Althea West-Myers (third left) with business delegates to the workshop a Small Business Development Centre.
ST. EUSTATIUS–A Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) may become a reality if local business leaders have their way.
There is a network of more than 1,100 SBDCs in North America, and last week, Althea West-Myers from Jamaica led a workshop on St. Eustatius to convince the business community that the benefits of such a centre could be significant.
Attending the workshop were organisations such as St. Eustatius Business Association (STEBA), Government Licensing, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of St. Eustatius and Saba, and St. Eustatius Foundation (SEF).
West-Myers has promoted the development of a successful SBDC in Jamaica. “The mission of an SBDC is to promote growth, innovation, productivity and revenue for small businesses through improvements to their business,” she told the workshop. “By developing core business services such as training, advice and market research, we can produce an economic impact that creates new jobs, increases revenues, and promotes a country’s stability and growth.”
To most Statians, this power speak might seem remote from the daily task of economic and social survival, but there is method and money in this model. The method comes from a well-tried system of creating business counsellors to work with clients.
“It sounds like Big Brother, but in reality, it is far from it. People who start small businesses usually have a great passion for what they do. In fact, their passion can be so absorbing that they are unable to see the wider opportunities of increasing their market, or keeping an eye on the bookkeeping,” said West-Myers.
“It reminds me of a baker in my home town, who was so motivated to bake delicious loaves and cakes that she failed to notice her bakery folding up quicker than her dough. We all need advice and support. And with the advantages of the worldwide web and many other tools, there is always something we can do better to increase sales or find the start-up capital, for example,” she explained.
The money needed to set up an SBDC can come from various sources. The SBDC worldwide movement is a source of funding, but local and central government support is usually called upon to start the process. However, West-Myers is quick to make the point that such a centre should not be seen as yet another strain on government budgets.
“Experience proves that solid performance indicators when applied to SBDCs are justification enough for such a private-public partnership. Our model is also driven by academia. This partnership requires fixing the focus of all stakeholders as the country moves towards business success and solid economic growth,” West-Myers stated.
Nevertheless, workshop members rightly noted that the creation of such a dynamic working model on Statia would not happen overnight. “It will take some time to get all stakeholders on the same page and make the policy a success,” commented STEBA President Winston Fleming. “But we should start immediately and aim to have our own SBDC within 12 months.”
The workshop was organized by SEF, and supported by Diana Hendrickson-Fleming of the European Union’s programme for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises COSME.