Entrepreneurs have been encouraged by the Minister for Small Business to take advantage of opportunities Government created for them to expand their operations.
Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce Dwight Sutherland gave the advice to a small gathering at a panel discussion on Monday night as a newly formed network of business support officials in Government gathered at the Alexandra School in St Peter to discuss the role of entrepreneurship in promoting economic enfranchisement
The event, Straight Talk – Open for Business, formed part of the We Gatherin’ exercise in St Peter this month.
Declaring the Mottley administration is aware of the importance of entrepreneurs to the island’s economy and development, Sutherland said it was for that reason that critical steps were being taken to “empower the working class people”.
He said: “We recognized that certain parts of the sector needed reengineering or deconstructing and reconstructing, and this Government is on a drive to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem to build out Barbados.”
He described the Small Business Development Centre Network (SBDCN) as one of several new models Government had introduced to make sector more competitive. The SBDCN is made up of various business development agencies to provide a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs seeking assistance.
Adding that Government was also aware of the need for financing, the Minister reminded the audience of the newly-established Trust Loan Fund facility.
Sutherland said: “We need to energize and empower our small businesses.
“Gone are the days when we are going to look to Government to do everything.
“We cannot do everything.”
He said the cost to produce We Gatherin’ initiative came with tremendous benefits to entrepreneurs, as he challenged them to show up and offer their goods and services.
Stating that Government would be pressing ahead with its digitization programme, Sutherland also called on small business operators to take advantage of social media marketing and online trade.
“In order to achieve a competitive advantage we have to digitize and utilize the Information [and] Communication Technology platform,” he said.
During the event, members of the SBDCN spoke of some of their plans for We Gatherin’ as they outlined how they were helping local entrepreneurs to grow their operations and potential entrepreneurs to get started.
While officials reported an increase in the number of university graduates who were starting their own businesses, they said a number of people needed more assistance in financial literacy.
Officials of the Trust Loan Fund said that was a key component of that facility as they provided individuals with financing to start or grow their business.
Anderson Cumberbatch Chief Advisor of Business Development in the Ministry of Small Business gave the assurance that a number of policies were being developed to help the sector.
He explained: “Our immediate focus is on building out the financial literacy framework where we will be teaching our small businesses the rudiments of financial literacy.
“We are also looking at developing policies as it relates to building out community business clusters – we are looking at how can small businesses work together on projects so that you help each other to enfranchise the business and yourself and help Government in terms of the economy.”
Adding that a national vending policy was still in the works to help vendors improve their trade, he too called on all entrepreneurs to use social media more to market their goods and services.
Lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus Ayanna Young-Marshall said she was satisfied with the interest being shown among young people in owning a business.
But she expressed concern that the country was lagging when it came to patents.
“When we have patents and engineers that can create the products then we are on our way,” said Young-Marshall.
She urged them to take part in the year-long We Gatherin’ activities, explaining that through constant showcasing of their goods and services they would be able to attract more buyers.