Royal Caribbean International executives recently visited the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) in Nassau, Bahamas, reviewing progress on its nearly half million-dollar investment and re-affirming its commitment to support local businesses in the destinations it visits.
Among those meeting with SBDC representatives were Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley, Vice President Government Affairs, Americas, Russell Benford, Vice President Destination Development Joshua Carroll and Destination Business Development Crystal Campbell.
“We continuously survey our guests and the one thing that is clear is that our guests want authentic experiences,” said Bayley. “They want to meet locals, taste local food, buy local products, experience local culture, and as a cruise line, we want to empower and support local entrepreneurs in the destinations we visit.”
This is especially important in The Bahamas, a partner destination for over 50 years, and one of the cruise line’s top destinations with nearly two million guests cruising this year, he noted.
Local entrepreneurs, like Cherelle Cartwright, have taken their dreams to reality as a result of support through SBDC and Royal Caribbean.
Cartwright won a pepper sauce competition held aboard one of the cruise line’s ships and has been working through the SBDC with a mentor developing a business plan with financing to produce enough of the culinary treat to sell on Perfect Day at Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean International’s private island destination. One day she hopes she will be able to gear up production to supply pepper sauce to serve on the ships and to stock in the retail stores onboard.
“It’s a dream coming true every day as we get closer and closer to production and distribution,” says Cartwright. “I still can’t believe it.” Her dream does not stop with her Mama Sassy’s pepper sauce – she’s looking at a TV cook-off series and the possibility of holding such an event onboard.
SBDC Interim Executive Director Samantha L. Rolle said Royal Caribbean International’s grant program paved the way for nearly $100,000 in funding for small businesses while the Kickstarter program is facilitating some 100 entrepreneurs who will undergo an 8-week boot camp series to prepare for success. Many of the participants are in Grand Bahama or Abaco where government is matching Royal Caribbean’s funding for those recovering from Hurricane Dorian or pandemic-related shutdowns. All are in tourism enterprises or tours.
“We want our participants to think of opportunities that lie ahead, a career path, the market dynamics, financial literacy, legal and government procedures and best business practices,” said Rolle. “They come in with a dream and we want them to leave with working knowledge and a plan.”