I am very excited to be involved in yet another initiative to encourage and elevate entrepreneurship in Barbados. This time it’s the Bank on Me reality TV show which was created and produced by Blue Waters Productions in association with Scotiabank and supported by numerous organisations including Caribbean Export Development Agency, Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation, and Barbados Youth Business Trust. See www.bankonme.tv
The novel and exciting show (the first of its kind in Barbados) invites entrepreneurs to take on challenges and make their pitch to a panel of judges in order to access various forms of investment and support for their businesses.
The show started out with 30 entrepreneurs who made their first pitch last Saturday at Scotiabank, Sky Mall and the judges had the unenviable task of whittling down that list to 12 participants. This week the 12 will be reduced to six and each week thereafter one person will be eliminated until there is just one left standing.
That does not mean that only one person will receive investment in their business, because information on the six finalists will be sent to angel investors who will be able to watch video recordings of the participants and ask questions via the judges in order to invest in any of them, not just the winner.
The great thing about this show is that the viewers will also be giving an opportunity to support their favourite entrepreneur/business through crowd funding, so all is not lost even if an entrepreneur gets eliminated along the way.
I’ve been invited to be a mentor to one of the 12 contestants and I was so excited when I met my entrepreneur this week and saw his products and heard his vision. Let it not be said that we have a shortage of ideas in Barbados because every one of the contestants, including mine, have exciting ideas and I’m sure that most, if not all of them, have significant export potential.
In talking with my participant, I have again been made aware of how difficult it is to do business in Barbados. While Government has sought over the years to protect certain industries, the very measures that have been put in place are stifling the entrepreneurs who need to bring in inputs for their business because they are not happy with the quality that is available here.
If we want to produce world class quality we have to be able to access it at a reasonable cost from outside of the island if the local producers are incapable of providing it here.
Another complaint I have heard and I know this to be true in Barbados, is based on the saying: “A prophet is without honour in his own country.” We in Barbados love imported things even if they are not as good as what we produce locally and more often than not, we don’t give entrepreneurs a chance until the prove themselves in the international market and only then do we consider them worthy of attention.
Look at Rihanna for example. If she had not made it big internationally would people in Barbados buy her CDs and pack out her concert? How many talented musicians do we have here who have not made a name for themselves internationally and therefore suffer the fate of a dishonoured prophet?
Nevertheless I am an optimist and I’m really hopeful that competitions like Bank on Me and $20 Challenge, in which I am also involved, will continue to raise the consciousness of entrepreneurship in Barbados and encourage the local population to support the work of our local entrepreneurs and encourage the policy makers to put in place initiatives that will facilitate doing business in Barbados including accessing funds to expand beyond our shores in order to earn foreign exchange for the country.
We have so much talent in Barbados, it just hurts me to see entrepreneurs with great visions and wonderful products and services frustrated because they cannot access finance to fulfill their vision. As Dr. Basil Springer said in his presentation at Bank on Me this week: “There is no shortage on money, the problem is access to the money”.
Bank on Me gives you and me (not just the angel investors and the financial institutions) the opportunity to invest in at least six entrepreneurs through crowd funding. If 100 people give $20 to an entrepreneur that may not seem like much but it can help them to create a world class website and get their product or service in the view of the world.
So I encourage everyone to watch Bank on Me and let’s help to fulfill the dreams of these entrepreneurs because when they succeed the whole country will benefit.
* Donna Every is the CEO of Arise Consulting Inc. which provides business and motivational training and advice to help individuals and organisations fulfill their purpose. She has written five books and has just released her second novel, The High Road.