The coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has upended normal life, but it has also unleashed the resilience and entrepreneurial spirit for which Jamaicans are known.
Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), Harold Davis, tells JIS News that the Companies Office of Jamaica (COJ) recorded its highest number of persons registering new businesses in 2020/21.
Entrepreneurs and investors registered 12,809 business names and 3,935 new companies, reflecting increases of 12 per cent and three per cent, respectively, over the previous period, and representing a record number of new business activity for Jamaica.
“So, it means that persons are seeing the opportunities, and persons are jumping into it, based on the opportunities that present themselves,” Mr. Davis says.
He tells JIS News that when the pandemic struck, there was a lot of anxiety and doubt as to whether it was a good time to be in business, but notes that the JBDC advocated, from the beginning, “to move from the panic, back to our passion for entrepreneurship”.
“The entrepreneurial spirit has not died at all; it has not waned. As a matter of fact, one would say that persons have stepped up the game as it relates to entrepreneurship, but just in a different way,” he points out.
Mr. Davis explains that while the pandemic has seen new business entrants, it has also provided opportunities for existing operators as they innovate and pivot to provide services in a different way.
“So, we have seen an increase in persons involved in tech-enabled businesses, we have seen an increase in the tech industry and, as a matter of fact, many of them have shown exponential growth in that period as well,” he says.
The increase in business activity was evident as this year’s Christmas in July trade show, where there were some 150 entrepreneurs, “with many of them [showcasing] brand-new products, many of them youth entrepreneurs,” Mr. Davis says.
“That is an increase from last year. Gift-giving is something that persons continue to do in the pandemic and that has shown [an] increase as well,” he notes.
Christmas in July is staged by the Ministry of Tourism through its Tourism Linkages Network, in partnership with the JBDC, Jamaica Promotions Corporation, Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA).
The Tourism Ministry reports that the annual Christmas in July has boosted the purchase of Jamaican-made items as corporate gifts, with local manufacturers and artisans earning more than $100 million from sales to the tourism industry and corporate Jamaica since its inception.
Meanwhile, Mr. Davis tells JIS News that the JBDC continues to introduce programmes to facilitate business development, citing the launch of the cultural and creative industry mapping project as among initiatives in this regard.
“That signals our passion and our drive towards creating and developing and furthering the development of the creative industries. A large portion of our clients are in the creative industries and it’s one of those industries that we believe will move this economy forward sustainably. So that is ongoing and we’re going to be diving deeper into that the latter part of this year into 2022,” he says.
He further points to a recently launched programme, supported by the International Labour Organization (ILO), which involves working with 100 farmers across the length and breadth of Jamaica.
“It’s about formalising their operations and moving them into sustainable and profitable business models. That one is called ‘Formalising Operators in the Jamaican Agriculture and Fisheries Sectors’,” he says.
In addition, Mr. Davis tells JIS News that very shortly, the JBDC will be launching its accelerator programme for 2021/2022.
“That is going to be very exciting and here we are going to be targeting high-growth entrepreneurs and moving them towards internationalisation and soliciting investment and things of that nature for them,” he says.
He notes that, recently, the JBDC launched a supporting cluster project sponsored by the European Union (EU) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), which enables a number of agro processors to enter the export market.
“Those are just a few of the initiatives that we have,” Mr. Davis says.
The JBDC is the Government’s business development agency that assists in the sustainable creation and development of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Jamaica.