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Celebrating National MSME Month: empowering Bahamian businesses for a resilient economy

The Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) proudly announces the proclamation of November as National Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Month for the second consecutive year. This significant initiative, endorsed by Prime Minister Philip E. Davis, serves to spotlight the pivotal role MSMEs play in the Bahamian economy, driving economic impact and fostering community development.

The global community faced unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as signs of economic recovery emerge, the government of The Bahamas underscores the importance of celebrating and nurturing the thriving MSME sector. This commitment is demonstrated by the proclamation issued by Prime Minister Philip E. Da- vis, recognizing November as National MSME Month. This year's theme, "Empowering Bahamian Dreams", resonates throughout the month, emphasizing the role of strategic partnerships and empowerment in fostering the growth of Bahamian entrepreneurs and businesses. The Small Business Development Centre (SBDC), in collaboration with the Ministry of Economic Affairs, will lead various events and activities throughout the month.

Samantha L. Rolle, the executive director of SBDC, shared her enthusiasm for the initiative, stating, "We are elated to spearhead this prestigious opportunity to celebrate businesses throughout The Bahamas. The journey of empowering Bahamian entrepreneurs and business owners to realize their full potential continues. This initiative, born out of the pandemic's challenges, inspires us to press forward, making a real difference in the lives of our fellow Bahamians."

In light of the pandemic's impact, the SBDC has, in the last eighteen months, doubled the number of approvals for its Guaranteed Loan Programme, and witnessed over 2,000 requests for funding programs, advisory services, and mentor- ship opportunities across twelve islands. As the SBDC expands its presence in the Family Islands, the organization aims to strengthen its service offerings, streamline processes, and build strategic partnerships, anticipating exponential growth in its client base.

Minister of Economic Affairs Michael Halkitis re- affirmed the government's commitment to supporting MSMEs, labelling them as the backbone of the Bahamian economy. The government's strategies include increased access to funding, policy program implementation, tax relief initiatives, and incentivized joint ventures between foreign and local investors.

Throughout November, National MSME Month will feature a series of events and activities dedicated to showcasing the accomplishments of Bahamian business owners. These events will culminate with an honorary celebration in New Providence on November 30th, symbolizing the successful conclusion of a month devoted to empowering Bahamian dreams.

Head of SME and Family Island Business at Aliv Chantelle Sands commented, "I am thrilled to announce our partnership with the Small Business Development Centre to launch National MSME Month. This collab- oration exemplifies our commitment to empowering and supporting micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises on their journey to success. MSMEs are the backbone of our economy, and through this initiative, we aim to provide them with the resources, knowledge, and innovations they need to thrive. Together, we can create a vibrant ecosystem that fosters innovation and growth for all business- es in The Bahamas."

Bahamasair's Marketing Manager Stephen Gay not- ed, "As we embrace National MSME Month, Bahamasair is committed to supporting the backbone of our economy, fostering growth, and driving economic impact, all while serving as a symbol of national pride. We are honored to be a part of the journey, connecting the islands and communities of The Bahamas."

The Access Accelerator Small Business Development Centre encourages individuals to follow its social media pages @accessaccelerator to stay informed about the full month of activities and the impact of MSMEs on the Bahamian economy.

Robert Scott, JMEA treasurer and head of the mission, reiterated the significance of regional trade for mutual growth and prosperity. He remarked, “Export or die. These are the words echoed by our leaders. Our prosperity, wealth, and growth as a region will come from trading with each other."

This trade mission marks an essential step forward in Caribbean integration and promises a brighter economic future for both nations.

DISNEY CRUISE LINE AND SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT CENTRE CELEBRATE MODEL PARTNERSHIP, EMBARK ON NEW INITIATIVES

The Access Accelerator Small Business Development Centre (SBDC), in collaboration with Disney Cruise Line (DCL), is set to launch a social media campaign this week, aiming to highlight the triumphant strides of their partnership since 2020. With shared aspirations to uplift Eleuthera's entrepreneurial spirit, this partnership has been monumental for the small business sector.

Highlights of the Partnership:

The Eleuthera Business Hub, an exemplar of collaboration between the Eleuthera Chamber of Commerce, SBDC, and DCL, has been a cornerstone for small businesses and entrepreneurial development in Central and South Eleuthera.

DCL's dedication to this venture shines through with an investment of over $1 million across three years. This funding supported the establishment of the Eleuthera Business Hub and has aided various business development services, facilitating startups and small enterprises as the slate of Eleuthera's developmental projects continues to grow.

In collaboration with DCL, the SBDC has channeled over $175,000 in grants, impacting 34 businesses spanning various industries in Eleuthera.

Samantha Rolle, Executive Director of the SBDC: "We're thrilled about our ongoing collaboration with Disney. Through our flourishing partnership, we've launched programs like the Disney Grant and the Eleuthera Entrepreneurial Training Programme. These initiatives have championed 69 businesses, providing them with the resources and know-how to start and grow."

Joey Gaskins Jr., Disney Cruise Line Regional Public Affairs Director - The Bahamas & Caribbean: "Disney Cruise Line's collaboration with SBDC over three years has been a resounding success. We've always aspired to uplift Eleuthera beyond job offerings, aiming for a stronger local economy and proprietorship opportunities for Eleutherans. Our engagement revealed a dire need for training, advisory, and financial services. Aligned with our Corporate Social Responsibility pillars - community, culture, conservation, and economic opportunity - our joint venture with SBDC remains pivotal for fostering economic prospects. Looking ahead, as the opening of Disney Lookout Cay at Lighthouse Point is on the horizon, we believe our strengthened bond with SBDC will lead to more impactful results for small businesses in Eleuthera."

As both organizations continue their shared mission of fostering Bahamian ownership and fortifying the small business landscape, this partnership stands as a testament to what collaboration, commitment, and community-driven goals can achieve. It remains a model that other communities might emulate to cultivate their entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Bahamas secures double win at Survival of the Pitchest

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 info@sbdcbahamas.com.

Past Events

Info Session for the Young Entrepreneurs Initiative

Date: 2023-12-13
Time: 06:30 PM - 07:30 PM

Additional Info Session for the Sustainable Food Grant

Date: 2023-12-11
Time: 06:00 PM -

MSME Honors

Date: 2023-11-30
Time: 07:00 PM -

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