Over 325 Grand Bahama small business owners and entrepreneurs attended a two-day Funding Opportunity & Consult Town Meeting organized by the Ministry of Youth, Sports & Culture in conjunction with the Ministry for Grand Bahama at the Foster B. Pestaina Center on Thursday and Friday of last week.
A cadre of veteran business professionals provided pertinent information and insight as it relates to funding opportunities available for small businesses and entrepreneurial start-ups. Present were: Sean Brennen, Venture Capital Fund (VCF) Administrator; Michael Cunningham, VFC Chairman; Lynden Nairn, Bahamas Development Bank (BDB) Chairman; Mick Holding, GB Chamber of Commerce President; Chala Cartwright, BAIC General Manager and Justin Sturrup, BDB Deputy Managing Director.
Grand Bahama Parliamentarians (K. Peter Turnquest of East Grand Bahama, Central Grand Bahama’s Iram Lewis and Marco City MP Michael Pintard) were on hand as well. Attendees of the two-day event were afforded presentations regarding Business Advisory Services, the Government Apiary Programme and the upcoming introduction of a GB Small Business Center that is expected to be a joint venture between the Ministry of Finance and the University of The Bahamas.
The Freeport News learned also that there is to be the launch of several micro-financing facilities. They are expected to come on stream through the Ministry of Finance in conjunction with the Ministry of Youth, Sports & Culture.
Pintard, Minister of Youth, Sports & Culture along with Minister of State for Grand Bahama Senator J. Kwasi Thompson and fellow parliamentarians are tasked with promoting and assisting with Bahamians owning and operating their own businesses and contributing to the continued growth, development and sustainability of the local economy.
“Several projects are being rolled out to assist with the Bahamians in taking ownership of the local economy through entrepreneurship. Hence, this is just the first in a series of meetings to help facilitate such.
“The GB Tech Summit, Apiary Programme along with Youth Enterprise Initiatives (YEI) that were designed by the Ministry of Youth, Sports & Culture and will be administered in conjunction with the Office of the Prime Minister.
“Several of the aforementioned initiatives will involve competitive development of business plans while others will surround those, who have business plans and viable ideas that would be adjudicated by a panel that will evaluate the plans and choose the ones that will be issued with grants.
“Additionally, there will also be a YEI boardroom concept similar to Shark Tank with persons making a pitch with their business plan and we will help to develop the winning plans which will also receive grants.
“We are expecting approximately $350,000.00 by the end of the year that will be put into circulation in Grand Bahama, which would help more than 50 start-up businesses hence we are looking forward to the training of the individuals, so that they not only develop a business plan but also, receive grant issuances and even at the conclusion of that process, become linked with mentors who will assist each one as their business develops,” declared Minister Pintard, who also emphasized that the Bahamas government remains committed to the transformation of the economy of Grand Bahama.
“A part of the focus of the government involves developing businesses that are missing in the local environment, which lends to the weakening of The Bahamas’ performance as a jurisdiction,” Minister Pintard said.
“Examples of such are noticed in the tourism sector, as there is a need for more cultural enterprises, which can only come through the diversification of the tourism product so that stop-over visitors and cruise passengers would have a greater variety of places to go, activities to engage in and experiences to be had by the development of additional cultural, heritage and Eco-tourism enterprises.
Another noticeable gap that must be filled in the economy, according to Pintard, “surrounds the fact that annually tens of millions of dollars go out of The Bahamas in the industrial sector to bring in supplies that Bahamian companies can order on behalf of this sector. A large number of subcontractors are hired in order to do work in Grand Bahama and, while many of them have specialized skills; there are areas in which Bahamians can develop the expertise and provide the services the industrial sector is importing.
“Definitely, there is a need for us to fill those gaps and in the technology arena. If Grand Bahama is going to become a maritime and technology hub, then, there is a variety of businesses that we ought to be starting in order to build the infrastructure for these sectors to thrive, hence these will be the kind of areas that will be the priority in our funding initiatives going forward.
“Yes, these meetings tie into the broader vision of how we are seeking to brand Grand Bahama Island as a maritime and technology hub, establishing it as a mecca for tourism in regards to sports, medical, cultural, heritage and Eco-tourism.
“Again we must be deliberate and intentional about the types of business we are going to support. Indeed we are excited about the range of things we are able to address.
“In certain instances, funding will be derived through equity investment and loans through the VCF, while others will come through loans from the Bahamas Development Bank, as well as by way of grants through the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Youth, Sports & Culture initiatives and through private venture capital lists, who will make those funds available, and those will be managed by the Chamber of Commerce,” Minister Pintard stated.