Some 450 persons attended Thursday’s Grand Bahama launch of the Small Business Development Centre’s (SBDC) Access Accelerator initiative.
K Peter Turnquest, deputy prime minister, told attendees that the government hopes to foster a culture of entrepreneurship through its partnership with the “Access Accelerator” programme.
He said: “The SBDC is the centre stone of the government’s campaign to stimulate Bahamian ownership, to invest in entrepreneurs and to provide micro, small and medium-sized businesses the incentives and assistance needed to survive and thrive. This is a core part of our recipe to grow the economy and thereby create jobs and wealth.”
Acknowledging the weariness with which the Bahamian people receive new government programmes, Mr Turnquest argued that the “Access Accelerator” was very different from anything offered by previous governments.
“This programme is very unique because it takes entrepreneurs from inception to financing, and it provides mentorship and hand-holding even after new businesses have started operating,” he added.
“In the past, we’ve had programmes that provided entrepreneurship training, but access to capital for new businesses was nearly impossible to secure. There have been programmes that offered financing, but the mentorship was non-existent. The SBDC takes a holistic approach that considers the full range of needs that entrepreneurs have.”
To emphasise his point, Mr Turnquest introduced five Grand Bahamians who have been recipients of SBDC training and advisory services since the “Access Accelerator” began its work nationally in September 2018. These participants have advanced to the financing stage.
• Petula Henfield, of Better Days Pizzeria, owns a pizza and delivery company that has been operating since October 2017, servicing the Eight Mile Rock settlement of Grand Bahama.
• Nicole Johnson, of Le Pavillion, provides private internment and related services to the Grand Bahama community.
• Sherril Bethel, of Lost at Sea Jewelry, is a designer and manufacturer of unique sea glass jewellery.
• Moses Pitter, of Radiant Technologies, is a full-service solar energy product manufacturer, with a sales and repair business opening in Freeport, Grand Bahama.
• Kenroy Harris, of Perfect Water Refill Depot Station, established his company to produce fresh drinking water and ice for individual purchases, as well as for businesses and households in west Grand Bahama.
These individuals, together with all future entrepreneurs who are successful in the programme, will have access to government guaranteed loans; business grants; and equity financing.
Davinia Blair, the SBDC’s executive director, said: “When we began we knew we wanted to transform the nation through small business. The nation includes our Family Islands. We are so serious about our impact in Grand Bahama that tonight we also announced our SDBC director of the Northern Bahamas, Yvette O’conno, a native of Grand Bahama. We trust that under her guidance the programme, which has already graduated its first cohort for funding, will continue to thrive.”
The SBDC is a three-way partnership between the Government, University of The Bahamas (UB) and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC). The Centre will work to guide the development, funding, growth and evolution of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (“MSMEs”) in The Bahamas.
Among those attending the Grand Bahama launch were Geoff Andrews, chairman of the Access Accelerator; Davinia Blair, Access Accelerator executive director; Ian Strachan, vice-president of University of the Bahamas northern campus; Greg LaRoda, president of the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce; Kevin Darling, head of Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) for the Caribbean , Michaela Cunningham, chairman of the Bahamas Entrepreneurial Venture Fund; and Dave Smith, managing director of the Bahamas Development Bank.