Freeport, Grand Bahama – 450 plus persons descended on the Bishop Michael Eldon School auditorium on Thursday, January 31, 2019 to learn more about how they could access services to start their businesses and to help them grow. A distinguished panel of guests presented those opportunities including The Hon. K. Peter Turnquest, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Chairman of the Access Accelerator, Geoff Andrews, Davinia Blair, Access Accelerator Executive Director, Ian Strachan, Vice President of University of the Bahamas Northern Campus, Greg LaRoda, President of the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce, Kevin Darling, Head of Royal Bank of Canada Caribbean , Michaela Cunningham, Chairman Bahamas Entrepreneurial Venture Fund and Dave Smith, Managing Director of the Bahamas Development Bank.
The Hon. K. Peter Turnquest, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance provided the keynote address to a crowd of people he knew well as a native of the island. The message of hope promises of prosperity and an economic turnaround for an island that has seen better days was well received. He noted that a culture of entrepreneurship has not always been encouraged in The Bahamas and that it is the hope of his government to change this through their partnership with the access accelerator.
He explained, “The SBDC is the centre stone of the Government’s campaign to stimulate Bahamian ownership, to invest in entrepreneurs and to provide micro, small and medium sized businesses the incentives and assistance needed to survive and thrive. This is a core part of our recipe to grow the economy and thereby create jobs and wealth.”
Understanding the weariness with which some new programs are received, The Deputy Prime Minister was also careful to explain that this program is very different from anything offered by previous governments.
“This programme is very unique because it takes entrepreneurs from inception to financing; and it provides mentorship and handholding even after new businesses have started operating. In the past, we’ve had programmes that provided entrepreneurship training, but access to capital for new businesses was nearly impossible to secure. There have been programmes that offered financing, but the mentorship was non-existent. The SBDC takes a holistic approach that considers the full range of needs that entrepreneurs have.”
To emphasize his point, he introduced the nation to five Grand Bahamians who have been recipients of SBDC training and advisory services in Grand Bahama since the Access Accelerator began its work nationally in September of 2018. These participants have advanced to the financing stage.
- Petula Henfield of Better Days Pizzeria owns a pizza and delivery company that has been operating since October 2017, servicing the Eight Mile Rock settlement of Grand Bahama.
- Nicole Johnson of Le Pavillion provides private internment and related services to the Grand Bahama community.
- Sherril Bethel of Lost at Sea Jewelry is a designer and manufacturer of unique sea glass jewelry.
- Moses Pitter of Radiant Technologies is a full-service solar energy product manufacturer, with a sales and repair business opening in Freeport, Grand Bahama.
- Kenroy Harris of Perfect Water Refill Depot Station established his company to produce fresh drinking water and ice for individual purchases as well as for businesses and households in West Grand Bahama.
Those individuals along with all future entrepreneurs who are successful in the program, will have access to Government Guaranteed Loans; Business Grants; and Equity Financing. In a special announcement the audience learned that it was all made possible by an unprecedented partnership between the SBDC, the Bahamas Development Bank, and The Bahamas Entrepreneurial Venture Fund (BEVF) and other financial partners.
Davinia Blair, Executive Director of the Access Accelerator Small Business Development Centre was pleased with the launch and noted the importance of the Access Accelerator to the Grand Bahama economy,
“When we began, we knew we wanted to transform the nation through small business. The nation includes our Family Islands. We are so serious about our impact in Grand Bahama that tonight we also announced our SDBC Director of the Northern Bahamas, Ms Yvette O’conno, a native of Grand Bahama. We trust that under guidance the program which has already graduated its first cohort for funding, will continue to thrive.”
The SBDC is the product of a tri-partite arrangement between the Government, through the Ministry of Finance, University of The Bahamas (UB) and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employer’s Confederation (BCCEC). The Centre will work to guide the development, funding, growth and evolution of Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (“MSMEs”) in The Bahamas.
Access Accelerator, Small Business Development Centre