Key Takeways from the Accelerate Caribbean St Lucia Training and Workshop
By Tassia Stewart November 1, 2015
How many times have we read or seen a story about some wildly successful businessman or woman who has defied the odds and achieved an extraordinary feat in business? How often do we accept that this person is just special, gifted or has some unique talent? Often, right?
While we cannot deny that certain personality types, and special skills and talents can increase the likelihood of someone’s success, we know that the likelihood is even greater when combined with the right circumstances.
Accelerate Caribbean’s Business Incubation Management (BIM) Training and Workshop held at the Royal By Rex Hotel in Rodney Bay, St Lucia over October 14 – 16, 2015 engaged a diverse audience of 30 business enablers, government workers, representatives of business support organizations, and entrepreneurs, with the objective of equipping them with the knowledge, skills and tools to excel at working with and for the entrepreneurs they serve, basically, creating the ‘right circumstances’.
The three-day event opened with an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development Workshop designed to foster collaborative and open discussion around principles and good practices of business incubation. The challenges and opportunities present in St -Lucia were explored and discussions began around how the country, as well as others in the region, can work collaboratively to bolster the ecosystems in their respective islands.
St. Lucia’s Minister for Commerce, Business Development, Investment and Consumer Affairs, Hon. Emma Hippolyte gave the opening address at the Workshop. Her impassioned message focused on the need to abandon the notion of the ‘self-made entrepreneur’ and to embrace the building of support networks for business people.
Lead Mentor for Accelerate Caribbean and founder of Koltai & Co, Mr. Steven Koltai, was on the same page with Minister Hippolyte when he presented the Koltai&Co six plus six entrepreneurship ecosystem model. The six plus six model is built on the premise that “no single factor alone moves entrepreneurship forward. Rather entrepreneurship thrives when multiple sectors and actors consciously work together to develop a supportive environment for entrepreneurship.” The model highlights the six fundamental actions required to build an entrepreneurship ecosystem – Identify, Train, Connect and Sustain, Fund, Enable and Celebrate Entrepreneurs. ” 
To put the concept of the 6 plus 6 Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Model into perspective Steven expertly guided the participants through an engaging practical exercise, where teams had to brainstorm and illustrate their own ecosystems, identifying real examples where actual businesses are identified, trained, connected and sustained, funded, enabled and celebrated. The celebratory aspect emerged the most identifiable for St. Lucia, which underscores the relatively weak perception of St. Lucians of their own entrepreneurial ecosystem in spite of the enabling institutions and measures that exist.
In the two days of that followed the opening Workshop, modules 1, 2 and 3 of the InfoDev Global Business Incubation Management (BIM) Training programme were rolled out to 34 trainees, building on the context set by the opening workshop. Modules 1-3 focus on Business Incubation – Definitions & Principles, Business Incubation Models and Success Factors and Planning an Incubator. InfoDev certified trainers from the region, Mr. C César Yammal and Dr. Carlos Bizzotto, lead the training, a mix of presentations, matches, a panel discussion and practical group exercises. Participants tweeted and shared their experiences on Facebook and on twitter using hashtag #BIMSLU.
Among the noted participants were the Caribbean Mobile Innovation Project (CMIP), National Integrated Business Incubator System (IBIS) Trinidad & Tobago, and StartUp Jamaica, three of the ten 10 enablers currently in our Accelerate Caribbean 12-month Business Incubator Clinic.CARCIP Project Coordinator, Mr Christopher Roberts, as well as three representatives from The Women Innovators Network in the Caribbean (WINC), also attended, bringing to five, the number of countries represented- Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, Dominica and host country St. Lucia.
Over the three days one thing was clear, that the single most important thing for entrepreneurship to thrive is an enabling ecosystem.
The immediate outcomes of the St Lucia leg of Business Incubator Management (BIM) training look positive, especially when compared to the lack of specialized incubation management expertise in the island before. When we look at other start-up environments across the world, we can clearly see an investment in training and in building entrepreneurship support networks evidenced by the proliferation of hot desks, co-working spaces, accelerators and incubators internationally. This training now puts St. Lucia in a better position to support and empower their business people though the build out of such incubation-type facilities.
In the Caribbean we remain generally very fragmented in our approach. Every industry, every agency, every department, is in pursuit of a single agenda. As we have learnt this is not ideal for the entrepreneurial ecosystems we are trying to foster in each island, and certainly not conducive to building a regional business incubator association that will be critical in the medium to long term. The task therefore is to cause mindset change.
Government Ministers, policy makers and entrepreneurs probably all see the need for greater synergy. But single Ministers, legislators, citizens, and entrepreneurs knowing this will not make it happen. It has to be planned for and pursued. Someone has to take this on, a champion of sorts within the government, to push and push, to coordinate and advocate. Someone has to see the vision and take an interest in wanting to see that vision realized. We must take steps to identify that champion.
Our people have no problems seizing opportunities and creating opportunities where they do not exist, they are naturally enterprising, but as they are often left up to their own devices to ‘make it happen’it sometimes just does not!
We must abandon the notion of the “self-made entrepreneur” to echo the sentiments of St. Lucia’s Commerce Minister.
Successful entrepreneurs are not self-made. The best entrepreneurs are mentored, assisted, supported, encouraged – they are molded! The truth is it takes an entire network of professionals and support services to do it. It takes a village!
Accelerate Caribbean is designed by infoDev (The World Bank Group) as part of its Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC). EPIC is a seven-year program funded by the Government of Canada that seeks to build an enabling ecosystem to strengthen entrepreneurship and boost job creation across the region. Coming out of a needs assessment in 2014, it was found that we were lacking a silicon-valley-type approach to entrepreneurs, where qualified small business could receive tailored nurturing to improve their competitiveness, and therefore stay in business. The project is implemented by IMC Worldwide Ltd (IMC) in partnership with KoltaiCo, UWI Consulting, and the Barbados Coalition of Service Industries (BSCI).