The Access Accelerator Small Business Development Centre has kicked off its Family Island rollout on Exuma, meeting with the Exuma Chamber of Commerce and holding a town hall meeting in Georgetown, where dozens of excited entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs gathered to hear about the new entity and to sign up.
Access Accelerator Executive Director Davinia Blair was a featured speaker at the Exuma Business Outlook as well. She spoke to the crowd about what the data said about Exuma’s Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs).
One attendee at the town hall meeting was enthusiastic about the advent of the Access Accelerator, though she lamented that such an entity took so long to come to life.
“If this had been around when I was first starting out, I’d be a millionaire,” she said.
Another attendee summed up the need for the Access Accelerator when she described her frustrations trying to get her business idea off the ground.
She said, “I couldn’t find the right people to get into contact with.”
In addition to discussing the services the Access Accelerator will begin offering Exumians today (Tuesday), Ms. Blair acknowledged what some attendees said, that MSME development did not appear to have kept pace with the development of the island overall, even though by some measures, MSMEs in Exuma are outperforming the larger businesses.
Ms. Blair reiterated that the government has committed that 20 percent of its procurements would be reserved for MSMEs. She said in addition to that commitment, there must be a commitment to include local MSMEs in the supply chain for foreign direct investment (FDI) opportunities.
“Bahamian MSMEs – and for Exuma projects, Exuma MSMEs – must be at the table as heads of agreements are being negotiated,” Ms. Blair asserted.
Later in October, the Access Accelerator will be in Abaco, where the Access Accelerator team will meet with the Abaco Chamber and hold a town hall meeting to introduce the Access Accelerator and connect with the local entrepreneurial community.
In November, Blair is expected to speak at the Long Island Business Outlook, and other islands to which the Access Accelerator is bound before taking a break for the Christmas season include Andros and Eleuthera.
With the new name and branding, the Access Accelerator Small Business Development Centre has three critical new hires which highlight the tremendous momentum generated by the official launch on September 20, and carried into the first two weeks of operations, including the graduation of the first classes of entrepreneurs from the two-week introductory course, both in New Providence and Grand Bahama.
The SBDC is the product of a tri-partite 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 has a three-year mandate initially to guide the development, funding, growth and evolution of Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (“MSMEs”) in The Bahamas.
Executive Director Blair announced that the SBDC had hired a Senior Business Development Specialist, an Associate Director of Operations and had contracted someone to design and build the Access Accelerator website.
Mr. Nicholas Higgs is the Centre’s new Senior Business Development Specialist, tasked with providing business development advisory services to MSMEs and assisting the Executive Director with overall operation of the program.
Mr. Higgs is responsible for providing counseling on all aspects of small business operations including but not limited to management, financing, operations, marketing and personnel. He will have a special emphasis on capital advising for small businesses. In addition, Mr. Higgs will conduct client counseling, assist in the development and implementation of training events and workshops, promote Access Accelerator services, network with community organizations involved in small business and economic development, and assist in maintenance of data in the Access Accelerator Client Activity Training System (CATS).
“I view my role as one of the most important in fostering and growing startups, small and medium companies in the country. My role specifically is to assist companies with sharpening their financial swords to fulfill their goals of raising funds, expanding their companies or to simply become a more efficiently-run company,” said Mr. Higgs, who sees the Access Accelerator, and by extension himself, as something of a Jedi master for Bahamian startups.
Ms. Bianca Lee is the new Associate Director of Operations, tasked with oversight, supervision and administration of the SBDC’s business operations.
“I am very excited, because we will be able to focus on a section of the market that I believe has been untouched. Entrepreneurship is a big thing, especially among young people – even in passing you can hear people talking about their entrepreneurial dreams. Being able to provide support and guidance to those persons will be amazing, especially to assist that process from start to finish,” she said.
Meanwhile, the SBDC has selected Travis Miller of Thought & Method to develop the SBDC website, which is expected to be launched for public use in mid-December 2018.
Said Miller, “I’m excited about the SBDC because the initiative will allow entrepreneurs more opportunities to get their ideas out there and develop or refine their businesses and likely get access to funding to help make their dreams a reality. I believe what SBDC will provide will impact the landscape for entrepreneurs for years to come.”
The new hires come after the appointment of the SBDC Board of Directors, chaired by Geoffrey Andrews and Deputy Chair Dr. Olivia Saunders, two weeks ago. The new board includes Merrit Storr, Ellison Delva, Clifford Johnson, Hank Ferguson, Tyrina Neely, Gina McKenzie, Remelda Moxey, Kristie Powell, Christopher Sawyer and Pedro Rolle.