Exuma’s second private school has obtained $163,000 in financing through the Small Business Development Centre’s (SBDC) Access Accelerator initiative.
Exuma Christian Academy (ECA, which was founded in 2018 by educator and author, Keniqua Burrows, received $100,000 from the Bahamas Entrepreneurial Venture Fund; $30,000 in equity investments; $15,000 from the Bahamas Development Fund and $18,000 from the SBDC grant.
This made the investment in the school, which educates children from pre-kindergarten levels up to grade 12, the largest investment in the Family Islands through the SBDC to-date.
“The vision of Exuma Christian Academy came to me in a dream about three years ago,” Ms Burrows said. “God showed me a vision of a different kind of school on the island; a school that was fun and stimulating and, at the same time, challengin.
“One that was willing to be as flexible as it takes to ensure children enjoy learning. The kind of school that children don’t feel like it is a chore to go to; that they enjoy and teaches them to be empowered, to be creative and try new things.”
Ms Burrows added: “I was thrust into the SBDC after looking for funding. I had approached several financial institutions, investment firms and small business persons. However, I discovered that there was not a whole lot of support for small businesses on the island.
“Particularly for schools, I got a lot of closed doors when it came to finding financing. It was through a recommendation from a businessman on Exuma that I did my research on the SBDC. He thought it would be a good option for the school. If it had not been for the closed doors, I probably never would have stumbled upon the SBDC.”
Having now accessed the sought-after financing, Ms Burrows said it was not something she takes lightly as a woman in business.
“It’s a blessing, that’s the best way I can put it, it’s a blessing,” she said. “Especially as a young woman, it is challenging for persons to take you seriously in business. So, it is a blessing. It’s breathtaking, refreshing. It is a relief. Most of all, I think it’s encouraging and inspiring. I know that many persons will be looking at it and they will feel like: ‘If you can do this, I can do this as well’.”
Davinia Blair, the SBDC’s executive director, said: “ECA marks the first major investment to a business outside of New Providence and Grand Bahama. For us, that is a big accomplishment because we don’t want the SBDC to be thought of as a programme for entrepreneurs who live in Nassau.
“The SBDC is for all Bahamians - from the capital to each of the Family Islands. As we continue to set up classes on more islands, we are also utilising technology to ensure that entrepreneurs are connected and receiving the full experience of the SBDC.”
Ms Blair was also especially pleased that the access to funding ECA has received represents an investment into improving The Bahamas’ human capital.
“This financing is a double investment. The funding will go far in growing the school but, also, the knowledge, skills and experiences of Bahamians who will impact the country’s future,” she added. “If Bahamians are going to own more opportunities, they have to be educated, and this is a direct investment into the human capital of The Bahamas.”
Kendyce Ferguson, SBDC’s advisor to ECA, said: “What Exuma Christian Academy is trying to accomplish is revolutionary. They want to change the way education is provided to students on the islands.
“Sometimes the islands get a little neglected, and on Exuma there is only one other private school option. We know that government schools face many challenges, so there needs to be somebody to bridge the gap and that is what the ECA is trying to accomplish. I’m just happy to be a part of the transformation of education on the island of Exuma.
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). The Centre works to guide the development, funding, growth, and evolution of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in The Bahamas.