Editorial

Creating a proper social structure

Friday, August 30, 2019

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On Monday this week we had the pleasure of having an engaging discussion with six young, bright and brave Jamaicans who have ventured into business for themselves.

While the six — Ms Dana Baugh, owner of Baughaus Designs; Ms Craslyn Benjamin, CEO of Benlar Foods; Ms Simone Grant, founder of Banyan Catering; Mrs Grace Foster-Reid, founder of Ecofarms Jamaica; Ms Dianne Plummer, owner of True Shade Cosmetics; and Mr Randy McLaren, co-founder of Bresheh — are serving different markets, there were at least two issues on which they share similar experiences: access to financing and space.

Some of the stories they related were heartbreaking, such as banks unwilling to even consider granting them loans if they were not in business for two years; and the dearth of affordable factory space for small- and medium-sized businesses.

The fact that they are still in business speaks to their tenacity, fixity of purpose and commitment to the welfare of the people they employ.

During the discussion, the group's mentor, Mr Gary “Butch” Hendrickson, the chairman and chief executive officer of National Baking Company, raised the issue of a more effective development banking system to facilitate micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

According to Mr Hendrickson, development banks here do not have the capital base to lend more to MSMEs. He acknowledged that development banking is the riskiest form of financing as those in need of assistance would normally be young companies without experience. The reality is that some of them will not succeed, he advised. However, that should not, we believe, dissuade budding entrepreneurs from trying.

We have to get to the point in this country where failure in business is not seen as shameful, but rather a learning experience. History is rife with individuals who failed on their first or early attempts at business but, through dogged perseverance, achieved success eventually.

The famous Colonel Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, comes easily to mind. After his recipe was reportedly rejected more than 1,000 times, Colonel Sanders struck 'gold' when a restaurant picked it up.

Locally, there are many business owners and operators who, armed with just a dream, started operating out of pocket and in modest surroundings. Just last month the Jamaica Observer Central published the success story of Juici Patties, as told by its principal Mr Jukie Chin to 130 teenagers at an annual five-day Juici Patties Youth Leadership Workshop and Volunteer Programme in Clarendon Park.

That kind of activity is priceless and needs to be replicated across the island in tandem with a more targeted approach by the Development Bank of Jamaica to further help new businesses.

For, as Mr Hendrickson so correctly stated on Monday: “If you want to create a proper social structure in the country, not this lopsided structure that we have where the greatest disparity exists between top and bottom; we must have successful business people.”


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