By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
ISLAND Luck, the country's largest webshop chain, officially launched its new self starter grant funding programme, OWN Bahamas, at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel on Thursday night.
OWN Bahamas, the latest of Island Luck's community support-based initiatives, seeks to offer entrepenuerial opportunities for people lacking the capital or funding to start a business independently.
"We wanted to start the OWN programme because we came up through the ranks of challenges and starting up our own businesses, and as entrepreneurs we know that anyone is capable of doing whatever it is that they want to do," Island Luck CEO Sebas Bastian said. "But capital and business expertise is not always easy to find.
"OWN wants to be that bridge between people's goals and dreams and providing the opportunity to achieve just that. We want to basically really own this country, and the only way we can do that is if we empower young Bahamians, encourage them to think outside the box, expand their investment appetite beyond the conventional types of businesses that we see in the Bahamas like our beauty salons and carwash and 99 cent breakfast stands."
According to Mr Bastian, the OWN Programme and Grant Fund was created to promote economic development, and was designed to support the acceleration of the Bahamian economy.
To do this, OWN will offer grant funds to 10 successful applicants. Two of the 10 will subsequently be afforded an all expenses paid trip to visit the Canton Trade Fair in Guangzho, China, in April, as well as $25,000 to start a business of their choice.
The other eight will be given a grant of $5,000 to do the same.
Additionally, all 10 applicants will receive two year's free internet and phone service from the Bahamas Telecommunications Company, two years free radio and print advertising from the Nassau Guardian, one year garbage collection from United Sanitation, and an all expense paid course to the College of The Bahamas starting up small business and business management program.
Atario Mitchell, president of Bahamas Striping Group of Companies, called Thursday's launch a "historic" moment in Bahamian history.
"For Sebas, Island Luck to have a programme such as OWN Bahamas where they try to give birth to more entrepreneurial spirits within our young Bahamians I think it's tremendous," Mr Mitchell said. "I only expect good and positive things from this programme.
"To me it's the opportunity," he added. "I had the opportunity of the self starter programme, and look what I did with my $5,000 grant. I was able to build a multi-million dollar company. So by Bahamians having a different chance through OWN Bahamas to have the opportunity to venture into business I think is tremendous on the part of Sebas by putting together the initiative."
Mervin Sweeting Jr, president of Switcha, the Bahamian drinks company, also had praise for Mr Bastian and the OWN programme.
"As a young entrepeneur I understand the hurdles that young Bahamians have to encounter and are faced with in the country, and it's not easy," he said. "So for a company or organisation like this to be able to grant that kind of capital funding, the exposure and opportunity is tremendous. If we continue that and expand that programme in the Bahamas that creates a lot of new businesses, it helps with employment, that strategy could propel our country and put it on the right track where it's supposed to be."
According to Mr Bastian, applicants have until March 20 to apply online at ownyourbahamas.com. Applicants must fill out the application and submit a short biography, why they want to be an entrepreneur and their business idea.
A select committee will review all applications before shortlisting them and conducting interviews. The successful applicants will be announced on March 30.