For small business owners, who access Government loans through the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), the money they receive is only a small part of the benefits of the scheme.
Managing Director of Irie Fi Real, Josette Richardson, can attest to getting more than just funding from the Corporation.
She tells JIS News that the process of accessing her $100,000 loan from the JBDC, laid a solid foundation for her business.
Miss Richardson runs a company from her home in Angels Grove, St. Catherine, which produces bags with distinctly Jamaican characteristics. Among her selection are totes, messenger bags, drawstring bags, mini-backpacks and satchels.
She started her company in March 2008 and was a supplier to several shops, including the JBDC’s Things Jamaican shop. Recognising the need to increase production, Miss Richardson decided to buy an industrial sewing machine. She jumped at the chance to access a loan through the JBDC, after she was told about it by employees at the Corporation.
Some of the bags made by Jamaican company, Irie Fi Real. The small business specialises in bags reflecting Jamaican culture.
Miss Richardson was surprised to find that at the end of the process, she left with more than the $100,000. “I got more than the money to do the business,” she says. The JBDC allowed her to transform her business from a loss-making entity to a profitable one.
“At first when I started doing the business, I was just making the stuff and selling them. But they take you through the steps; teach you how to price your stuff and what to look for in the business. They don’t just give you the loan and leave you like that. They really prepare you and that is really good. Government is doing a good job where that is concerned,” she tells JIS News.
The staff from the JBDC also helped her to get her business registered and taught her how to work out her production costs, how to do a cash flow statement and make sales projections. She says the JBDC helped her to identify weak areas in her business and develop contingency plans for any eventuality.
For owner of Frazer’s Ceramics, Headley Frazer, the training had already been covered. He has been in business since 1984 and has attended several JBDC workshops. Therefore, he was many steps ahead of the game.
He operates from premises on Hill Avenue, in St Andrew, and his ceramic pieces can be seen in many hotels and airport gift shops as well as in pharmacies and other stores across the island.
Owner of Frazer’s Ceramics, Headley Frazer (right), holds up one of his pieces for inspection by his customer, Ellen Thompson.
He says his customer base is very wide and is ever expanding, hence his need three months ago to boost production.
Mr. Frazer tells JIS News that after hearing about the small business loan being offered by the Government through the JBDC, he decided that it would be the perfect avenue through which to get the $500,000 he needed to buy a new electric kiln.
“They have a good loan package, very good interest rates…and you don’t have to have a lot of assets. You just want to have a good project and a good plan and it’s feasible and they will assist you,” he notes, explaining why he chose the JBDC above other lending institutions.
Mr. Frazer says that the JBDC loan is one of the easiest and most hassle-free loans available. “I tried to get loans at other companies and the time was so short and the amount you had to pay and the amount of paperwork, it could not work. I did not get through. I tried over and over and did not get through,” he says.
Owner of Frazer’s Ceramics, Headley Frazer, places a newly made vase into one of the kilns.
It is a similar sentiment expressed by Miss Richardson, who explains that the Government loan was unlike any other she has ever accessed, as never before had she been exposed to the level of training provided by the JBDC.
“You don’t just get some money and do some business with it.you learn how to manage the money. That is the key; to manage it,” she tells JIS News.
A requirement for getting the loan through the JBDC is that the business is registered and has a valid Taxpayer Registration Number (TRN). Where some might see this as a deterrent to applying for the loan, Miss Richardson has seen the benefits.
“They shy away from the whole tax thing, that they have to give to the Government, but you have to look on the good side of it,” she says. Among the benefits she named are tax waivers on equipment bought for the business, where the business is tax compliant.
Irie Fi Real and Frazer’s Ceramics have both recorded marked growth since receiving the much needed injection of capital from the JBDC. Both companies have seen an increase in production and are now able to hire more persons.
Frazer’s Ceramics employs about 13 persons, some part-time, who help with various areas of production. “Some of them I train and some of them are from different companies that closed down,” Mr. Frazer says. For him, one of the greatest benefits of being a business owner is being able to create jobs for himself and others.
Whereas Irie Fi Real used to be a ‘one woman show’, Miss Richardson says she is now able to employ persons from her community on a part-time basis.
For Miss Richardson, the JBDC has become like a family and is a lifeline for her business. She relates that she also reached out to the JBDC when she needed help understanding the tax system.
“They sit me around a table and they helped me; they really helped me,” she says, adding that “you don’t have to feel ashamed, they are down-to-earth people. They don’t make you feel like an outsider, you feel like a family when you go there.”
Mr. Frazer also tells JIS News that the JBDC is a good place for budding entrepreneurs to seek assistance in getting their businesses off the ground. “It’s not just the loan; if you do have a problem they can train you. If they realise you are not qualified to get the loan, they will assist you to come up to par to get the loan,” he notes.