Representatives of the Access Accelerator, Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) gathered on Wednesday with members of the Women Investment Group (WIG) for a post-International Women’s Day panel discussion hosted in collaboration with the Embassy of the United States of America and the Inter-American Development Bank. The panel included: Davinia Blair, Executive Director of the SBDC; Melissa Darville, Co-owner of Shiver; Tyrina Neely, Advisor on the Board of Directors of the SBDC; and Tamarind Isaacs, Entrepreneur and Advisor for the SBDC and was moderated by Anastarcia Palacious, Associate Director of Advancement for the SBDC. The group of women shared experiences about being women entrepreneurs in micro, small and medium-sized businesses and how the SBDC is helping to transform entrepreneurship in The Bahamas.
Speaking on the progress of the SBDC, Blair said that it is essential to talk about progression through milestones whether they be from the client, the centre or the advisors. “The advisors, myself and some of the admin team are in a chat group, and on a daily basis we will have an advisor say, my client just received a better deal on his lease, my client just got exclusive rights for a sale or some other milestone, and everyone is ecstatic,” said Blair. The executive director of the SBDC also noted the increased reach of the SBDC beyond New Providence with training sessions now happening on Eleuthera, Long Island, Abaco, Exuma, and Grand Bahama. “For us the fact that we have a constant stream of persons on the Family Islands getting just as much attention as those on the capital we are excited about that.”
According to Blair, the milestones in advising are relevant every time a client walks through the door, and their business plans can walk out of the door with them. Darville, whose frozen dessert company is one of the first to reach the grant funding stage of the SBDC process, recognises the pressure that comes with being one of the first companies to reach this point in the SBDC process. “We are very excited, and we also feel a lot of pressure because we understand that being one of the first companies going through (the process), it is imperative that we are successful because that will pave the way for all of the other entrepreneurs coming behind us. Everyone else can see that this process is working because it has worked for us.”, said Darville. “Once we got into the doors (of the SBDC) and started working with Mr Rolle (Winston Rolle, advisor) and Davinia, they were able to show us where our weaknesses were. We thought we had a great business plan, but our financials were not up to par, and we didn’t know that until we came into the centre and go the help, we didn’t even know we needed.”
With the assistance of the SBDC, Darville and her business partner, Mr Percentie were able to improve their business plan and enhance their business overall. “Sometimes you think you are doing your best because that’s all you know how to do. We didn’t come from financial backgrounds, (my partner) is an engineer, and I was a teacher so, we didn’t know what we didn’t know.”, said Darville. “They were able to show us, ‘this is missing from here,’ ‘you need to work on this,’ ‘do you keep every receipt?’. That showed us where our weaknesses were and were open to it because we knew from this we would grow.” Before the panel presentation, representatives of the IDB also shared on funding opportunities for entrepreneurs through the IDB and provided information on where relevant research data about The Bahamas might be found for those seeking to expand their businesses. Lindsey Plumley, Political Officer, Embassy of the United States of America also brought remarks. President of WIG Santina McKinney was extremely pleased with the event noting “we have so many plans to expand the work of the Women’s Investment Group, and with the knowledge and insight the SBDC provides, we trust that we will continue to grow.” Proud of the milestones that the SBDC has achieved so far, Blair said that the SBDC is continuing to push forward.