Joan Duncan Memorial Lecture Gives Lessons in Opportunities for Digital Entrepreneurship

Patricia Duncan Sutherland, Chairman, JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation, Hector Wheeler, AVP, Advancement, UTech, Jamaica, Professor Colin Gyles, Acting President, UTech, Jamaica and Tyrone Wilson, Founder, President and CEO of iCreate on stage at  the 7th Annual UTech, Jamaica/JMMB Foundation Joan Duncan Memorial Lecture broadcast live on TVJ on September 27, 2020

The 7th annual Joan Duncan Memorial Lecture, which was broadcast live on TVJ on September 27, brought into sharp focus opportunities which abound for entrepreneurs to take advantage of doing business in the digital, global space, particularly in the context of the current pandemic and restrictions placed on operating in the traditional brick and mortar.

Sharing their expertise in the lecture titled, “Digital Entrepreneurship, Breaking Boundaries” were practitioners in the space, Tyrone Wilson, Founder, President and CEO of iCreate; and Stacy Kirk, CEO, Quality Works Consulting Group, California, USA. 

In his presentation “Understanding the Digital Customer Journey,” Wilson emphasized that it is crucial for entrepreneurs to understand how customers interact with the various digital commercial platforms.  Pointing out that this journey involves “the path your customers take from initial contact to conversion,” he noted that this plays a major role in whether or not they make that final decision resulting in a sale. 

Outlining the five stages of this customer journey, he explained that this involves browsing, comparing, contemplating, purchasing and returning as a customer. He clarified that the first stage, “browsing” was similar to customer interactions in a brick and mortar store, where customers make initial contact and consider if they want to do business with a company or buy a product. The digital marketplace, in contrast, offers the digital entrepreneur the opportunity to execute their marketing strategy in a more targeted way using data on ‘buyer persona’ which is harnessed from the customer’s digital footprint. 

Wilson, who has been dubbed a “serial entrepreneur” and was the recipient the Prime Minister’s Youth Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship,  in underscoring the value of data to business success, noted that such rich buyer persona data includes demographics such as age, gender, general interests and motivations. He noted that there are many channels through which a business could launch itself into the digital landscape and reach customers, inclusive of mobile, online marketplace, video, display ads and email.

Acknowledging that the difficulties of the year 2020 could not have been anticipated, Stacy Kirk, who joined the broadcast discussion from California USA, via Zoom, noted that businesses have been succeeding despite the pandemic by taking advantage of opportunities to pivot to fully operate in the digital space.

“As a solo entrepreneur, or as a corporate entrepreneur, this is a great time to come up with a new plan and strategy,” she said, pointing out “the days of having those thirty-page business plans are over,” adding that “entrepreneurs who spend too much time developing a business plan risk losing the opportunity to take advantage of immediate client and business needs.”

In this context, reflecting on her own entrepreneurial journey, Kirk shared the concept of the ‘Lean Canvas’ - a one-page business plan, with a concise and effective means through which entrepreneurs can document their ideas. The plan she explained, consists of segments including strategic partners, key activities, customer segments, and cost and revenue streams. Kirk noted that two important aspects of the plan were the value proposition, where an entrepreneur identifies their solution to customers’ needs and the ‘unfair advantage’, where entrepreneurs note the uniqueness of their service or product.

She also reiterated the need for rigorous and repeated testing of services and products to retain quality, and urged entrepreneurs to take advantage of the digital platforms and training available to assist them in building their online presence and reaching their customer base in a meaningful way.

Both digital entrepreneurs in their presentations paid homage to the Technology Innovation Centre (TIC), a start-up business incubator located within the Joan Duncan School of Entrepreneurship, Ethics and Leadership (JDSEEL) at the University of Technology, Jamaica for its contribution to them honing their skills. Kirk noted that she discovered the TIC following three months of research before expanding her business from California into Kingston. “It was very valuable that I did that research; it allowed me to get into the Technology Innovation Centre (TIC), which helped with the execution of my first year,” she explained.      

Professor Colin Gyles, Acting President, UTech, Jamaica noted that the lecture, which is hosted jointly by the JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation and the University through its Joan Duncan  School of Entrepreneurship, Ethics and Leadership (JDSEEL) honours the vision, mission and passion of the late corporate leader and JMMB co-founder, Joan Duncan. He described the fruitful partnership between the two entities, which led to the renaming of the University’s School of Entrepreneurship to the JDSEEL in 2011.

Patricia Duncan Sutherland, Chairman, JMMB Joan Duncan Foundation, noting that the theme of this year’s lecture was extremely relevant, pointed out that the conversation on digital entrepreneurship was designed to empower and encourage entrepreneurs to take advantage of the possibilities for growth in the digital space.

In a short video documentary in tribute to Joan Duncan, three of her children shared reflections on her life’s work and legacy.  Patricia, remembered her mother as an eccentric, honest and direct woman who challenged the gender stereotypes and expectations of the time to pursue her dreams. Keith Duncan, Group Chief Executive Officer, JMMB Group recalled her being a real, genuine spirit, with “no pretence. She didn’t know how to be anybody else,” he said. Donna Duncan-Scott, Group Executive Director, Culture and Human Development, in turn praised her mother for the relationship she fostered with her children by relating to them “spirit to spirit”, and for imbuing her genuineness and love into all her pursuits. “She was not creating an ordinary company,” Duncan Scott explained, “she was creating a company that was based on her values and who she was. A company based on love, openness, equality and equity.”

During the one hour broadcast, moderator, Hector Wheeler, AVP, Advancement, UTech, Jamaica, fielded questions posed via UTech, Jamaica and JMMB social media pages.  Audience members asked questions related to cyber security and the readiness and availability of infrastructure for local entrepreneurs to take advantage of the digital marketplace.

The broadcast of the 7th annual Joan Duncan Memorial Lecture is available for viewing at UTech, Jamaica’s YouTube channel:


Michelle Beckford (Mrs.)
Corporate Communications Manager
University of Technology, Jamaica
Telephone: 876 970-5299