps me to stay sane. I’m also an avid reader and a HUGE TV Series fan along with stand up comedy on Netflix or Youtube. I try my best to balance things out, and despite seemingly not having as much ‘free time’ as my peers, I stay focused by not being focused solely on the business/professional side of my life.
Who or what most inspires you? What about it or their life, habits or model have inspired you?
I really want to bring a positive change to my community… this drives me the most. This reminds me of something Neil deGrasse Tyson said (loosely) that ignorance is inspiring. In that light, seeing the lack of which my country has, is inspiring as I want to be part of the solution