Accelerate Caribbean, the regional entrepreneurship development programme of infodev (The World Bank group) launched its second regional Business Incubation Management (BIM) Training and Entrepreneurial Development Workshop at The Royal by Rex Resorts in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia on Wednesday.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, St. Lucia’s Commerce Minister, Hon. Emma Hippolyte, described the Accelerate Caribbean Project as timely and necessary for the island’s emerging economy, especially the small business sector.
She called for a significant ‘culture change’ from competition based entrepreneurship to collaboration based entrepreneurship, so that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) on the island and the region can strengthen their capacity, access capital and business opportunities. Noting that “the small business of today is the mega company of tomorrow” she identified the J.Q. Charles Group, Bay Gardens Resorts and the CIE Group of Companies as exemplifying this ideal.
Underscoring the importance of government support for the growth of the business sector, Minister Hippolyte said the time has come for us to move away from the myth of the “self-made entrepreneur.” She cited the need for policy and legislative reform and the nurturing of an entrepreneurial culture among our youth. She also called for the elimination of silos and the need to create greater synergies among public sector agencies in particular.
The Minister’s impassioned message resonated with the diverse audience of business enablers, government officials, representatives of business support organizations, and entrepreneurs – some of whom travelled to St. Lucia for the event. The 3-day exercise brings together participants from Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, Dominica and host country St. Lucia.
Steven Koltai, Lead Mentor for the Accelerate Caribbean Project, echoed the Minister’s sentiments. He told the gathering: “There is no single thing you can do to spur entrepreneurship. All activities must be woven together to create programmes that move the needle in bolstering the entrepreneurship ecosystem.” Koltai went on to clarify that this often doesn’t mean more funding, but rather, deliberate planning and greater coordination to grow start-ups. He noted that most entrepreneurs are self-funding and the traditional banking system is not designed, nor inclined to provide funding to start-ups.
Noting that Entrepreneurship is not viewed favourably – especially in developing countries – Koltai said it is imperative that successful entrepreneurs tell their stories, in order to inspire others to explore their own business ideas and pursue their dreams.