Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Kerrie Symmonds believes micro and small businesses will have a difficult time surviving if they do not receive critical training in areas of financial management.
He said it was for that reason that the Barbados Trust Fund Ltd. would continue to provide the technical assistance to businesses while helping them with micro loans to help them stay afloat.
“I do not think we can succeed as businesspeople in Barbados without making sure we continually retrain our people so they understand the concept of financial literacy,” said Symmonds.
Insisting that his ministry would continue to assist micro businesses to grow, he said it was also his dream for them to become exporters.
He was speaking during an appreciation tour on Wednesday, where 20 entrepreneurs who received financial assistance from the Barbados Trust Fund Ltd and successfully completed a training programme with the entity were presented with a certificate of completion in the Entrepreneurship Management programme.
“We are doing this appreciation tour in an effort to give back to those customers of the Trust Fund who have been performing exceptionally well,” said Symmonds.
There are some 3,100 clients of the Trust Fund Ltd. and approximately half of them have been through the various business training programmes.
The minister expressed disappointment at critics who he said were accusing Government of “throwing money” at the small businesses while failing to acknowledge that Government was also providing the opportunity for those business owners to develop skills that are necessary for their survival.
“It isn’t a one-size cap that fits every head. It is often about getting access to money, which is a given, but it is equally about helping people to understand how to avoid the pitfalls that cause businesses to fail,” said Symmonds.
He said he was satisfied that clients were repaying their loans when they could, adding that all those who required relief during the height of the pandemic were able to receive it.
“They did not treat the trust fund as a slush fund, but an opportunity to develop themselves and advance themselves as entrepreneurs and small business people,” he said.
“The trust fund has been quite dynamic in its approach more so than even the traditional financial windows and houses in the country. They have had moratoria of three months and in some cases a little longer depending on the circumstances facing the clients so they could ‘catch’ themselves. There has been a lot of flexibility working with different types of people who have different types of problems and trying to tailor the solution to every client,” he explained.
He said Government understood the importance of providing training that was essential to the survival of businesses, especially now.
“That person has to understand accounts payable and accounts receivable. That person has to understand a business plan, be able to plan their retirement and financial future. They have to understand that you can’t mix the funds of the business with what you are paying yourself. They have to understand all of those pitfalls and that is where the financial literacy aspect of it comes about,” he explained.
During the tour, which took officials across all parishes, the small business owners were very appreciative of the gesture from the Ministry of Small Business and Entrepreneurship and FundAccess.
Beach vendor Angela Branch, who was among the first set of clients of the fund and among the first to take part in the training programmes, said she was grateful for the help from the agency given that she had struggled to get assistance from other established financial companies in the past.
She has been in operation for the past 20 years and as with other operations, COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on her business. She said the loan from the fund has been a “godsend”.
“I have been able to turn it over and turn it over,” she said, adding “I have like six months of plenty and six months of nothing. So I just prepare myself for that.”
The vendor who plies her trade at Enterprise Beach in Christ Church said she was hoping “that the tourists would come back soon” so she could see an uptick in business.
Ezra Marshall, owner of the wine company Meadows in the Sun, said he was pleasantly surprised by the outreach of the ministry officials.
He also reported that the loan and training from the trust fund have been very helpful for him.
He has been in operation for the past 24 years and he hopes to get his products in the overseas market soon.