Business, Features, Strictly Business

Small Business Can Pay Big

Stan Bishop
Stan Bishop

ARE you ready to get down to some serious business?

Tired of being unemployed or need to supplement your income by capitalizing on alternative forms of income generation?

If yes, you’re no different from many other Saint Lucians now facing that fate.

With many facing the financial pinch these days, some have little or no choice but to give in to their innate ingenuity. Opening a small business to provide goods and services to a needy market seems the in-thing these days, if only for the sake of staying financially afloat. What’s one to do with the island’s unemployment rate hovering around 25%, anyway?

Over the past year, this “Strictly Business” column has featured ordinary Saint Lucians doing remarkable things that often leave us stumped. Many of them, it seems, are finally at peace doing the things they think they were born to do. As they tell it, anyone can be successful if only the right mix of business principles is employed.

Remember Cherisa Samuels who, rather than giving in to boredom when she quit her job to spend more time at home with her young daughter, woke up from a dream in the wee hours of the morning just over a year ago and sketched a trendy shoulder bag? Within months, Samuels was creating quite an impression with the trendy bags from her RissaEclecktic Couture collection after spending a few dollars on a sewing machine and some fabric. Presently, Samuels is putting creative pieces together as she prepares for a major fashion show to be held in Barbados in November.

Cherisa Samuels at a recent exhibition at Bay Gardens Hotel. [Photo: Stan Bishop]
Cherisa Samuels at an exhibition at Bay Gardens Hotel. [Photo: Stan Bishop]
Have we already forgotten Rick Barnard’s determined entrepreneurial spirit, going walking from door to door twelve years ago with a few novelty bathroom items such as soaps and soap dispensers in a bag in the hope of getting a sale? Today, Barnard owns and operates RJB Hotel Supplies, a major retailer of household appliances and food and beverage products. His company picked up an award for “Most Outstanding Service Provider of the Year” at the St. Lucia Industrial and Small Business Association (SLISBA) Awards held last month.

With September having been designated “Business Month” by the Ministry of Commerce, Business Development, Investment and Consumer Affairs, many people – especially the unemployed – might want to profit the opportunity to set up their own small businesses. The theme for “Business Month” is “Economic Growth through Business Support – with a focus on Youth and Women”.

Among the core aims of Business Month are:
• Creating awareness of the functions of the Ministry of Commerce and its affiliate agencies;
• Celebrating the achievements of women and youth in the business community;
• Generating discussion on entrepreneurship in Saint Lucia;
• Showcasing achievements of affiliate agencies and their plans to foster business development; and
• Disambiguating the support path of business development from start-up to export.

At its core, the ministry seeks to work integrally with a number of affiliate agencies and business support organizations to provide a full spectrum of support services. Trade fairs, creative workshops and assistance with setting up a business plan are just some of ways small businesses can benefit from such a source.

Small-Business-Can-Pay-Big

The St. Lucia Industrial and Small Business Association is another organization that offers tremendous support to micro-, small- and medium-sized Saint Lucian businesses. The not-for-profit entity provides relevant continuous training, advocacy, marketing and advisory services to its membership. Such services apply to both existing and new small businesses.

SLISBA’s approach is simple: the development of programmes to address the specific needs within the small businesses sector, such as marketing, business planning, export assistance, youth enterprise resources and women in business.

According to SLISBA, 80% of Saint Lucia’s private sector is comprised of the small, medium and micro enterprise (SMME) sector which provides employment, social stability and contributes significantly to the gross domestic and national products.

The SLISBA Awards honours companies and individuals who have transferred a wide variety of resources that have created jobs, generated wealth and contributed to the economic and social well-being of Saint Lucian at home while cultivating new markets both locally and abroad.

SLISBA’s president, Flavia Cherry, advises small business owners to remain up-to-date with market trends, including taking advantage of social media as a means of networking. She also urges them to continuously strive to provide a higher level of customer service.

Flavia Cherry
Flavia Cherry

“They need to constantly upgrade their level of service in order to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive marketplace,” Cherry said. “They also need to make wise economic decisions so that they can reap fruitful results.”

So there you have it. Two organizations – one public, one private – that can assist in either getting you started or bettering your already good business standing in the local private sector.

The late American businessman, Steve Jobs, who served as co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer of multinational technology company, Apple Inc, is credited with the following aphorism: “I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”

Sir William Arthur Lewis, Saint Lucia’s first Nobel-Prize winner, is credited with the timeless reminder that success is not all about money: “The fundamental cure for poverty is not money, but education.” In fact, one of Sir Arthur’s economic models has worked wonders for Singapore – a true testament of the late economist’s genius.

The question remains: Are you ready to get down to some serious business?

Stan Bishop began his career in journalism in March 2008 writing freelance for The VOICE newspaper for six weeks before being hired as a part-time journalist there when one of the company’s journalists was overseas on assignment.

Although he was initially told that the job would last only two weeks, he was able to demonstrate such high quality work that the company offered him a permanent job before that fortnight was over. Read full bio...

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