DBJ bolsters BSI advisory network
Technical coordinator of intermediary relations for the BIGEE Programme at Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) Limited Natalie D'Oyen makes a point during a Jamaica Observer Business Forum at the DBJ's office on Oxford Road in the Corporate Area. BIGEE Programme Manager Christopher Brown looks on. (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

Having recognised the staffing challenges faced by many business service intermediaries (BSI) in their delivery of advisory services to small businesses, the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) is strengthening the capacity of its BSI advisory network.

A business service intermediary refers to any organisation that provides incubator and/or accelerator programmes to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMES) as they prepare for growth and/or seek capital financing. During the programmes, entrepreneurs benefit from training and upskilling that should help them to improve operational efficiencies and productivity at their firms.

This forms part of the overarching vision of the DBJ's Boosting Innovation, Growth and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem (BIGEE) Programme.

"So, at times our incubators and accelerators have had challenges in terms of staff and the quality of the staff they have sometimes affects the entrepreneur. Our goal is to support the entrepreneur in whatever area possible, so one of the things we want to do is to help these various incubators and accelerators across the country…to improve the quality of the staff and the advising they provide to the entrepreneurs," technical coordinator, intermediary relations, BIGEE Programme at Development Bank of Jamaica Limited Natalie D'Oyen told reporters during a Jamaica Observer Business Forum.

Currently the DBJ partners with TBR Lab, Kingston Creatives' CreaTech, and RevUp Caribbean in offering incubation to local entrepreneurs. It also collaborates with Jamaica Business Development Corporation; Branson Entrepreneurs Centre, Caribbean; Technology Innovation Center, University of Technology, Jamaica; and the Caribbean Innovation Climate Centre at Scientific Research Council in providing accelerator programmes.

Specifically, the aim of the DBJ's intervention is to help its BSIs communicate business issues with employees as well as receive training in best practices for running an accelerator and/or incubator.

"Not every advisor is a business major; it's not required and neither should that be the case. Some of them may have other skill sets and other forms of knowledge" which may add value to the programmes, D'Oyen said.

"So we want to supplement them in whatever areas they are weak. An advisor might be strong on the finance side but weak on marketing, so we provide a training course that incorporates all of the elements that needs to be there," she further explained.

In addition, DBJ will supply BSIs with "an international gold-standard business advisory platform" that will help advisors navigate sessions with entrepreneurs, track their progress, and reporting. Moreover, it assists the incubator or accelerator manager to monitor the advisory staff better and keep track of how they're working with entrepreneurs on a granular level.

"And it helps us monitor what each centre is doing with the entrepreneurs," D'Oyen continued.

DBJ has been working with the platform within the last three years. Directly, the platform facilitates the capacity development of incubators, accelerators and their advisory staff; indirectly it will impact the improvement of how MSME entrepreneurs structure their businesses in a streamlined way.

The aim, according to Christopher Brown, programmes manager for the BIGEE at the DBJ, is to enable businesses to experience marked improvement in their operations when they complete an accelerator or incubator programme.

"There are business that go into incubators and accelerators and by the time they come out they are not much better than they were before," he informed Business Observer.

"Our intention is for advisors to operate at a global standard. International best practices are really what we're going for," he added.

However, where business advisors cannot provide guidance, the DBJ has plans to introduce mentors to provide industry-specific recommendations such as the type of machinery to purchase.

"We had a mentorship programme that we're reviewing for reimplementation in some form and that provided technical expertise. Specifically, it was about providing technical expertise and mentorship," D'Oyen explained.

She further noted that where mentors previously offered their insight to entrepreneurs, DBJ saw tremendous growth. But while BSI advisors may not be able to provide technical counsel to MSMEs, the DBJ is nudging incubators and accelerators to begin to focus on specialisations such as manufacturing incubator.

TBR labs, for example, provides accelerator services to MSMEs in the technology sector. Kingston Creative also facilitates an industry-specific incubation programme for individuals operating in the cultural and creative industries.

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Josimar Scott

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