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A Broad Street Mall can survive after World Cup

by Barbados Today
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In anticipation of an influx of visitors to the island for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, a number of organisations in the small business ecosystem collaborated to provide opportunities for their clients and members to promote their product offerings in a grand open-door exhibition. 

An initiative of the Barbados Trust Fund Ltd., and FundAccess, with the support of Export Barbados, the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme, the Barbados Youth Business Trust and the Small Business Association of Barbados, some 100 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) were mobilised for the project.

The benefits to be derived for the firms were clearly articulated by the organisers and included:

• Making connections with others in the field including potential clients or vendors, 

• Learning more about the competition, and building relationships with knowledgeable people in the industry,

• Gaining access to new products and services that the business may not have otherwise known about,

• Discovering new opportunities to expand product lines or services,

• Generating publicity for the business through traditional and/or social media outlets. 

The initiative is to be commended for three key reasons. 

The ability to mobilise agencies to partner on a common agenda is no small feat. Accordingly, activities that foster the partnership of those with a common mandate to help small businesses to grow and develop, must be encouraged. 

Secondly, most firms represented are micro and small and ordinarily would not have the marketing budgets to stage big exhibitions and at the same time invest in the products needed to showcase during these ventures. 

A third reason is that every opportunity to maximise the potential of firms to grow their markets and expand should be harnessed. 

The T20 World Cup is one such project that should not be ignored. Business support organisations – government or non-governmental – would be wise to explore the sporting, entertainment, conferences and other events to be held locally and regionally, and pursue the potential for their constituents to benefit from these events through mini showcases. With the year-round focus on conferences, sporting and entertainment activity on the local calendar, this can become a permanent feature in the annual work plan of these organisations. 

This latter point, however, highlights a key concern.
While agencies have their individual mandates and programmatic agenda, there is no one coordinating mechanism to ensure that the MSME sector can have a structured and systematic approach to access these national efforts. This was the intention of the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) that now appears to be in abeyance. The SBDC initiative portends to bring together the key agencies careering to micro and small firms, and, through a small secretariat, coordinate the major activities to provide the sector with a seamless platform to access products and services. It is true that each agency in the network will have its own mandate, and due to its specialisation will cater uniquely to a segment of the market. However, the SBDC was intended to transcend this reality and harmonise the work done for the sector so as to collect data seamlessly, coordinate research, and focus on those macro issues otherwise not contemplated at the agency level. Whither the
SBDC?

The Broad Street Mall demonstrates why that coordinating mechanism is important and could easily be replicated through a SBDC framework to maximise on all major events year-round. It is unclear why there is no national agenda at small business development despite the myriad of research and position papers prepared over time that show the benefits to be derived from national coordination. There are enough success models regionally and internationally that can be adapted. Small business development transcends partisanism and requires a commitment, particularly by policymakers, to employ proven strategies and formulas for the sustainable growth of the sector. 

Suffice it to say that the Broad Street Mall initiative, and a few similar projects before, can be a model for small firms to build capacity, learn marketing strategies and expand in the domestic market. Research shows that a small percentage of those participating in these initiatives will scale to the next level. The percentage of firms that are able to internationalise is generally small in any population, but if investments are made to attract a target number of businesses each year, sustainable growth can be realised over a period of time. For sure, the domestic consumer can be encouraged to support local small businesses and reduce the need for imports through an import substitution strategy. Not only should agriculture be developed to the point of reducing the food import bill, but sourcing other commodities from local suppliers would go a long way towards saving foreign exchange.

Kudos, therefore, to all businesses that participated during the five Saturdays in June in the Broad Street Mall project. Barbados and visitors alike got the opportunity to sample and purchase products from the firms in the food and beverage, wine and spirits, beauty, health and wellness, and the creative and cultural sectors.

The SBA is particularly proud of its members who were given the opportunity to showcase during the period. Hats off to the following tenacious and inspiring businesses:

    • Fields and Hills

    • Blasted Cocktails

    • The Golden Spoon

    • J Y S Leather Craft

    • Crafted by Wood

    • Aidzariella Delights

    • Curae Health Inc.

    • Lizchi Exquisite Creations

    • Canewood Rum

    • Well Living Health and Beauty

    • EsNick Craft

    • Kernel Army Gourmet Popcorn

    • Azure Gourmet Skincare

    • Chantalle Designs

             • O’s Inc.

                • Mally’s Cocktails

                • Katspraddle Sweet Potato Vodka

                 • Happy Treats

The Small Business Association of Barbados (www.sba.bb) is the non-profit representative body for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

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