COK training entrepreneurs in partnership with HEART Trust/NTA

COK training entrepreneurs in partnership with HEART Trust/NTA

Saturday, December 07, 2019

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A training programme in entrepreneurship and business management being offered by COK Sodality Co-operative Credit Union in partnership with the HEART Trust/NTA is being praised by beneficaries.

“If I had known a lot of the things I know now from earlier, my business would be even bigger. But, I am seeing so many improvements that I give thanks to COK for organising these courses,” a COK news release quotes entrepreneur Laurette Thomas.

The COK members whose businesses are categorised as small or micro enterprises are eligible to participate in the programme which includes short seminars and a year-long course from which participants are assesed and granted certificates upon completion.

“We started training our members who own businesses in 2017 when COK sent selected members to day-long, islandwide, MSME, capacity-building seminars hosted by the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) and the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC). Our aim was to fulfil what is our mantra at COK – which is to improve the quality of life of our members,” the release quotes Andre Gooden, COK's chief business development officer.

“Assisting our members to grow and manage their businesses effectively enhances the quality of our customers' lives and reduces their dependence on the State for support. We don't just lend them money and leave them to sink or swim; we hold their hands because when they win, we all win,” Gooden noted. “As they become better business managers, they also become more responsible borrowers.

“We want them to move from being informal businesses, as some are, to be legitimate, fully established enterprises – increasing employment, empowering their families and contributing to the economy in a real way,” Gooden said. The public-private partnership between HEART and COK was the right formula to move the MSME sector forward.

As an aproved financial institution COK can provide, through DBJ, non-traditional collateral and coverage based on the borrower's character and the projected future cash flow of the business for loans up to $30 million.

Every Wednesday, since May 2019, whether in the COK training room or at St Luke's Church in Cross Roads, approximately 30 COK members, mostly micro clients, attend classes in entrepreneurship and business management for the one-year course.

Opal Levy, head of Sisters Ink, is the course leader, navigating courses in leadership, finance (including accounting principles), marketing, entrepreneurship, safety procedures, customer apreciation and conflict resolution, among others.

In a lively, hands-on way, Levy takes the members through the practical and theoretical aspects of running a business, leaning heavily on their own experiences to explain the process.

“I come away learning as much from them as they do from me,” she said. “We share approaches to deal with the challenges of doing business in Jamaica. They share their stories and the group benefits as a whole. Everything – from inventory management to calming an irate customer – is dealt with.”

Industry liason officer at HEART/NTA Jacqueline Douce said industry surveys show that the reason many MSMEs failed was because the owner/managers did not keep records of their transactions and generally “did not observe sound business practices – so the course was designed to introduce these systems in a relaxed way, outside of business hours, for a total of 54 hours over the period of a year”.

Micro finance manager at COK, Claud Sawyers, noted that the course affords the credit union an opportunity to “gain a better appreciation of the lives of our members as they explore the real-life challenges of running a business. The range of businesses is quite wide, covering areas such as the retail trade, transportation, landscaping, health food and juices, and personal services”, Sawyers said.

“They learn how to write a business plan, appreciate the importance of taking invoices, and generally managing their money better,” Sawyers pointed out.

Entrepreneur Tourig Pecco runs his therapy and personal trainer business, which includes home visits, with the support of COK and HEART/NTA.

“I have built my customer service skills, how to attract clients and keep them. My stock management…paper, oils and cleansers – I must have enough on hand as needed,” he explained, citing systems such as “just in time” inventory management as one of the concepts he has applied successfully to his enterprise.

The G C Foster Sports College graduate said he puts his theoretical base to work as often as he gets the opportunity.

“As I get the information I put it to use, instead of running up and down and buck my toe,” he explained. “COK is not only lending money but engaging us how to manage the money so [that] we can pay back the loan and keep the funds turning over for other members to benefit,” he said.

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