One month ahead of its scheduled opening, more than 600 entrepreneurs have registered with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), its Executive Director Davinia Blair revealed yesterday.
The creation of the SBDC, which launched its website last month, is the result of government’s promise to develop and provide direct financing to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Government has allocated $5 million of the 2018/2019 budget for the initiative.
“So basically, we have just over 600 registrants already. Just to go into the details, when I say registrants, we have a landing page and we are asking persons to go to that landing page and fill out a form indicating their interest for assistance in either starting a business or expanding a business,” Blair said in an interview with Guardian Business.
“Basically over 600 persons in the last two weeks have gone ahead and done that. That landing page also tells them all of the services they will have access to, including facilitating access to capital. We believe there’s overwhelming interest in the center and what we’re offering.”
After registering, budding entrepreneurs were invited to make appointments to be a part of a two-week business training course that is being scheduled in cohorts of 15. Blair said out of those 600 registrants, 50 percent of them have already received specific appointments.
“We’ve intentionally used a timestamp practice to make sure that as you request it, you are getting the first access to the appointments. So, there are some people right now with February appointments, that’s the level of demand that we have for startup sessions. And those who are looking to expansion I think they’re looking to November and December,” she said.
“Basically about 75 percent of all of the applicants are asking for assistance with startups and 25 percent are asking for assistance with an existing business. I think that’s amazing the way those numbers are panning out for us right now.”
Those business training sessions are already being scheduled for dates as far away as February 2019, Blair said.
“Imagine if we had to do all of those one on one, we’d be all the way back to summer. So I just had a meeting today with the dean of the business school to see if we can accelerate the training, so we may be able to open additional cohorts and reduce the time, so rather than being in February we can pull those meetings back to early December,” she said.
“So I’ll be able to release that in a couple of days once we get that nailed down.”
Blair said the 45 percent of registrants are between the ages of 18 and 25, and another 20 percent between the ages of 25 and 45. She added that 75 percent of them are female and 25 percent are male.
“In terms of the demographics, it’s amazing, basically you’re talking about young people who are reaching out,” she said.
“We don’t have the information by island unfortunately, but as we move forward and we begin to see the clients and we begin to do the training course we will be able to give additional data.”
The SBDC is a collaboration involving the Ministry of Finance, the University of The Bahamas and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation.