Entrepreneurship has been touted as a possible solution to the economic woes facing Barbados. At the front end, it has the potential of creating new job opportunities.
The picture being painted of the development of entrepreneurship as the alternative would tend to suggest that it is a straight forward solution. For this to happen, it first requires that the country promotes a culture of entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship is not something that can be taken as a given. If the country is to seriously consider entrepreneurship as a preferred option, then there must be an understanding of what drives it.
An insight into what is involved emerges from this definition that reads: “Entrepreneurs use personal initiative, and engage in calculated risk-taking, to create new business ventures by raising resources to apply innovative new ideas that solve problems, meet challenges, or satisfy the needs of a clearly defined market.”
It cannot be taken for granted that entrepreneurship will automatically take off, simply because for the most part the ideas are underpinned by the notion of innovation. Cognizance must be taken of the fact that entrepreneurs are in the pursuit of opportunity, and depend largely upon resources beyond those they have under their control.
It means that entrepreneurs must have access to financial resources. This often presents itself as a major challenge, as many struggle to meet the requirements of the financial institutions.
In an interview with Dr. James Husbands of Solar Dynamics, aired on VOB929 FM on January 1, 2013, the public learnt of the difficulties he experienced as an entrepreneur in securing funding from the commercial banks. It would seem that the difficulties he faced back then, continue to plaque today’s emerging entrepreneurs. Government has established a number of institutions for the purposes of assisting entrepreneurs. One of these is the Barbados Investment Development Corporation.
There is the expectation that entrepreneurs would have an easier passage in obtaining assistance from Barbados Investment Development Corporation through its Entrepreneurship Division. Those applying to the BIDC would anticipate that they would face a less rigorous process.
It is possible that they may be disappointed. In its policy, the BIDC clearly states that “through its various programmes and initiatives, it provides technical assistance to further the development of business entities, once the relevant criteria for accessing the programmes are met”.
Since the BIDC provides mainly technical assistance to entrepreneurs, it would appear that there is little hope for up front financial assistance. Dating back to 2009, the BIDC in its Special Technical Assistance brochure, made it clear that technical assistance is provided in the areas of marketing, training, product enhancement and international certification.
The BIDC also made the point that neither its Special Technical Assistance Programme nor the Technical Assistance Programme provide assistance for such things as rent, payment of wages/salaries, payment of utilities or start up cost.
On learning of the criteria governing the application for technical assistance, the optimism of the entrepreneur who is seeking help from the BIDC is likely to be dashed, since one of the requirements is that the business is operational for at least a year. While this is a reasonable safeguard, it begs the question if this policy serves to promote entrepreneurship activity.
It is questionable whether the current policies are counterproductive to the growth of entrepreneurship. It is a known fact that any new business depends on the acquisition of startup capital. It would seem that it would make good sense to provide some basic financial support to get the operations up and running, whilst at the same time providing the helping hand in the areas of marketing, training, product enhancement and international certification.
It is in the infancy stage that new business ventures require help. To force them to go to the financial institutions that impose high interest rate on their loans, is to virtually throw them to the wolves. This by any stretch of the imagination can not be progressive thinking.
With the level of attention that is being placed on entrepreneurship, it would be interesting to learn from the BIDC of the number of entrepreneurs who have benefitted from its Technical Assistance Programmes over the past ten years, and the amount of monies expended.
The public should also be informed of the number of applications that have been rejected, the number of entrepreneurship ventures that have received assistance which have since grown, as well as those that have failed.
* Dennis Depeiza is a Labour Management Consultant with Regional Management Services Inc.
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