The Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) has teamed with the University of The Bahamas (UoB) northern campus to host its first Pitch Night competition on Grand Bahama.
The event allowed six students to share their business plans with judges and attendees. Walking away with $10,000 grant first prize was the founder and chief executive of Keeping It Clean, Tarentee Laing. Hilary Huyler, founder and chief executive of Happy Hour Tours, placed second and received a $5,000 grant.
Mr Laing admitted he was nervous about Pitch Night, even feeling nauseated at the beginning, but was able to relax and feel at ease as soon as he began talking about the progress and expansion of his healthy food takeaway.
“For me, this is about four or five years that I’ve been a self-starting entrepreneur and I feel like this is the first time that I see the fruits of my labour,” said Mr Laing. “I feel like (Pitch Night) gives you the right amount of motivation to keep going and pushing.
“Especially in Freeport right now, in this current economic state that we are in, it is not easy at all to be a young entrepreneur, so having pitch competitions where you can get funding, that really helps us to keep pushing.”
Mr Huyler, who came up with his company’s party bike idea about four years ago, described his experience as a little nerve-wracking but fun. “The experience was great. I love people, I love networking, and I love being able to hear other people’s ideas,” he said.
“It gets me excited. Our country is so small in terms of population, so for me being from Grand Bahama where there is so much land, so much potential for growth, to see other entrepreneurs from different walks of life and different age groups come together to pursue their dreams, and we feed off of each other, and we learn from each other – it was the perfect experience.”
Dr Ian Strachan, vice-president of the University of The Bahamas’ northern campus, said that hosting the first “Pitch Night” highlighted the vision and intelligence of students, and further reinforced his belief that the university and the SBDC will be a driving force in transforming Grand Bahama’s economy.
“As a tripartite partner in the Small Business Development Centre it was a pleasure for us to host the first Pitch Night here at UB north in support of the SBDC,” said Dr Strachan. “The students showed us how intelligent and vision-focused they are, and we are excited to continue developing their skills.
“We believe that the university along with the SBDC will be major economic drivers of transforming the Grand Bahama economy, and contributing to our country and world at large. We look forward to further working with our students to develop them into entrepreneurs we know they can be.”
Yvette Oconno, director of the SBDC’s Grand Bahama division, added: “Since the Access Accelerator has launched in Grand Bahama we continue to be impressed by the mass number of Grand Bahamians that are wanting to venture into entrepreneurship.
“Seeing students of the University of The Bahamas display their talents was an honour and privilege, and we look forward to providing the support they need through training and access to capital to further develop those businesses.”
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 will guide the development, funding, growth and evolution of Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in The Bahamas.