Coffee break chat: Entrepreneur Alian Ollivierre
Alian Ollivierre has many titles – entrepreneur, mentor, managing director, founder and published author.
At just 31 she’s already worked with the United Nations, established her own business, and founded an organisation to empower young ladies called ‘I am a Girl Barbados’.
Yello chatted with Alian to find out what motivates her, what advice she has for women entrepreneurs and what she hopes to achieve over the next decade.
Describe yourself in three words.
Ambitious, direct and adventurous.
Tell us about your business Gateway International.
Gateway International is a training and consultancy firm which offers administrative and employability training. We help individuals grasp their personal and professional brand and growing their business beyond just an idea that makes a few dollars into a sustainable offering.
The business was birthed while I was living in England for seven years. I felt like I had to learn so much on my own when I left Barbados. So as a young black woman I was trying to find employment and develop my career path but I wasn’t even sure of how to do well at interviews, or build my brand, so that was the inspiration for my organisation.
I gained a myriad of experience in England working for companies like the Royal Bank of Scotland, and I decided that it was important for me to bring that knowledge back here, and to make sure there were no more young people leaving for the US and the UK feeling lost.
Who are your clients?
We have conglomerates in the private sector who want their team members to have certain skills. We also have entrepreneurs who know their craft but have no idea how to scale up.
Personally I love working with entrepreneurs because I get invested in their growth, and really want to see them win, and that’s at the core of why Gateway International exists.
What is your typical day?
Generally before I do anything else in the morning I check emails because we have clients who are overseas and it’s important for me to be updated as soon as possible, so at 6am I am up and looking to make sure the clients, especially those in different time zones, have what they need.
During the day I’m in loads and loads of meetings because my main role is soliciting clients and catering to their needs.
What is the key to your success?
Dreaming big but planning realistically. Sometimes I have elaborate ideas but when I plan realistically they seem to work. So I always try to make sure that I plan enough time, reach out to the right individuals and don’t let the idea grow too big to be unfeasible.
What advice would you give female entrepreneurs?
Don’t let your insecurities limit your ability to just go for it. I think as women we tend to limit our minds which stops us from moving forward.
Be ok with hearing the word ‘no’ because sometimes ‘no’ is a blessing and not every opportunity is for you anyway. The important thing is not to let that ‘no’ stifle your next ‘yes’.
What was the motivation for starting ‘I am a Girl Barbados’?
While I was in living England I’d come back on holiday and girls I knew started reaching out for mentorship. So about four years before I moved back, I was mentoring about five girls, just giving them advice, helping them academically and checking in with them every week.
I enjoyed it tremendously even though in the beginning I felt like ‘what can they learn from me?’ but I realised that they really needed guidance and a big sister figure.
When I came back to Barbados I started working within the UN sphere as the Caribbean focal point for the UN Major Groups of Children and Youth, and when I saw some of the global projects taking place, I started thinking that Barbados needed to have something similar.
Girls were also telling me that their voice wasn’t being heard and that no-one was really listening to them or understood where they were coming from, so I planned an event where they could share their stories and thoughts with the wider public to coincide with the International Day of the Girl Child (October 11th). During the planning I worried about what would happen after the event and I knew we had to create an organisation.
What programmes does ‘I am a Girl Barbados’ offer?
Our flagship programme, called Generation Y, allows for constant contact with the 150 girls we’re working with and at the core of that programme is mentorship, building their capacity and community development. We make sure that what we learn from the girls is taught to their teachers, parents and guardians so everyone in their sphere is involved and fully up to speed on their developmental needs.
We use drama therapy and creative arts so the girls can express themselves.
We also have an ‘adopt-a-girl’ programme which allows for individuals, corporate Barbados or international donors to cater for a girl’s needs for a specific period, either financially or in kind, depending on what she requires.
Our youngest girl at the moment is seven, and we go up to age 18, and the beauty of the programme is that at 18 you stay within the organisation by becoming a peer leader or a counsellor so in that way the community keeps growing with their leadership.
And you’re a published author – how does that feel?
It feels amazing because initially it wasn’t my intent to publish my thesis but the publisher actually reached out to me. I feel proud because it helps me to know that I can do it again and it motivates me to write another book which I will be doing in the next couple of years. It also gives me confidence to think that people do want to hear what I have to say.
What do you want to be doing in 10 years?
In 10 years I will have two other businesses. I will be married and have children. I will be in an advisory role for ‘I am a Girl Barbados’.
I also want to be living more like a digital nomad, so I’m not restricted to one territory or region, and that way my children will experience the world at a young age.
What’s your motto in life?
At the core of why I do what I do is to always serve others. I have a lot of ambition, dreams and aspirations but everything I do is to serve others.
Visit the I Am A Girl Barbados website for more information.