The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may have created adversity for many, but it has also resulted in several opportunities for existing and potential entrepreneurs.
With assistance from the Barbados Trust Loan Fund Ltd. (BTLF), several individuals are reporting they have been able to either continue their operation or start a new business during the pandemic.
Some 52 entrepreneurs, many of whom are new clients of the Fund, came together on Thursday at the Parkinson Resource Centre for a networking session, following a week of training in areas of marketing, financial management, business development management and customer service.
Some of those who received the collateral-free loans spoke with Barbados TODAY and shared their experience.
Neesa Williams is the owner of D&N Distribution. She credited the pandemic for helping her push forward with her business, saying that it caused her to reflect on her life and accomplishments over the years.
The former tourism industry operator told Barbados TODAY the company she worked for faced some challenges as a result of the pandemic, which resulted in some redundancies.
Williams, who spent a decade in the sector, said while she had her business idea for several years it was only a few months ago, when she lost her job, that she decided to pursue it.
“It was pretty much about getting the wheels in motion and kind of putting your thought before into action now and making it an actual live product, so to speak,” Williams said.
“You kind of go to the drawing board and figure ‘okay, what is my next step and where am I going to go?’. It can put you in a shell if you are not strong, but even if you go into a shell, I believe then you kind of give it some thought and say ‘this is not the end’ and you move forward. So, I kind of put my head to the block and decided ‘you know what, I am going to come up with a company and see if I can incorporate some of my previous skills into this company’.”
She said she immediately started to think about the value of networking, citing Amazon’s business model as one she was emulating.
“There are a lot of suppliers, a lot of new businesses, a lot of self-employed persons and entrepreneurs who have so many products and services and they don’t know how to get it out there; they don’t know how to market themselves and how to be heard and seen, yet they have raw talent and they are passionate about what they do,” Williams said.
“So, I figured I would get a company where I could somewhat incorporate all of our suppliers and see how we can work together to get their services out there and recognised, get some business outside of Barbados.”
She said while she was prepared for the road ahead to be challenging, so far it has been manageable and she believed with her “strong backing”, experience and knowledge she would come out victorious.
Alyson Holder, owner of Alyson Holder Productions, has been involved in photography for the past decade.
She said during the pandemic she saw the need to expand her operations and upskill.
“Now is the time to expand and look at different ways of upgrading my services and upgrading equipment, and all of the affiliated skills that I need for moving forward, particularly with this year because there are so many challenges that we did not foresee,” she said.
Holder said due to the pandemic she had to alter a lot of the plans she had at the beginning of this year, and she was grateful for the opportunity to get assistance from the BTLF.
“It has been an interesting last four days. There are a few things that I have taken good notes on, that I hope to get some more information on, and a few people I would like to spend some time getting to know,” she said.
During the networking session on Thursday, officials of the BTLF urged the participants to treat their customers as they would like to be treated, adding that business should not be just about “the dollars and cents”.
They were encouraged to see their relationship with customers as one that needed to be maintained in an effort for them to have a sustainable and viable business.
They were also advised to look after their health and put a business continuity plan and strategies in place that would help them bounce back stronger.