Jamaican entrepreneurs have been encouraged to “look beyond the money” and embrace training, business incubation and mentorship opportunities in order to gain valuable skills in planning and managing their businesses.
This was the consensus of panellists at the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development Workshop, held at the Spanish Court Hotel on last Wednesday (June 22, 2016). The workshop, staged by World Bank Group’s InfoDev to strengthen emerging entrepreneurship ecosystems across the world, brought together over 75 entrepreneurs and business stakeholders to develop an actionable 12-month growth plan for the sector.
Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, the Hon. Karl Samuda, in his opening remarks, pointed out that
“ninety-five per cent of the workforce is engaged in small business” and that “eighty per cent of the micro and small businesses that fail, fail because they have not received adequate training”.
The minister spoke about the need to introduce what he terms “the Canadian model” in Jamaica where entrepreneurs would receive more structured support services such as incubation and mentoring.
“Imagine youngsters having access to our most qualified and successful entrepreneurs to learn all that they can from the practical experience and hands-on exposure. That is worth more than cash,” said the minister.
Business mentor and angel investor Sandra Glasgow echoed the minister’s sentiments in her presentation, noting that access to funding was not the most important issue facing entrepreneurs as many believe. She said,
“Access to finance is not just about the lending institutions making it easier to borrow. We need to see how we can educate entrepreneurs so they think about access to finance more broadly – things such as crowdfunding, grants, the stock exchange, venture capital, private equity, and seed funding through angel investments.”
“More importantly,” Glasgow continued, “is the need for “grooming/training entrepreneurs to help them make their businesses more investable.” Investable refers to start-ups or businesses that are investor-ready in terms of having completed market testing, built a prototype of the product where possible, and completed all financial projections.
Participants were also inspired by the story of veteran Canadian start-up mentor Valerie Fox, who is a co-founder of the number-one ranked university business incubator in North America. She spoke about her experience building The DMZ, formerly the Digital Media Zone, at Ryerson University in Ontario, Canada, and explained that students with good business ideas are supported by an enabling environment and now have multi-million dollar businesses.