The Social Development Commission (SDC), through its Local Economic Development Support Programme (LEDSP) is promoting sustainable economic development through the growth of community microenterprises.
The programme builds on a range of existing micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) support programmes being undertaken by the Government to spur economic growth at the community level.
It provides assistance in the areas of capacity building, through the staging of workshops and seminars to help community entrepreneurs develop business plans and manage their enterprises effectively; and networking and creating partnerships through business promotion opportunities via expositions and other community economic activities.
Community enterprises also benefit from direct support through project proposal writing, business model and business plan development, and monitoring and evaluation; and there is an incentive scheme that recognises and rewards community groups that are involved in viable projects.
Director of Local Economic Development and Community Projects at the SDC, Avril Ranger, tells JIS News that the programme is geared towards identifying persons in communities with talents and turning those talents into a business.
“We want persons to become their own employers, not just sit at home doing nothing but to use their talents and transforming that into local businesses. We also work with community groups, your Community Development Committees (CDCs) to take advantage of this programme, because when (the LEDSP) was designed it was for us to have viable economic enterprises working within our CDCs,” she notes.
Ms. Ranger says that the programme offers a range of support services to potential entrepreneurs, taking them step by step from concept to the finished product.
“We work with you to do your business models, your business plans and to get registered. In all of that, a lot of capacity building is taking place. So we will have workshops on how to sell, how to negotiate, deportment, how to write your own business plan, how to update your own business plan, how to write your own business model and how to update your own business model,” she informs.
Ms. Ranger tells JIS News that the first step in the programme is undertaking an assessment to find out more about the business idea and how much support is needed.
“We have [stages] that we take our local initiatives through, so it’s from the concept of an idea to formal matriculation. Along the way they are assessed,” the Director says.
Entities are invited to fill out a questionnaire and they receive assistance in crafting a unique support plan that meets their individual needs. “It is how we are going to take you all the way up to matriculation. It identifies your gaps… if you need to be taught packaging, good manufacturing practices, everything,” Ms. Ranger outlines.
The SDC partners with other state agencies to offer support to programme participants.
“For example, we work a lot with the HEART/NSTA Trust, we work a lot with the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), depending on the level at which the local economic initiative is,” Ms. Ranger notes.
She tells JIS News that the LEDSP is working with 422 community enterprises, with the majority, more than 60 per cent, involved in agro processing.
“So you’re talking about your natural jams, natural seasonings, from Jamaica-grown herbs and spices, natural juices and so forth,” she notes.
A major component of the programme is the business fairs being held across the island, geared at exposing the entrepreneurs to potential clients. It also provides a platform for business owners to learn how to interact with customers.
“We would have the best booth competition so the SDC provides the basic items like the tent, table and two chairs and table cloth, and we will see how you transform that to attract your patrons to your booth and how you express yourself,” Ms. Ranger said.
“That has worked wonders because persons recognised that they need to be uniform. We also help you to get your business cards. Every year we provide you with a set of business cards and when that runs out you would have to buy more for the rest of the year,” she notes.
Meanwhile, Ms. Ranger says the SDC offers grants to community groups, including the local economic development grant.
“We have criteria and once you meet the criteria, you stand the chance of being approved by a selection committee for $150,000. So its money to buy machinery, to get your labels, to get registered, to expand your business [and so forth],” she tells JIS News.
For more information on the programme, persons may call the SDC at (876) 928-8304 or visit the website at sdc.gov.jm.