JIS News

Small businesses are very important to any country’s social and economic progress, as they account for over 90 per cent of all industries globally and about 50 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) worldwide.
In Jamaica, an estimated 30 per cent of employment is generated by small and micro enterprises. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees are considered ‘small’, while those with less than 10 employees are labelled as ‘micro’. The Government as well as a network of governmental organizations have recognized the contribution of the small business sector to the country’s economic development and have undertaken initiatives, aimed at facilitating growth within the micro and small enterprises. One of the agencies at the forefront assisting small business operators in the country is the Jamaica Business Development Centre (JBDC), which falls under the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce.The JBDC, whose tagline is ‘How Can We Help You?’ does just that by providing clients with business and technical support services, such as guiding business start-ups, providing training, and offering consultancy advice for established businesses.
In an interview with JIS News, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the JBDC, Valerie Veira, says her organization is at the core of the network, stimulating and leading the process. “We see ourselves at the centre of the network, because our mandate is to lead the development of the Small and Micro Enterprise (SME) sector,” she informs.
The JBDC has partnered with several agencies internationally and locally to deliver its services, including the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA), the Jamaica Exporters’ Association (JEA), the Jamaica Employers’ Federation (JEF), the Small Business Association (SBA) in the United States and Chambers of Commerce islandwide.
“At the JBDC we deal with experts. Our staff is a technical one, because I would say at least 90 per cent are people who are technically trained, whether it’s financial, marketing, product development specialists, or engineers. We also pull on external resources if required, because we don’t have every single skill here. So, if it has to be external, we can bring it through a project,” Miss Veira adds. Also in place to assist with the development of small businesses is the Jamaica Business Information Centre (JAMBIC), spearheaded by the JBDC in partnership with the Chambers of Commerce. Miss Veira explains that under JAMBIC, there are centres that provide information and support to small businesses outside of Kingston.
“Under JAMBIC, you are really in our main office, because through technology, you can speak to our officers here, you can show your products and get advice off the (computer) screen,” she points out.JAMBIC facilities have been established at the JBDC’s head office in Kingston, the Hanover Chamber of Commerce, the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce, the Jamaica Employers’ Federation, ‘The Source’ in August Town and at the Vendors Arcade in Negril.
Miss Veira tells JIS News that the organization liaises with the Scientific Research Council (SRC) for product development; the Bureau of Standards Jamaica, “because nothing should be on the shelf if it’s not at the required standards,” and the Ministry of Health, for sanitation and food monitoring.
She says the JBDC is also working with the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) to educate persons on the registration process (for intellectual property), to demystify the process and “really to assist them by holding their hands through the process.” “We work closely with JIPO, because in the SME sector, there is an abundance of creativity, but it can be that (if) you lose the value, you lose the potential for earning, because people traditionally just ‘do a ting,’ they don’t realize that whatever they do is business. And so this registration of designs is very important, as this is where a lot of our people, small but large as well, have lost out on their intellectual property, because they didn’t bother to go through the process of registering,” she points out.
Miss Veira says the association in America has provided a document which outlines their policy for small business development, and that a hybrid version will be developed to suit the local situation.
The JBDC has under its wings the ‘Things Jamaican’ shops, a franchise chain where manufacturers’ products are put on display for sale. There are shops at the Donald Sangster and Norman Manley international airports in Montego Bay and Kingston, respectively, the Marina in Port Antonio, Devon House in Kingston and one at the JBDC’s office in Kingston. “This is a whole group that we’re constantly working with to improve,” she notes.
The company also has to its credit, the Building Youth for National Development (BEYND) programme, which focuses on young people between 17 and 40 years of age. “We have two aspects to the programme. One is those we prepare as interns, who actually go on internships with small companies.and we provide support for the participant. The other part is, if they want to start their own business, they go through a three-month training programme of establishing and managing the business and we give them a small grant,” the CEO outlines.
In its bid to continually create promotional opportunities for micro, small and medium enterprises in Jamaica, the JBDC stages its annual Kumba Mi Yabba Christmas fair at Devon House, where small businesses that do not have a ‘retail face,’ often earn the most profit for the year. “Kumba Mi Yabba literally means ‘come to my table and share.’.We work with people throughout the year to develop products and the Christmas fair is like the culmination of all our work for the year with the clients,” Miss Veira tells JIS News.
The CEO has high praise for the Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Karl Samuda, for his support. “We have a new Minister and with a change, there’s always new vision. Mr. Samuda, from day one, has been supporting our work,” she says.
Miss Veira points out that the Minister has identified a building for the establishment of the JBDC’s resource centre by the end of March or early April.
“This means that he wants us to expand our services, because he recognizes the work we’re doing. The client group keeps increasing, so we need to add new services and we need to expand the ones we have, so we are in the process of implementing the resource centre/incubator,” she informs.

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