Funding Available For Small Businesses Through The Caribbean Export Development Agency

And while the controversy at home is over Rosewood exportation, one Caribbean-based organization is zeroing in on helping local businesses who export their products to hone on their skills when applying for grant funding. The Caribbean Export Development Agency, headquartered in Barbados, has a program with the European Union called the Regional Private Sector Development Program. The program provides for funding to the tune of 28 million euros for businesses in countries that are members of CARIFORUM. In 2012, twelve Belizean businesses received funding to help keep their operations going. That was a marked improvement over the previous two years because Belizean businesses had not qualified for any funding before that. Today Caribbean Export Development Agency’s Senior Grant Advisor, Kirk Brown, explained to reporters what the session aims to achieve and who can or cannot apply.

KIRK BROWN

“The facility we offer is a grant facility; we have two types of funding, one is the small grant which is five thousand euro and one is the large grant which is thirty thousand euro and firms have the opportunity to get funding to fund anything that can enhance the competitiveness of their company or business. Simply put, if they needed to develop a website, if they needed to upgrade equipment, if they needed to train staff, if they needed to market or promote their business or services, if they also needed to attend trade shows, they could get funding. The thing is, we do not fund taxes, buying land, buying cars or paying debts but generally speaking it’s up to the applicants to clearly demonstrate what they need funding for within our eligibility criteria. To be eligible for a grant, the person or firm needs to be legally registered; they also should be operating for at least two years and they should have financial statements confirming that they have been in business for at least two years. It’s a reimbursable grant which tends to pose a challenge for a number of firms because you have to apply, you’re approved, we sign a contract with you, you have a specific time of six months to complete your project activities, submit your expenses to us and then we reimburse. So, no monies are given to you up front. What we try to encourage firms who may have a low cash flow to support their project that in submitting their application, they get support funding from their financial institution either by a loan or an overdraft facility or even the Development Finance Corporation who provides, which is business development loans to firms, you have opportunities there to explore that can support your funding. We’ve seen where there has been, let me see, I don’t want to say hasn’t been interest, we probably never marketed the program well enough in Belize but we’ve gone from zero to having twelve companies actually benefit from our program. That represents maybe about three or four percent out of all the fifteen member states. So, it’s not bad but if you are going to compare that to other member states you’d have to put that within the context of excluding countries like Jamaica, Trinidad , Dominican Republic and Barbados. The reason being is that those countries have always had a lot of donor funding assistance or programs available to the private sector, so they have had a lot more experience. So, what you find is countries like the OAS territories countries like Antigua, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Guyana, Belize and the other CARIFORUM territories, their exposure to these kind of programs have always been limited somewhat or they’ve lacked access to persons who can actually write these kinds of applications or proposals. So the purpose of this workshop today is pretty much to provide that information, so that in going forward, persons can be encouraged to either consult Beltraide or the Chamber of Commerce for some form of on the ground assistance but still have access to us in Barbados so that we can get them to access funding.”

We also spoke with BELTRAIDE’s Deputy Executive Director, Lejia Melanie Gideon, who explained that organization’s role in the process.

LEJIA MELANIE GIDEON

“When they are asking you what is your development plan, what is your marketing strategy , those simple things to a company that is not sophisticated in doing business management will not know how to fill out those sections. So this is where Beltraide comes in. This is the reason why we sit here again, that’s another assistance that we provide through the Small Business Development Centre or through the main office in Belmopan where we will sit with you. Most often is the perceived intimidation of the long application process and then also knowing that in this regard it requires that it’s a reimbursement fund so that means monies need to be up and then they reimburse you. For this particular funding that also makes it less easy to access not difficult, I refuse to say that.”

Some of the companies who have received funding from Belize are the juice exportation, the shrimp industry, and a local magazine publisher.

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