The Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) has kicked-off its Family Island roll-out on Exuma, meeting with the island's Chamber of Commerce and holding a Town Hall meeting in Georgetown.
Davinia Blair, the SBDC's executive director, acknowledged the feeling among attendees that micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (MSMEs) development did not appear to have kept pace with Exuma's overall growth, even though by some measures the sector was outperforming larger businesses.
She reiterated the Government's commitment that 20 percent of public procurement contracts will be reserved for MSMEs. In addition, Ms Blair said there was a need to include Bahamian MSMEs in the supply chain for foreign direct investment (FDI) opportunities.
"Bahamian MSMEs - and, for Exuma projects, Exuma MSMEs - must be at the table as Heads of Agreements are being negotiated," Ms Blair asserted.
The SBDC's Family Island roll-out, which will is taking place under the Access Accelerator brand, will target Abaco through a meeting with the island's Chamber and the staging of a town hall meeting.
In November, Ms Blair is expected to speak at the Long Island Business Outlook, and other islands to which Access Accelerator is bound pre-Christmas season are Andros and Eleuthera.
The SBDC is the product of a tripartite arrangement between the Government, through the Ministry of Finance; University of The Bahamas (UB); and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC). It has an initial three-year mandate to guide the development, funding, growth and evolution of MSMEs in The Bahamas.
Ms Blair said the SBDC has now hired a senior business development specialist, an associate director of operations, and contracted another person to design and build the Access Accelerator website.
Nicholas Higgs, as senior business development specialist, is tasked with providing business development advisory services to MSMEs and assisting Ms Blair with overall operations.
He will be responsible for providing counseling on all aspects of small business operations, including management, financing, operations, marketing and personnel. He will have a special focus on capital advising for small businesses.
"I view my role as one of the most important in fostering and growing start-ups, small and medium companies in the country. My role specifically is to assist companies with sharpening their financial swords to fulfill their goals of raising funds, expanding their companies or to simply become a more efficiently-run company," said Mr. Higgs.
Bianca Lee is associate director of operations, tasked with oversight, supervision and administration of the SBDC's business operations.
"I am very excited, because we will be able to focus on a section of the market that I believe has been untouched," she said. "Entrepreneurship is a big thing, especially among young people; even in passing you can hear people talking about their entrepreneurial dreams. Being able to provide support and guidance to those persons will be amazing, especially to assist that process from start to finish," she said.
Travis Miller, of Thought & Method, has been hired to develop the SBDC website, which is expected to be launched for public use in mid-December 2018.
He said: "I'm excited about the SBDC because the initiative will allow entrepreneurs more opportunities to get their ideas out there and develop or refine their businesses, and likely get access to funding to help make their dreams a reality. I believe what SBDC will provide will impact the landscape for entrepreneurs for years to come."
The new hires come after the appointment of the SBDC's Board of Directors, chaired by Geoffrey Andrews and deputy chair, Dr Olivia Saunders, two weeks ago. The new board includes Merrit Storr, Ellison Delva, Clifford Johnson, Hank Ferguson, Tyrina Neely, Gina McKenzie, Remelda Moxey, Kristie Powell, Christopher Sawyer and Pedro Rolle.