Young entrepreneurs are being assured greater access to financing is coming. Chief executive officer of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) Co-operative Credit Union, Zandre Bowen, made the announcement recently while endorsing the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation (BEF) Community Summer Challenge.

Speaking at the launch of the initiative of which the credit union is a sponsor, Bowen expressed the importance of the Challenge to the development of entrepreneurial values among Barbadians, especially the youth. Citing United Nations statistics, Bowen noted that this generation of youth is the largest in history.

However, traditionally, young people make up a large portion of unemployment statistics, as, oftentimes there are limited opportunities available to new entrants into the workforce.

This is why, in recognising that access to financing is one of the major challenges for start-up businesses, particularly those led by younger individuals, the BWU co-operative credit union is working to provide them with greater access to ongoing business support services. According to Bowen, youth entrepreneurship gives the upcoming generations more control over their ability to launch impactful, longstanding careers, generate a decent income and make a positive contribution to society.

He added: “As a leading member-owned institution, the BWU Credit Union is honoured to help nurture a stronger entrepreneurship ecosystem. Young people are full of ideas and are agents of change. They just need a hand to cultivate their skills, and structure these dreams for success. . . . We are strengthening our capacity to help all our members provide the required documentation and details, to enhance their chances of qualifying for available business loans.

We are also working to provide them with greater access to ongoing business support services. Additionally, our Credit Union remains focused on the overall delivery of youth-friendly financial services. We have established a Marketing and Youth Committee, led, and made up of our younger members and staff. Their goal is to help us revamp existing, as well as introduce new products and services, which can better benefit our youth, as well as wider membership.”

BEF executive chairman and project champion Celeste Foster explained that the aim of the challenge was to build a culture of enterprise by unlocking the talent, creativity and innovation of the youth. The project, which has its genesis in enterprises like Classroom to Boardroom, the $20 Challenge and Project X, will be delivered through five phases of training, funding, trading, evaluating and graduating.

Foster explained the business training segment will be conducted via in-person sessions at the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business and Management from July 18 through to August 11 and Fund Access in conjunction with Trident 10 TV will host virtual lunch-time webinar series from August 15 to September 10. Moreover, seed capital funding will be available via a loan of $250 to participants and each partner has agreed to waive the usual collateral requirements associated with the lending process, however, all other terms including interest and scheduled payments will be enforced.

The trading period begins on the first day of training and ends on September 25. The Barbados Trust Fund Ltd. will be coordinating marketplaces from July 31 to September 18.

Whereas, the evaluation process will comprise giving feedback at various times during the two months.

There are four judging events starting with the Business Pitch on August 16, followed by the Mystery Shopper at the Pop-up Market at SkyMall on September 3. After they have been trading a while, teams will make their business presentations to a panel of judges on September 13 to receive feedback as they prepare for the submission of the written business report on September 25. A prize of $250 will be awarded to the winners of each judging event.

Completed businesses will celebrate their achievements at a graduation to be held on October 22. Successful finalists would have repaid their loans, made a charitable donation, met the attendance requirements and demonstrated sustainability in their business endeavours. Sector winners will be recognised and awarded prize packages worth $3,000. The Micro Enterprise of the Year will receive a prize package worth $10,000.

“In summary, the Community Challenge is designed to foster teamwork and collaboration between participants, facilitate networking through business mentorship, create synergies amongst partners, equip budding entrepreneurs with the skills, and attitude to chart their future, to better navigate the entrepreneurial landscape [and] to facilitate the transition from idea to start-up, business expansion for those already started, in 12 months.

This, our first Community Challenge is the foundation, the beginning steps if you may, of the journey, as we work with our partners and our community to strengthen our culture of enterprise in Barbados . . . toward influencing our youth to truly become craftsmen and women, of their fate,” Foster said.

Managing director of sponsor Scotiabank Barbados, Suzette Armoogam-Shah applauded the initiative for its promotion of economic and social resilience through the development and enhancement of entrepreneurial and life skills of young people.

Armoogam-Shah contended that the aim of the challenge was in keeping with Scotiabank’s belief that its success is inherently tied to the success of the communities in which it operates.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have experienced unpredictability and change - which have a great impact on the future of our young people. By supporting programmes and partnering with organisations that help improve education and employment prospects, people are enabled to participate in the economy more, better adapt to changing circumstances, and increase their likelihood of financial success,” Armoogam-Shah noted, while encouraging young people to take advantage of the great programme.

“To our participants who are already on board – I hope you thoroughly enjoy this initiative. You each want to achieve success in business and with this programme, you will receive a great launching pad for the future success of your business,” she encouraged. (KC)