In a few weeks’ time businesses and communities from across the UK and the Caribbean will descend on the capital for three days of trading expo, food and drink conference and Caribbean-focused festivals.
Jus’ Caribbean Festival and Caribbean Food and Drink Conference is the collaborative venture of CaribDirect Multi-media Limited, sponsored by international food and drink giant Grace Foods UK. It takes place over the pre-Carnival weekend, from 18 to 20 August.
CaribDirect CEO David F Roberts said: “We did our first Expo in Windrush Square, Brixton in 2015. There was no sponsorship deal to bankroll the event and it attracted 3,000 people on the Square. There were 21 stalls ranging from food and drinks, art and craft, education, one carnival band, comedienne Donna Spence, and actor Rudolph Walker, aka Patrick from BBC TV’s East Enders.”
David has a solid track record in trading the Caribbean brand. The company has been operating since 2009 and just a few months ago he was invited by the Department for International Trade within the British High Commission, Jamaica, to address business men and women about exporting to the Caribbean and UK in bilateral trading agreements.
He was born in England of mixed Caribbean heritage mum Guyanese, dad a lawyer of Grenadian origin. He reveals that his mother has been his biggest inspiration: “My mother has been my rock who has always encouraged me and inspired me to be strong and faithful.” When David was just four years old, the family moved from the UK to the Caribbean, first to Grenada and then to Antigua and St Lucia, where his father worked for the respective governments. In 1980 David moved to Guyana, spending 12 years there before moving back to St Lucia to study mass communication at the satellite campus of the University of the West Indies. His next move was to the British Virgin Islands, where he studied law.
“I was still living in the BVI when I was invited to co-own a weekly shoppers’ guide newspaper called The Penny Saver. That venture was followed by a weekly entertainment magazine owned by a British expat, called Limin’ Times Magazine,” recalled David.
He eventually returned to live in London, working for various Caribbean and African-focused broadcasters and newspaper and magazine publishers. He was also encouraged to enter the Dragons Den BBC series with his business idea, but though he faced the Dragons whom he says were brutal he was unsuccessful. However, he made some valuable connections during the selection process, including a millionaire based in Canary Wharf, and this encounter led to a joint business venture. “We set up a company which specialised in designing and constructing outdoor advertising platforms and making road signs for Caribbean countries,” said David.
His biggest professional influencer is Sir Richard Branson, even though he is yet to meet him. “He is someone who I respect in how he manages his business. Although I became aware of him when I was living in the British Virgin Islands and he already owned Necker Island, I wasn’t that versed in international affairs and the Virgin brand was fairly alien to me back then.”
He may be a long way from both the Caribbean islands and Richard Branson – who, after all, has been in business a very long time but with faith, hard work and great connections David F Roberts, the multi-media islander, looks set for greater success.