What is considered a small business in Belize and what makes them important to the economy?
That's what was considered today at the launch of the Small Business Development Centers Project.
It is an event sponsored by BELTRAIDE along with partners from the OAS, the DFC, the Caribbean export Development Agency and the University OF Texas.
It's a major undertaking for businesses often considered to be minor - and the DFC representative explained why it's important:
Natalie Goff - General Manager, DFC
"This day is a big day for Belize in that one of the challenges we have faced at DFC, since resuming lending in 2009, is the complaints that we are not moving fast enough in terms of loan delivery services. One of the reasons for that is that a lot of people - especially small businesses, small entrepreneurs - walk in an idea. It's hard to fund an idea, and if there was that missing link between that idea and the business proposal. And so, with the idea of this small business development center, I think that the missing link has been - that missing link has been put into place."
Albert Salgado - Director Southwest Texas Border SBDC Network
"Our intervention really starts at the beginning of a business start, and we stay with that business throughout the life-cycle of the business. We help them start the business. We help them grow and understand their market. We help them get a loan. We help them with exporting, government contracting, technology, commercialization, and throughout the life."
Mike Singh - Executive Director, BELTRAIDE
"Really what we are looking for is developing an institution that will encompass the private sector, grant organization, government funding, and technical support through this program. Something like this center allows us to start bringing in businesses, registering them, making sure that they become formalized, giving them kind of a platform to guide their grow, which helps again to broaden our economic base."
Maryse Robert, Chief of Trade OAS
"This project is essentially to help strengthen the MSME support institution in the Caribbean. We have 5 pilot countries that are now beginning to work to see how they can adapt this small business development center module, their own unique realities."
Leaonel Naut - Caribbean Export Dev. Agency
"This is great initiative that we have set forth in order to develop competitiveness and innovation. And SM means empowerment in the Caribbean."
"BELTRAIDE, today, will also be signing a memorandum of understand with the DFC, where we will collaborate, not only on trying to get this model solidified and established in Belize. But also, additional collaboration in tying in the services that DFC offers in respect to their lending window for small businesses. When we are done for today, we will devise a way forward how everybody will collaborate. We've already created a budget for what the first center would like. And we've already gotten the approval through the Taiwanese fund. So, timeframe will depend on release of funds, and when everybody gets together. But I think that the bottom-line is as I say that there is a move to be serious about small business development, and to be sure that we can put that everywhere as a priority."
According to the DFC's guidelines, Small or Microbusinesses are defined as having sales of 100 thousand per annum and assets of 300 thousand per annum.