Marsha-Ann Clarke grew up in the village of Easy Hall in the small island of Barbados. At the age of 10yrs she started her first micro-enterprise by hand-making small change purses for her classmates at elementary school. This supplemented the 25c weekly allowance that she and each of her siblings received. This was all her parents could afford but it was well appreciated.
Little Marsha-Ann copied the format of a bank book and asked a teacher, Ms. Green, if she would be her banker. After weeks of saving her change, Marsha-Ann had earned the Bds$8.00 needed to go on the class field trip. This was the start of an enterprising journey for Marsha-Ann Clarke.
Growing up, Marsha-Ann watched her late grandmother 'Ma' make clothing for the family. 'Ma' took bits of leftover cloth and showed Marsha-Ann how to make little doll's clothing. At age 13, Marsha-Ann was intrigued by the dressmaking skill. After watching her mother and aunts go off to training classes and develop the skill, Marsha-Ann took her mother's notes and made her very own skirt. She then joined her mother's dressmaking class and completed up to Dressmaking Advanced II before stopping class to complete exams of the Caribbean Examination Council. Throughout high school Marsha-Ann made uniforms and casual clothing for classmates. Soon she was making church dresses and executive wear for parents as well.
At 18yrs old Marsha-Ann pursued her Bachelors Degree at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill, Barbados. Dressmaking proved to be too time-consuming to complement college. Therefore, a new enterprise was started in teaching dressmaking classes. This helped to pay for books and other university expenses. After graduating from the UWI in 1996, our founder held a few jobs but none as fulfilling as Youth Enterprise Officer. This job allowed her to help young people between the ages of 16 and 30 to start their own businesses while continuing to meet the demand for her custom-made ladies' executive wear.
In August of 1999 Marsha-Ann came to the United States to pursue a Masters in Business Administration at the University of South Florida (USF). USF was specifically chosen because of its Entrepreneurship Program and because there was a youth entrepreneurship program for middle-school kids, Marsha-Ann met with the late Dr. Howard Rasheed who managed the youth entrepreneurship program and soon became his research assistant. Dr. Rasheed was researching 'The Effects of Teaching Entrepreneurship at the Pre-Collegiate Level'. Ironically, this was like a study of her life.
Developing The Business Skills
Under the guidance of Dr. Rasheed, Marsha-Ann became a certified Youth Entrepreneurship Trainer and Master Trainer. In the summer of 2000 she returned to Barbados and implemented the Jumpstart Program for the Youth Development Department of Government in the St. Patrick's Community. In the fall of 2000 Marsha-Ann was accepted into the prestigious Kauffman Entrepreneurial Internship Program at USF, which placed her alongside the Executive Director of a local non-profit agency, Computer Mentors. Here she honed her executive business skills and learned about the corporate and non-profit environment of business while helping Computer Mentors to grow.
In 2001 Marsha-Ann graduated from USF with an MBA and certificates in Entrepreneurship, Management, Marketing and International Business. She was immediately hired as the Program Director for Computer Mentors. Computer Mentors allowed Marsha-Ann the flexibility to again return to Barbados and give back to her country. As a consultant to her previous employers at the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme Marsha-Ann trained the public school teachers to teach entrepreneurship to children. This training facilitated the start of a national program called 'YES Juniors' which continues to date.
In 2003 Marsha-Ann merged her passion for youth and business with her belief that anyone can achieve success despite his/her socio-economic circumstances. She founded Youth Empowered to Achieve! in the underserved University Area Community. YEA! aims to facilitate the development of entrepreneurial attributes among the people of this community who are at risk of becoming a part of the cycle of poverty which is prevalent here.