Bahamas secures double win at Survival of the Pitchest

Created By:
Renzo Da Silva
October 24, 2023

The Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) partnered with the Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA) as a silver sponsor of the Caribbean Investment Forum (CIF) 2023. The three-day forum, designed to raise the visibility of the Caribbean as an investment destination, connected the investment community with local and regional companies to engage with business owners and generate more business.

The relationship between CEDA and the SBDC, dating back to 2019, has produced many successful initiatives, and the SBDC's sponsorship commitment to the 2023 Caribbean Investment Forum is a testament to that enduring collaboration. Through this year's partnership, the SBDC had the opportunity to collaborate with CEDA, Draper Startup House and Invest Turks & Caicos Islands for Survival of the Pitchest, a Caribbean pitch competition.

Natasha Walcott, senior advisor, competitiveness and export promotion at CEDA, said, "Caribbean Export is pleased to play its part in the burgeoning start-up ecosystem in the Caribbean. Having worked with MSMEs throughout the region, we recognize the challenges that they face in establishing their businesses and expanding. Hence, our eagerness to partner with Draper Start Up House CARICOM for the second time to feature this exciting opportunity as part of the Caribbean Investment Forum calendar.

As the space for innovation and brilliance from Carib- bean start-ups take center stage, Caribbean Export is thrilled to be a part of this, and we are truly grateful for the unwavering support of sponsors, including the Small Business Development Centre Bahamas, Invest Turks and Caicos Islands, Zwede Hewitt, Virgin Atlan- tic and Caribbean Airlines."

During her remarks, SBDC Executive Director Samantha Rolle congratulated the finalists and celebrated the fact that there were four Bahamians amongst the group representing the manufaturing, agriculture, food & beverage and fashion industries. Rolle noted that each participant's story serves as a testament to the power of belief, determination, tenacity and persistence in the entrepreneurial journey. "What we will witness is just a snapshot of the molding and nurturing of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) that support regional transformation to a bold new Carib- bean," said Rolle.

More than 150 business owners throughout the Caribbean submitted pitch decks and videos for consideration during the application period, representing the largest contingent that the partners have ever witnessed. Following the selection process, all finalists had the opportunity to participate in a virtual pitch prep session leading up to the event. The Pitch Competition was held on October 24th at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island. Seven finalists presented a two-minute pitch to a judging panel of four, including Leo Naut (deputy executive director, Caribbean Export Company), Darnel Francois (chief executive officer of Draper Startup House), Samantha Rolle (SBDC executive director) and Alexa Cooper (vice president - SME, Invest Turks & Caicos Islands).

In his opening remarks at the event, CEO of Draper Startup House (DSH) Darnel Francois, noted that Survival of the Pitchest is the catalyst event for showcasing the businesses and ideas of Caribbean founders and entrepreneurs.

"We want to ensure that they are incentivized to put themselves out there and push innovation forward. We don't want to encourage a culture of being over-mentored and underfunded. We must find the balance. Our goal at DSH is to encourage risk capital becoming part of our finance culture, failing forward being celebrated, and networking of the different public and private institutions with our entrepreneurs, in an effort to get all stakeholders in the ecosystem development for innovation," Francois added. Event host Eric Sawyer III was tasked with announcing the top three winners of the Survival of the Pitchest Com- petition. Romero Dorsette of The Farmhouse Bistro in New Providence placed third, receiving a total of $3,000 in funding and a round-trip ticket on Caribbean Airlines. Joshua Miller of Limeade Bahamas finished in second place, receiving $7,000 in funding and a round-trip ticket on Virgin Atlantic. Keeghan Patrick of St. Lucia emerged as the com- petition's winner, receiving a total of $10,000 in funding for his company Rifbid, and two first class round-trip tickets on Virgin Atlantic.

The Small Business Development Centre is extremely proud of the performance of the Bahamas finalists and re- mains committed to providing Bahamian business owners and entrepreneurs with advancement opportunities and much-needed support, to develop their startups and existing businesses into viable business models and, in turn, strengthen the MSME sector.

To learn more about the opportunities, programs and strategic partnerships through the SBDC, contact their offices at 461-SBDC (7232) or email

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