In this installment of Our Stories; CEO of UCA Limited, Kristofferson Nunes shares how his first-hand experiences and motivations led him to become the CEO of one of the most impactful youth agencies across the region. For many people, Jamaica is pictured as an island paradise – white sandy beaches, a beautiful and vivacious culture, rich and wholesome food, and attractive people. And while that image is not far from the truth, if the lens is focused on the inspirational stories of ordinary Jamaicans, you’d find a sharper, richer and truer image of the Jamaican experience…this is Our Stories!
Meet Kristofferson Nunes – A father, entrepreneur/CEO, mentor, role model
Kristofferson uses his skills to provide resources and greater access to opportunities for persons especially youth who want to level up. He shows the importance of how improving your mindset, being accountable, and having self-awareness can positively impact your life. In this interview, Kristofferson shares some of his past struggles and failures, how he overcame his struggles, his motivations, and inspirations. Kristofferson’s overall improvement and mental growth have contributed to his transition from a youth with a hustler mentality who wanted more for himself to a successful entrepreneur who provides opportunities for youth who want to improve their lives.
“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens – and when it happens, it lasts.” – John Wooden
Who influenced you the most in your younger years?
I wouldn’t say that there is a particular person just different phases in life so, it could be somebody or something that I learnt on my own. Over time it became like a collection of different people that I have met maybe once and never saw them again or just having professional relationships. In terms of having mediacentric role models, it would be persons such as Marcus Aurelius, I look up to him as a person in terms of his philosophy and his way of life and just general people like Bob Marley I really respect him as well but otherwise everyone has a different inspiration to me.
Okay, and what was your life like throughout high school?
I was a student-athlete in high school I did track & field straight up to sixth form but also on the side I sold different things that my classmates will need like sweetie, swizzles, gummy worms, gummy bears and just sold all sorts of other things. I think I had this hustler mentality since.
Did you start your side hustle just because of a need within your school community?
I honestly just wanted more money outside of my lunch money; the lunch money that I was getting couldn’t do what I wanted. Things like getting your hair done, buying a nice cologne, having money to go out these were just things I thought I needed at the time.
Smart move! Let’s shift focus a bit. How did you get the idea or concept for your company?
It just came to me at the time based on what was going on in my life during university and my transition. I felt like what was going on was not a unique thing to me but also other students and companies had the same struggle; so that’s how the idea came to mind.
How has your business expanded over the years?
The company has a very agile remote team of about eight managers that handle the day to day activities. We have impacted over 4000+ students from 2017 until now which is not only limited to Jamaica but also in countries such as Trinidad, Barbados and in the USA.
What type of services or products do you currently offer?
In a broad sense, we offer youth development and youth-related products and services. We offer very agile services that can change over time including resume writing, LinkedIn profile revamp, career consultations, personal branding sessions for creatives who want to take their passion to the next level, and any support for people who just want to level up. We also help to connect persons with potential customers and clients; we recently started a learning element of the UCA where persons are able to learn new skills and get certified through a partnership with LinkedIn learning to help them to level up. Education shouldn’t be expensive but it also shouldn’t be boring; it should not be a case where you spend one year to learn a skill it should be compounded over time, easily digested and affordable.
How did you initiate your partnership with LinkedIn?
Cold calling, emails, finding out who they were, finding out who were the decision-makers, asking for referrals. It all started with cold calling I didn’t know anyone from LinkedIn so I sent them a message, got declined then I followed up with them; it was a whole process.
You’re persistent! Can you give me some details about the changemakers program?
The changemakers program is a one year program offered to anyone that wants to level up so that could be students, young professionals or persons who might want to change careers; they will be given access to over 16,000+ certified courses tailored to their own aspirations and interests that they can complete on their own time across three different learning libraries: Business, Creative and Technology. Specific courses include web design, data science, project management, public relations, graphic design and animation. Mentorship and workshops will also be facilitated via online platforms along with access to jobs and professional headshots. We will also try to help person to launch a project that will impact society whether it be for social impact or profit.
Did you expect your company to become this successful?
Yes, I wouldn’t have started the company if I had any doubts or thought it was going to fail. I feel conflicted as the CEO because I might have different perspectives and views of success about the company even though persons may say they love the company and the direction that it is going in. Over time I have been very objective about the direction of the company; I see the impact that it has made and the stories being developed so I do believe we are successful in that regard. The success may not be coming in the same time frame or vision in my mind but I do see it.
What advice would you give to an aspiring young man?
Be consistent, don’t follow the crowd, your journey is different from anyone else’s, everyone has a different upbringing, invest in yourself and not like having a new car or watch. Invest in yourself in terms of what you can get back out of it…If you buy a new car, is that it is going to somehow bring you more clients or make you more money? Are you going to put it on the road as a taxi or rent it out? Right now, in any space money is tight so it can’t be a case where you just want to spend. However, if spending on a certain thing makes you happy; let’s say you’re a young person who just got married and you want to spend on your wedding, if that experience is happiness for you, then do it.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Life is not certain and it can never be certain so try something new if you get the opportunity; learn a new skill or language, maybe you have the opportunity to go to school abroad but you are afraid of the new environment. My advice is that you take the opportunity because you might not have a second chance it’s not like you live forever. I think sometimes we ignore the fact that we have limited time on earth so we push off things for later but pushing it off doesn’t serve our purpose. I would advise you to just start from anywhere it doesn’t have to be perfect so you are going to make mistakes, you are going to buck your toe, you will burn bridges you don’t want to burn, there will be bad reputations of you but you will also have good ones. People are going to talk behind you, people will share negative things and people will share positive things. The key thing at the end of the day is to start somewhere. For example, nobody talks about the dead because they are dead, there is nothing to talk about. If you are doing something whether it is good or bad you will have feedback so don’t worry about it; just start somewhere, learn from your mistakes, pivot and repeat. Another example is Malcolm X, he used to relax his hair and perm it before he learnt about black consciousness, his identity and eventually, he stopped processing his hair and that is a simple example of the fact that we are not who we are truly over time, we change.
Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking. – Marcus Aurelius
Solid advice Kris! Thanks for sharing your story!