The St. Ann office of the Social Development Commission (SDC), in partnership with the St. Ann Municipal Corporation, is giving small entrepreneurs in the parish a push-start through the Local Economic Development Support Programme (LEDSP).
The LEDSP is one of seven programmes of the SDC through which different partners in a local area are brought together to work and harness local resources for sustainable economic growth.
“We (St. Ann Municipal Corporation) recognise the importance of small businesses to the gross domestic product (GDP) of Jamaica, so we must lend our support,” Mayor of St. Ann’s Bay, Councillor Michael Belnavis, tells us.
He underscores the importance of partnering with the SDC to execute the programme, adding that the hope is that the beneficiaries will graduate from small businesses into large corporations over time.
An economic fair, which showcased the goods and services of small St. Ann-based businesses that are beneficiaries of the LEDSP programme, was recently held in the parish.
Local Economic Development Coordinator for the SDC’s St. Ann and St. Mary parish offices, Tamiqua Silvera, tells us that businesses benefiting from the programme include agro-processors, technology-based businesses and spas.
“The programme was introduced by the SDC to build out business ideas and have persons take their businesses more seriously. We look at feasibility studies and needs assessments, then we take it from there to develop business models, business plans, packaging and labelling, as well as product standardisation,” outlines Ms. Silvera.
The LEDSP has four components, including capacity building, which involves the strengthening of capacity within the SDC to equip Community Development Officers with the knowledge and skills to guide communities in their local economic development (LED) initiatives, as well as capacity-building activities for community groups, which enable them to develop business plans and manage existing projects effectively.
Another component is networking and building partnerships, which is done through the creation of an LED project database of partners and opportunities for funding, as well as for marketing and general information. This database also has policy information.
Direct support, which forms the third component, is done through leadership development, grant writing and effective communication training of entrepreneurs, as well as technical support to complete and track grant project proposals. This step also facilitates the interaction between communities and non-state actors (NSAs), who are influential individuals or groups and are non-governmental.
The final component is the implementation of an incentive scheme aimed at aiding community groups that are creatively involved in viable local economic development projects.
“We also have a grant fund of $100,000 that we offer to small business owners, so they can do marketing, packaging and business registration,” Ms. Silvera says.
She highlights that some of the businesses that participated in the fair utilised the funding to help with branding and establishing their websites.
“In terms of capacity training, we are also looking at finance management training. We want to teach them that you do not need to be a scholar to manage your finances,” Ms. Silvera tells us.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Ogole, Co-founder of Vital, one of the small businesses benefiting from the programme, says that her company, which makes and distributes plant-based products, benefited greatly from the LEDSP programme and the economic fair.
“The fair presented a great opportunity to showcase our businesses and market our products and services. The programme also presents great networking opportunities,” Ms. Ogole adds.
She also notes that the economic fair gave her business and other beneficiaries the opportunity to earn as well as expose their products to several persons.
For his part, Chief Executive Officer of Creative Drawings, Dwayne Hamilton, says that being a part of the programme has enabled him to meet many more potential clients.
“Also, instead of going out of town to showcase my work and to get the relevant advice, I get that opportunity right here in St. Ann,” he says.