A 50-million-dollar war chest and a guaranteed market for entrepreneurs are included in a three-prong wishlist to boost small businesses that their association wants Government to implement.
And the President of the Small Business Association (SBA), Dean Straker, has urged an end to “piecemeal” approaches and broken promises in boosting money, markets and management for small and medium business enterprises (SMEs), if they are to help rebuild Barbados’ economy.
Speaking during the Association’s 25th Annual Awards Ceremony, Straker called for greater access to capital, access to markets and training and education of entrepreneurs.
“For some time we have been lobbying for improved financial resources for the sector, not the piece-meal responses we have seen in the past, but a significant effort that will impact the volumes of SMEs needed to create economic activity.”
While the association welcomed the new administration’s trust loans initiative, Straker did not think it would be enough to “drive the kind of growth needed within the economy.
“So the Government may need to look at the small funds available and establish one major fund that can be leveraged to create a pool of $50 million or more to finance entrepreneurial development in the next two years,” he said
On access to markets, Straker called on Government to make good on a past promise to procure more of its products and services from SMEs.
“The previous administration promised to dedicate 40 per cent of their purchases to us but that never materialised. Since Government is a major buyer of goods and services, it represents an opportunity for SMEs to capture markets.”
Beyond that, however, SMEs must seek to export, and in that respect, “export schemes that have been dormant in some agencies need to be revived and technical assistance provided through whatever mechanism is most capable, to build capacity among SMEs to make their products more internationally viable.”
On the third prong – regarding training and education for entrepreneurs – Straker cited the success of the SBA’s community training programme in association with the Rural Development Commission over the last 15 years.
But, the SBA president said, “We must also ensure entrepreneurs can manage their resources properly or they will fail to achieve sustainable growth.”
Straker stated that as Barbados embarks on its recovery process, “the SBA will have to explore greater alliances with policymakers, the donor community, business support organisations and academia, to network on development strategies that will catalyse SME growth.”
The big winners on the SBA’s awards night included the Copyright Society of Artists, Composers and Producers (COSCAP), which received the Group Member Sectoral Award, while O’s Inc. won an award for Agro-Processing as well as the Minister’s Award. “Caribbean Dreams” magazine won the President’s Award, while the R.L. Mark Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award and the coveted Small Business of the Year prize went to ten-year-old food and beverage firm Terasu Inc., formed by chef Michael Hinds.