Feature: Foromic XV- An Exhibitors??? Experience Of A Lifetime

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Scenes of Foromic 2012 ?? ??

The eyes of the Americas were on Barbados from October 1 to 3, as the island pulled out "all the stops" to host a successful Foromic 2012; a three-day Inter-American Forum on Micro Enterprises, said to be the biggest business conference in Latin America and the region.

During the summit, several established and aspiring entrepreneurs were re-inspired to take their enterprises to new heights based on the break-out sessions which comprised spokespersons and representatives from micro-finance institutions, micro-enterprise associations, and enterprise development service providers, who put their collective heads together to address critical areas central to small business development.

The discussions, which took place under the veil of a protracted global economic recession, not only attracted the best brains in the field, but it also provided networking opportunities for local entrepreneurs – anxious for new markets to export their products – to put the "wheels in motion".

While the Lloyd Erskine Sandyford Centre on Two Mile Hill, St. Michael, was abuzz with activities, the many entrepreneurs, who displayed a range of products such as hand-made jewellery, homemade soaps, tie-dye and batik garments on Caribbean Day, were kept busy with either filling orders or answering questions from the 1, 000 plus delegates attending the summit.

One participant who gained significant exposure from the conference was General Manager of Exstrawdinary, John Watson – a straw manufacturing company that also produced clay figurines, hand-woven table mats and wall hangings.

He spoke about the benefits of being a participant of the Foromic conference, during an interview with the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS). "As a vendor at the conference I think we did extremely well.?? The delegates were quite interested in the products on display and as a result, we also received some sales," he said.

Mr. Watson also mentioned the wealth of information the entrepreneurs received during the discussions on micro financing but conceded that much more still needed to be done in the area of financing small and micro businesses.

"The discussions gave participants ideas on what changes needed to be implemented to secure [better] financing opportunities for micro businesses in Barbados."

The General Manager also spoke about the benefits of Foromic to the micro enterprises sector and the country.?? "…What people are now realising is that small business has to be the engine of growth for most economies. So, the Foromic conference brought to the fore a lot of issues that are impacting small and micro businesses.?? Based on the dialogue on the issues [by technocrats], making financing available to small businesses should be much easier," Mr. Watson observed.

Meanwhile, Ann Rudder, owner of Glory Clothing Barbados – a unisex clothing company that specialises in the technique of applique, disclosed to the BGIS that her Just Dreaming Hipster Belts were a hit with the Foromic delegates who purchased them to accentuate their outfits.

"This is the first time that I had been asked to participate in any function and I found it to be a wonderful experience. The professional interaction of the small business people with the Foromic delegates has been very empowering," she added.

Another booth which saw heavy pedestrian traffic during the three-day micro enterprise forum was Harwood Woodworks.?? The business, located in building No.2, Pelican Village, Harbour Road, St. Michael, creates "one-of-a-kind" pieces such as salad bowls sets with spoons and forks, napkin rings, Warri heritage games, fruit bowls and serving trays and?? mortars and pestles.

According to Sales Representative with Harwood Woodworks, Rosalind Thomas, the Warri and Barbados "Potta" board games generated lots of interest among the visiting delegates who visited the booth to learn more about Barbadian culture.

She said: "The product was well received because they were able to learn another heritage game called "Potta"… A few were aware of Warri or Oware as it is called in other countries …but they [delegates] were able to play another game which is recorded in our archives, as an almost forgotten game.

"We would not have had [Potta] in this form as children, but in recent times, the company came up with a design for the board game which we are trying to introduce to schools across the island.?? A number of delegates purchased the game for themselves or their children and I am happy that the games were well received," Ms. Thomas added.

Representative of Youth Business Trust in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Kenrick Quashie, underscored the importance of networking for entrepreneurs.?? "Occasions such as the Foromic conference are priceless.??

You get to meet entities that are involved in the same economic activity as your company and by extension, the opportunity to interface with financiers from

Latin America and other parts of the Caribbean in which you could form partnerships in the future.??

The discussions on micro financing gave us a better understanding of the small, micro and medium-sized sectors and the opportunities available for young people who are desirous of starting their own businesses," he surmised.

While the delegates got down to serious business during the day, they were also "bowled over" by the country’s warmth and hospitality as well as other aspects of the region’s culture, at a welcome reception on Monday, October 1, during Barbados and the Caribbean Day at The Heritage Park, Foursquare, St. Philip.

The delegates danced the night away to the sweet sounds of Betty Griffith Payne and Friends, while enjoying tasty local treats such as pudding and souse, baked pork, pumpkin fritters and an array of local pastries.

The following day, Tuesday, October 2, the grounds of the Prime Minister’s Official Residence Ilaro Court, was transformed into the Oistins Bay Gardens open-air fish fry where a wide range of tasty delicacies could be had from several stalls that were recreated to give the Oistins effect.

Now that the conference is over, all eyes will be on Mexico in 2013, and it is hoped that the expected outcomes of Foromic would have lived up to its theme: Unlocking Entrepreneurship: Towards Innovative Solutions.?? ??

julie.carrington@barbados.gov.bb

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