STARTING A business is not an easy undertaking, especially for persons venturing into entrepreneurship for the first time.
However, help is available, courtesy of the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC). The agency offers a suite of services for persons who need support to get their business ventures up and running.
Speaking on an episode of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service’s ‘Finance Matters’ television programme, JBDC Deputy Chief Executive Officer Harold Davis said the entity is the premier organisation responsible for the development of micro, small and medium-size enterprises (MSMEs) in Jamaica.
“That means we have a suite of business and technical services that will take … MSMEs from concept to market. If you come to us with an idea, we will help you through the ideation process, to where you structure your business,” he said.
The JBDC, which was established in 2001, provides advisory services to budding entrepreneurs to foster entrepreneurship and economic development.
“If you’re looking to expand into new markets, if you’re looking to develop your product, if you’re looking [at] internationalisation, we help you from concept to market. We literally walk with you through the various processes and products that you need to have established, to move you from point A to point B,” Davis advised.
The JBDC executive indicated that the entity has designers and engineers on staff “to help you to develop your product, whether it is a physical or a virtual product… [and] your process, to make sure that [this] is efficient”.
The JBDC also provides marketing support under its Things Jamaican brand. Through this medium, over 500 local businesses have the opportunity to display their merchandise in outlets at its office at 14 Camp Road and Devon House, located at the intersection of Waterloo and Hope roads in St Andrew, as well as the Norman Manley International Airport.
According to Davis, Things Jamaican, which the JBDC acquired in 2001, affords easy access to local and international markets. He also highlighted that the Things Jamaican online platform is “doing very well … in this pandemic period” and presents “a glorious opportunity for these 500-plus businesses to have a marketing channel that really reaches the world digitally”.
He indicated that to be part of the brand, “you have to be a client of the JBDC”, adding that “there is [a] process of onboarding and [ensuring] that when we offer you a product and service, it is right for you”.
Continuing, he explained that “we assess if what you need is market access, and whether your product fits into the mantra of Things Jamaican”.
The JBDC deputy head emphasised that products to be included in the Things Jamaican suite must meet international standards.
“For us, it’s not about a Jamaican product only, per se. But it must meet world-class standards to [be able to] stand up beside any product… internationally. So, we’d go through a market and product assessment process for you to enter the Things Jamaican shop itself. Then, from that point, the procurement process happens to make sure that you have a presence in the store,” he explained.
Davis said that since the COVID-19 pandemic, the JBDC has had to make a shift in terms of how it offers services to the public.
“We have been on a digital transformation journey to make sure that all our products and services are available digitally. Before the pandemic, we had to offer services face to face. But now, all those products have to be offered online,” he said.
Davis said that just after the pandemic’s onset, the entity developed a series of virtual workshops, among them the ‘JBDC Biz Zone’.
“We have had almost 150 different iterations of [the] Biz Zone since 2020, including, ‘How to start your business’ [and] ‘Intellectual property management’. We [also] had a series… focused on our creative industries,” he added.
Jamaica’s creative industry is perhaps one of the most recognisable globally, having produced world-class artists, artistes and musicians.
It is for this reason that the JBDC said it holds the industry close to its heart, with 80 per cent of its clients being creatives.
“Whether it is gift and craft, gastronomy, products; whether it is specialised services, media, [or] the performing arts… they all fall under that banner of the creative and cultural industries,” Davis explained.
He indicated that in 2020, the JBDC led the first-ever mapping of Jamaica’s cultural and creative industries, which was done in partnership with the British Council.
“The creative industries, arguably, have been hardest hit by the pandemic. We want to be at the forefront and helping those set of industries to rebound, and rebound even greater, with greater resilience,” Davis said.
He added that “we are looking at new angles, at new ways to get to the market; looking at new business structures, new niches within the creative and cultural industries; that is our commitment”.
Davis said the JBDC continues to influence policy and ecosystem development to ensure that there is movement and development of MSMEs in Jamaica.
“Our commitment is to continue to work at the macro level with the businesses themselves; but also, at the micro and policy levels, to see how it is that we can affect adequate and effective policy to move our creative industries to where [they] ought to be… the number one set of industries in Jamaica,” he added.
The JBDC has 14 offices across the island, along with partner agencies. The offices are in most of the main tertiary institutions, through its Small Business Development Centre Network.
Persons can visit the JBDC website at www.jbdc.net for more information.