Through the work of the Access Accelerator Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) the second private school on the island of Exuma has successfully accessed $163,000 in investment funding. Exuma Christian Academy (ECA) was founded in 2018 by Keniqua Burrows to expand educational opportunities on the island of Exuma. The school that educates from pre-kindergarten levels up to grade 12, received $100,000 from the Bahamas Venture Fund, $30,000 in equity investment, $15,000 from the Bahamas Development Fund and $18,000 from the SBDC grant, making it the largest investment in the Family Islands through the SBDC to-date. Burrows said that the idea for the school came to her three years ago. “The vision of Exuma Christian Academy came to me in a dream about three years ago. God showed me a vision of a different kind of school on the island,” said Burrows. “A school that was fun and stimulating and at the same time challenging, one that was willing to be as flexible as it takes to ensure children enjoy learning.
The kind of school that children don’t feel like it is a chore to go to, that they enjoy and teaches them to be empowered, to be creative and try new things.” Closed doors lead to Burrows turning to the SBDC for assistance. “I was thrust into the SBDC after looking for funding. I had approached several financial institutions, investment firms and small business persons. However, I discovered that there was not a whole lot of support for small businesses on the island,” said Burrows. “Particularly for schools, I got a lot of closed doors when it came to finding financing. It was through a recommendation from a businessman on Exuma that I did my research on the SBDC. He thought it would be a good option for the school. If it had not been for the closed doors, I probably never would have stumbled upon the SBDC.” Now, having successfully accessed investment capital Burrows described it as a blessing and something that she does not take lightly as a woman operating a business. “It’s a blessing, that’s the best way I can put it, it’s a blessing,” said Burrows. “Especially as a young woman, it is very difficult for persons to take you seriously in business. So, it is a blessing. It’s breath-taking, refreshing. It is a relief. Most of all, I think it’s encouraging and inspiring. I know that many persons will be looking at it and they will feel like, if you can do this, I can do this as well.
Executive Director of the SBDC Davinia Blair echoed Burrows sentiments, she was particularly happy that a Family Island small business has been given such a wonderful opportunity. “ECA marks the first major investment to a business outside of New Providence and Grand Bahama,” said Blair. “For us, that is a big accomplishment because we don’t want the SBDC to be thought of as a programme for entrepreneurs who live in Nassau. The SBDC is for all Bahamians from the capital to each of the family islands. As we continue to set up classes on more islands, we are also utilizing technology to ensure that entrepreneurs are connected and receiving the full experience of the SBDC.” Blair was also particularly pleased that the access to funding ECA received will be an investment into improving The Bahamas’ human capital. “This financing is a double investment. The funding will go far in growing the school but also, the knowledge, skills and experiences of Bahamians who will impact the country’s future,” said Blair. “If Bahamians are going to own more opportunities, they have to be educated, and this is a direct investment into the human capital of The Bahamas.” Kendyce Ferguson, SBDC’s advisor to ECA, described the academy as revolutionary and expressed happiness to be a part of their growth.
“What Exuma Christian Academy is trying to accomplish is revolutionary. They want to change the way education is provided to students on the islands,” said Ferguson. “Sometimes the islands get a little neglected, and on Exuma, there is only one other private school option. We know that government schools face many challenges so, there needs to be somebody to bridge the gap, and that is what the
ECA is trying to accomplish. I’m just happy to be a part of the transformation of education on the island of Exuma.” The SBDC is the product of a tripartite 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.