The Grand Bahama Port Authority Limited (GBPA) in conjunction with Mercy Corps launched the second cohort of the RISE Grant Application Assistance Programme on Monday, January 6, at the Pelican Bay Resort.
GBPA Vice President Henry St. George shared details on the new initiative during an interview with this daily.
St. George stated that the programme was a joint effort between the GBPA and Mercy Corps, which is a leading global humanitarian organization that assisted the island in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.
The Category 5 storm struck Grand Bahama on September 1, 2019, after devastating the neighbouring island of Abaco. Its powerful floods caused mass destruction in residential and business areas throughout the island.
“We signed an MOU at the end of 2019 to partner with Mercy Corps and provide funds to micro and small businesses across Grand Bahama, as well as pooling our resources to be able to do that,” St. George said.
He furthered that in addition to the provision of grant funding to the micro and small businesses, the programme would also provide training and mentorship to participating entrepreneurs and business owners.
“It goes beyond a handout; this is a hand up for the entrepreneurs in Grand Bahama,” he said.
St. George added that the GBPA believes the programme is beneficial to the island, because it is a huge opportunity for the success of local entrepreneurs. “We’re very proud of the partnership with Mercy Corps.”
St. George said that the programme aims to assist various businesses with up to $10,000 for each one.
“In the initial phase we are seeking to help 100 businesses and then we will look to build on the success of that programme and continue to help the business community,” he said.
St. George finally took the opportunity to encourage people to visit risegbpa.com or visit the GBPA headquarters to get an application. He also invited potential applicants to use the GBPA’s team as a resource and to share information of the programme with others.
Mercy Corps Programme Advisor Kelsey Lundgren noted that the organization was very excited to partner with the GBPA for this initiative, as it would present more opportunities to small, micro and medium sized local businesses.
“This would enable those businesses to restart after being impacted by Hurricane Dorian,” said Lundgren, adding that the programme was specifically targeted to businesses that were affected by Hurricane Dorian.
Lundgren also echoed St. George’s sentiments on the significance of the programme, as it provides more than just funding.
“Our programme is not just handing out cash to people; anybody can really do that, but we’re trying to invest in businesses in a different way, with a more sustainable model,” she explained.
She added that the training would increase business owners’ understanding of how to operate a business and how rebuild a business, better than before.
“We know that hurricanes will probably continue to hit the island, so we want people to be able to be more resilient so that the next time this happens their business isn’t completely swept away,” she said.
Lundgren revealed that in addition to this aspect, Mercy Corps is providing a micro mentor component that would link business owners on Grand Bahama with other entrepreneurs and give them guided mentorship, specific to their needs which is all provided online.
She furthered that participants who do not receive the cash grant would still be able to utilize micro mentor component.
“You will be able to use that even if you don’t receive a cash grant,” she reiterated.
Lundgren informed that Mercy Corps is also conducting other efforts in and around Grand Bahama with its ‘Wash’ initiative.
“That’s basically supplying potable water to people who don’t have access to water,” she said.
GBPA Senior Manager of Business Development Derek Newbold, stated that the GBPA is encouraging persons in Grand Bahama to take advantage of the programme. He summarized the criteria for businesses that would be participating in it. “The programme is targeting businesses that focus on various types of services, including on professional services, tourism, transportation, hospitality, farming, fisheries, retail, leisure activities, technology and eco-friendly based businesses.
“The programme is also geared towards businesses that have insufficient insurance coverage; you’re not disqualified for having insurance,” he added. Newbold applauded the participants, noting, “Your efforts are extremely important to the success of this island.”