by Suelin Low Chew Tung, NOW Grenada
- 113 participants attend inaugural 2-day Caribbean Entrepreneurship Summit
- 20% each from Creative Industries and Business Support Services
- Dr Didacus Jules, OECS Director General, featured speaker
113 participants, including a delegation from Dominica attended the inaugural Caribbean Entrepreneurship Summit on 6 and 7 December 2018. The summit was held at the Radisson Grenada Beach Resort and was open to early-growth stage entrepreneurs across the region. Sectors represented included:
- Creative Industries (Arts, Fashion, Design & Construction): 20%
- Business Support Services (Legal, Coaching, Accounting, etc.): 20%
- Food and Agriculture: 18%
- Education: 11%
- Tourism: 9%
- Advertising, Marketing and PR: 9%
- Wholesale and Retail Distribution: 4%
- Non-profit and Social Enterprises: 4%
The schedule for a packed Day 1 began with the Opening Ceremony and Networking Breakfast, followed by a Panel Discussion, Breakout Sessions, Masterclasses and Entrepreneur Exchanges. Day 2 involved Community Engagements, allowing participants to one-on-one engagements with consultants in their respective fields.
Presenters and panellists included Russel John, Archangel Investments; Trade Minister Oliver Joseph; US Chargé D’affaires Stephen Frahm; Health Minister Nickolas Steele; Javette Nixon, Chairman & CEO of Seaforth Holdings Limited (Jamaica); Orlando Romain, Hexive Creative Agency (Grenada); Kimron Corion, Co-Founder: IAMGrenadian.com (Grenada), Chok Ooi, CEO of Agility, Kenzie Academy and an angel investor, Teocah Dove, Youth Development Specialist & Social Entrepreneur (Trinidad) and Tyrone Buckmire, Director Legal Aid and Counseling Clinic (Grenada).
The conference was supported in part by the US Embassy. In his brief welcome to the summit participants, Frahm said, “as you learn how to build and open opportunity in Grenada and around the Caribbean, keep in mind the idea is not to make money but to create opportunity for everyone in the region.” He reiterated that the US are friends of the region who want good things for the region and who see this forum as an opportunity to share successes and challenges to be overcome.
Frahm spoke about a special loan programme through OPIC, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation which is the United States government’s development finance institution, where, among other initiatives, there are small loans geared to women-owned business, and the possibility of local banks offering these products.
Frahm also shared the story about his grandmother, a single mother of 3 who, after the war, when the economy of Germany was decimated, went out and found and filled a need. She became a perfectionist in ironing and created a small business which grew and created opportunities for his father and for him to be where he is today. He expressed that the entrepreneurial spirit of his grandmother would inspire the conference.
Dr Didacus Jules, Director General of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the featured speaker at the opening ceremony, spoke to entrepreneurship as a result of situating reality in our part of the world, peculiarities to the region, and new features to our time, ie climate change. He cautioned that entrepreneurship success is not instantaneous, but built on the bitter lessons of failure, and lessons learned from those failures.
Dr Jules defined entrepreneurship not as a magic bullet, but about seeing opportunities, creating value, shaping solutions and taking risks that can result in failure or success. He noted entrepreneurship as a culture in society requires a (regional and domestic) ecosystem for it to take root. “We cannot continue to assume that our problems can be solved by other persons… this attitude is bad for entrepreneurship,” he said.
Dr Jules said that we are in the age of the 4th revolution, a fusion of physical, digital and biological, and as such we need to reinvent how we work. He opined the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) represents the biggest technological threat to regional survival and the quest for jobs in the region and lamented the level of our politicians not maturing to the level of our complexities, and that we need to bring our national debates and discussions to a level that is not subject to partisan wrangling. He cited technology transforming agriculture in Israel, creating unit costs that are way beyond the Caribbean region’s capacity to meet, because we are still at “cutlass and hoe” technology.
He suggested a regional approach using the example of the OECS Pharmaceutical Procurement Scheme, the official institution that procures an 840-item product portfolio of pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical items on behalf of Member States, consistently achieving annual cost savings of approximately US$4 million. He offered the scheme as an excellent cost-benefit model of economic and functional cooperation between the OECS Member States leveraging their bargaining power to achieve economies of scale.
Dr Jules suggested the whole system of government has to change in tune to the changing complexion of the region’s demographics. He spoke to the ease of doing business, for locals, the systems must be conducive to local innovation and provide for the differently abled to be owners and managers of business, to move from abject dependence to independence.
Moody’s September report states the Caribbean has one of the highest net outward migration in the world, and the highest age dependency ratio between retirees and those who are working. Dr Jules noted if the system of doing business in the region does not change, and ageing population will be left to take care of itself, as the region’s best and brightest depart for greener pastures.
Coming out of the recent CSME discussion in Trinidad, Dr Jules said regional leaders are alive to the fact that regardless of national eccentricities, we cannot survive working separately, as opportunities to individual countries are being/have been reduced and unilateral prescriptions are forcing us out of niche opportunities. He noted Barbados Prime Minister Mottley’s comment on the region’s $40 billion in savings, money that could be used to bootstrap development. This sentiment was echoed by Trade Minister Oliver Joseph talked about a required change in attitude within the banking community to encourage entrepreneurship.
Dr Jules advised that the “problem is not money but imagination” and that we need to revitalise stock exchanges, create a society of shareholders, to look at our potential for possibilities instead of depending on foreign models. He suggested that entrepreneurs find a way to commercialise our Caribbeaness and engage in social entrepreneurship: find the best sustainable solutions to problems niggling in Caribbean society and in our communities.
Patria-Kaye Aarons, CEO of Jamaican candy company Sweetie suggested 2 things entrepreneurs need to throw away are (1) “copy-cat syndrome” which depletes the original entrepreneur’s income, and possibly reduces the quality of the product or service offered; and (2) “the competitor is your enemy” and begin engaging in complementary business vs competitive business because, the competitor is not (necessarily) your enemy, but may be more of a friend, especially for start-ups.
In sum, the panellists articulated sound advice based on their experiences and allowed the participants to engage with them and each other over a fruitful 2-day forum.
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