Entrepreneurs play a vital role in strengthening the country’s skill and add to its development. In this regard, the EMPRENDE Belize Fund was launched on October 5, 2016, whereby individuals or teams with a business concept or business were provided with a seed capital to start or expand their business.
This afternoon was the closing ceremony for EMPRENDE Belize Fund and the launch of the entrepreneurship month. The General Manager of the Enterprise and Innovation Division of BELTRAIDE, Lejia Melanie Gideon spoke about the project.
Lejia Melanie Gideon
“Today marks yet another milestone for Belize on its journey to drive the expansion of entrepreneurship in Belize as laid out in our National Entrepreneurship Strategy which was endorsed by the government in September 2015. BelTraide received 291 applications and only 63 were selected to go through the program. In three weeks they had to do market research, submit powerpoint presentations showcasing their lean canvases, their investment plans and their two-year cash flow projections. Then the big day came when 47 of you had to do your final pitches to a very intense evaluation panel. I remember that day whenever everyone was nervous but you did brilliantly because at the end we selected 36 of you to receive grant funding. This program was about strengthening the business and entrepreneurship skills of our local SMEs since everyone knows that SMEs entrepreneurs are the cornerstone, the backbone, the engine that drives economic change and diversification. Our small business enhances our local communities and more importantly create employment, distribute wealth and income and reduce poverty so again thank you Belize’s faithful entrepreneurs.”
Stanley Barrow, who owns Elsa’s Laundry Service in Hopkins Village, was one of the recipients of the seed capital and he shared how the capital was able to help his business.
“We were operating this business for a few years before the program but by that time we had broken down machines in Elsa’s Laundry Service. We had two washers and one drier. Sometimes we had to be turning back our customers and telling them to come back another day but now we tell them to come in the next two hours. So we had a terrible water supply, the water supply in the village of Hopkins was very low, one machine took half an hour to full and wash and rinse, now it takes five minutes. Also, we added an expansion to the building. A year ago we used to do services for one of the big resorts at the time when they come in, Hamanasi Resort which is one of the largest resorts in Belize they come in when their machines broke down and one day work would take us two days. At the time we used to have to hang out the big sheets and towels on the line I would sit down in the night like a watchman. But now they drop it off at 10 a.m. and by 6 p.m. we have it ready and I’m telling you this is not small loads either, these are huge loads.”
Michele Castillo of Nautilus Express Ferry located in Vista Del Mar, Ladyville, also shared how the seed capital was able to help her business.
“We operate from Vista Del Mar in Ladyville and we cater to tourists traveling to Ambergris Caye and we have extended our service to Caye Caulker. We are an exclusive service, nobody else does that, they have the public water taxis but we are the only ones doing that service in the area. What the grant has allowed me to do now I purchased my first boat so besides purchasing my boat it allowed me to have the documents needed to actually fix the boat because it was just a hull, it allowed me to gain a commercial loan and I have completed my boat so it’s a process from last year to now but it has been quite exciting. I can’t tell you enough, the growth in my business has almost doubled since last year.”
The Manager of Small Business Development Centre Belize (SBDC) of BELTRAIDE, Nilda Riverol, spoke to Love News about the various sectors that were able to receive from the EMPRENDE Belize Fund.
“The different sectors that were awarded capital money was agro-processing, some were tourism based, some offered a professional service and others it was more innovative products such as app development and so forth. The maximum that each recipient could have received was up to $11,000, however, depending on their investment size each recipient was awarded the grant money that would have allowed them to make that investment so each one of them received different amounts depending on the idea and the investment aspect.”
The EMPRENDE Belize Fund was made possible by the Republic of China Taiwan at a cost of $435,752.00 dollars.