Government’s election promise to assist hundreds of fledging business owners with trust loans, has resulted in success for some, but has also highlighted the tremendous difficulties faced by others struggling to make a profit in tough economic times.
Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Dwight Sutherland revealed that government has so far disbursed $1.6 million to almost 400 small business owners across the country, since the end of October when the program was launched.
While visiting five of the successful recipients on Tuesday, Minister Sutherland said another 800 applicants had not yet received money from the fund, but promised that the initiative was far from finished.
“Annually we will be putting in $10 million so we know we are nowhere close to our threshold as yet, but we are getting there. It was a successful launch,” said Sutherland, who added that Tuesday’s visit was intended to send a strong signal to the country’s entrepreneurs.
“This government is indeed very serious about building out the capacity and the role they play in terms of adding to our Gross Domestic Product… and also to make sure that we don’t only provide the seed capital, but that we put the necessary infrastructure in place to make these businesses successful,” he said.
David Harewood, a vendor at the Constitution River Terminal and owner of Liz Catering has been lauded as a success story, after he managed to fully repay the $5000 trust loan given to him last November, while turning a profit.
With the money, Harewood invested in a new, health food product and invested the remainder in his pastries.
While showering praise on government for its new program, he encouraged “serious” entrepreneurs to get involved.
“You have to be serious about what you are doing,” said the longtime vendor.
Harewood said he was finalizing plans to get another $5000 trust loan from government to assist in the further expansion of his business.
“I plan to get a little warehouse and do the same thing, but my products will be different, my products will be way different,” said the determined businessman.
At Victoria Street in the heart of Bridgetown, Naquita Alexander, owner of clothing store La Flam’s, revealed that she was very impressed with the simple process for acquiring the trust loan.
She said the loan came in the nick of time and she was able to acquire new stock for the Hennessy Artistry show. Since then however, she said business had been extremely slow, while adding that much of the stock, which was bought with the money from the loan, is yet to be sold off.
Naquita further stressed that journey as a small business owner has not been easy and often required tremendous sacrifice.
“Coming to work from nine to five and getting no sales. That was really hard, especially when you have to pay the bills at the end of the month and everything keeps piling up because you’re trying to hold on to the business. I’ve been doing this for 11 years,” she said, while adding that, “going to work for someone else would not be an option, because you create debt when you have a business and the pay [as an employee] would not be substantial to pay off your debt.”
Minister Sutherland added that in addition to seed capital, many entrepreneurs needed training on how to get the most out of their investments.
He added that the much-needed assistance would come from the Financial Literacy Bureau as soon as Friday in the form of a workshop.
“It’s not just financial training but also marketing and customer service. We find one of the challenges in this country relates to customer service and we believe if you get repeat customers, it augurs well for your business.”
The minister added that the majority of applications for trust loans were coming from stakeholders in services, apparel, agriculture and sporting sectors, but called on members of other key industries to come forward as well.
“We would like to see those people in the renewable energy sector and the creative economy. Those are the ones that we will be pushing to come on board, because we need to build out the cultural industries as well,” he said.