This was the consensus of panelists, speakers, and guests at the recently held Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development Workshop at the Spanish Court Hotel on Wednesday, June 22, 2016. The workshop, organized by Accelerate Caribbean as part of the Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC), brought together over 80 entrepreneurship stakeholders to develop a 12-month growth plan for the sector.
In his opening remarks, the Hon. Karl Samuda, Commerce Minister, noted that 95% of the workforce is engaged in small business. He added that 80% of micro and small business fail, often as a result of inadequate training. To address this failure rate, the minister called for the introduction of a "Canadian Model," 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 practical experience and hands-on exposure," Samuda said. "That is worth more than cash.”
Echoing the minster’s sentiments, Sandra Glasgow, a business mentor and entrepreneur, noted that access to funding was not the most important issue facing entrepreneurs.
“Access to finance is not just about the lending institutions making it easier to borrow," she said. "There are [funding] sources such as crowdfunding, grants, stock exchange, venture capital, private equity, and seed funding through angel investments. We are not short on people willing to invest in good businesses. The real issue is that there is need for more coaching and training of entrepreneurs to help them make their businesses investor-ready.”
Workshop participants were also inspired by the story of Canada told by Valerie Fox, co-founder of the top-ranked university business incubator in North America, the DMZ at Ryerson University. Fox shared her experience building an entrepreneurship ecosystem using the DMZ where students with good business ideas were supported by an enabling environment and now have thriving multi-million dollar businesses.
The ecosystem workshop was followed by two days of training in Business Incubation Management (BIM) on Thursday, June 23, and Friday, June 24, at Start-Up Jamaica. The training saw over 30 trainees receiving training and certification in implementing mentoring programs and facilitating financing deals for incubator clients. The training is designed by InfoDev to strengthen emerging entrepreneurship ecosystems across the world.
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