The Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) has closed its the second round of its grant funding programme, known as the Capital Arena Initiative, for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
The initiative, started by the GBPA’s Invest Grand Bahama Small Business Bureau (IGBSBB), saw entries double this year compared to the inaugural launch, with candidates having to pitch their ideas to a four-judge panel.
Ian Rolle, the GBPA’s president, said: “I am advised that this year we received nearly 100 submissions, which featured several unique, innovative and sustainable business ideas.
“Personally, the number of millennials that submitted, and the types of businesses they introduced, were very impressive. If we can provide opportunities for this generation of entrepreneurs, I believe they can help chart a bright future for Freeport.”
Only 18 so-called gladiators (semi-finalists) advanced to Round II Judging for ‘In-person presentations’, where they faced the judging panel.
“The quality of business proposals from this Cohort was significantly stronger than last year’s,” said Derek Newbold, the GBPA’s senior manager of business development.
“Not only did our judges have the awesome task of reviewing the various plans, but scoring them according to the submission criteria, which filtered our 18 semi-finalists for Round II pitching. The diversity of plans submitted was impressive and challenged us to examine proposals more creatively during the scoring process, which I can confidently say we did.
“In fact, some plans - if presented five to seven years ago - would not have even made it. However, through the use and application of technology, so much more is possible and can be accommodated within Freeport’s economic landscape, and it was this type of innovation we wanted to embrace.”
Finalists from Cohort II can secure up to $15,000 in grant funding to start or grow their businesses. They will also receive entrepreneurial training designed by the University of The Bahamas exclusively for Capital Arena finalists, and be paired with a mentor to complete the programme.
The filming of Capital Arena episodes was staged at the Canal House of the Pelican Bay resort, with set designs provided by the Home Design Centre. Seasons one and two will air some time this year, featuring participants from both cohorts.
“Considering the amazing opportunities coming on stream for Grand Bahama, Cohort II clearly demonstrated that Grand Bahamians are ready to embrace a new era of opportunity and success, especially the younger generation,” said Deann Seymour, GBPA chief financial officer and Capital Arena judge. “Whether your business idea is a start-up or an expansion, now is the time to move on it.
Cohort III will launch this winter, giving existing business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs new opportunities. The GBP’s business services manager and project director for Capital Arena, LaShawn Dames, said: “Preparation is key. Candidates that prepare well perform the best during presentations; these become our Gladiators.”