JIS News

Story Highlights

  • More than 15 young entrepreneurs of Hopewell and its environs in Hanover are now better equipped to expand and manage their businesses consequent on their participation in the Social Development Commission’s (SDC) recent ‘Night Fair’ exposition.
  • The hundreds of patrons who attended had the opportunity to view a wide range of products that were on display, many of which they purchased while making follow-up enquiries with the entrepreneurs regarding additional supplies.
  • Other business and night fairs are being planned for Westmoreland, Kingston, St. Thomas, Trelawny, St. Elizabeth and St. Ann.

More than 15 young entrepreneurs of Hopewell and its environs in Hanover are now better equipped to expand and manage their businesses consequent on their participation in the Social Development Commission’s (SDC) recent ‘Night Fair’ exposition.

The participants benefited from significant exposure provided by the event, which was held at Top Centre Plaza in Hopewell.

The hundreds of patrons who attended had the opportunity to view a wide range of products that were on display, many of which they purchased while making follow-up enquiries with the entrepreneurs regarding additional supplies.

Among the innovative displays were a pineapple pepper sauce manufactured by Western Spices, an SDC-supported group affiliated with the Mount Peto Community Development Committee in eastern Hanover. They also produced a liquid curry condiment as well as a sorrel and a ginger sauce.

Other displays included products from a honey-bottling operation in Sandy Bay; fashion jewellery, bag juices, and a hiking trail operator for the ecotourism market, among others.

The SDC’s Hanover Parish Manager, Mashario Bisasor, tells JIS News that the initiative, which is administered under the agency’s Local Economic Development Support Programme (LEDSP), targets support for persons involved in micro businesses at the community level.

This, he explains, is done by assisting them to expand their enterprise, thereby enabling them to employ or otherwise engage persons in the process.

The initiative currently caters to micro-business operators in more than 785 communities islandwide.

They include artisans; painters; craftsmen; handbag, handicraft and footwear makers; fruit, bag juice, tonic and pastry makers; chefs, seamstresses and tailors. Their products are deemed to be of a very high quality, with just a little guidance needed to push them along to greater achievements.

“People are really willing (to work). (Many of them) just need someone to believe in them and push them forward so they can get an extra sewing machine or something. It’s just the opportunity that they want,” Mr. Bisasor explains.

In this regard, he says the Hanover night fair fulfilled the SDC’s expectations, having engaged entrepreneurs and other stakeholders, both within and outside Hopewell in particular.

“We had the local economic stakeholders from across the parish come in to get the exposure. We had good support from the community, representatives from the political directorate on both sides, corporate support… just about everything that led to its successful staging,” the Parish Manager adds.

Mr. Bisasor points out that part of the strategy behind the fair’s success was linking the entrepreneurs with key government agencies that offer critical services for business operations.

The night fair is a direct spin-off from the day exposition normally staged by the SDC.

Mr. Bisasor says there was a noticeable decline in public attendance for the day fairs because persons were usually either at work or getting home late from work. Hence the strategy was adjusted and the night fairs introduced.

One strategy that was used to encourage the micro entrepreneurs to come out and display their products and services was a simple one-on-one talk with them, encouraging them to see it as an opportunity to showcase the goods they were producing.

“My thing is to tell them that they can’t just sit in their little corner and don’t go out there to find out what is going on. Sometimes people don’t want to go into a confined space, so we take it out to them in a free-flowing space where people are coming and going, so people can see what they’re doing,” Mr. Bisasor adds.

Executive Director of Sheryl’s Soft Furnishings and Designs, Sheryl Finnikin, who was among the entrepreneurs participating in the night fair, welcomes the initiative, which she says has provided an opportunity for her to expand her operations

“I used to do just sheets and cushions and things like those; but business is now growing and I’m getting quite a few orders. People took my cards, took information (at the fair) and said they would be getting in touch with me, I haven’t got any calls yet, but I’m still hoping,” she tells JIS News.

Another participant, Natola Campbell, from the district of Success in the parish, who operates a small handmade jewellery line called Itola’s Fashion Jewellery, also has high praise for the night fair.

“I think it’s a great effort by the SDC. It has given young people and even some older folks with a talent, an opportunity to put it out there to the public,” she states.

She pointed out that some entrepreneurs in her community who didn’t participate in the fair came as observers and were impressed, vowing never to let the next night fair pass them by.

Mr. Bisasor advises that any aspiring entrepreneur can go to an SDC office for assistance, knowing that the agency will take them as far as possible.

He explains, however, that they must be part of their community’s development process, as this is the only way the SDC can begin to engage them.

“Economic prosperity is what we are pushing. When they reach to a micro-business level, like a company, that’s where our involvement would stop and we’d move on to someone else who needs the help. It’s those persons in the communities that have started something that we want to ensure they expand and have a footing. As soon as they can soar, we let them go on their own,” he adds.

Other business and night fairs are being planned for Westmoreland, Kingston, St. Thomas, Trelawny, St. Elizabeth and St. Ann.