Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Dwight Sutherland, addressing the We Gatherin’ initiative Straight Talk held by the Ministry of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, yesterday. (S.Medford/BGIS)

Government will be placing emphasis on educating Barbadians on how to be financial literate and how the formation of community clusters in business can benefit the entrepreneur.

Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Dwight Sutherland, disclosed this on Monday night while attending his Ministry’s We Gatherin’ Straight Talk initiative, held at the Lester Vaughan School, Cane Garden, St. Thomas.

“Government is focusing on two things, educating our people in terms of financial literacy through a financial literacy bureau, which is a policy initiative that we will be building out this year, and something called community clusters.

“This (the panel) is part of the Community Cluster programme, whereby our businesses are here to tell you how they would have succeeded in having their businesses remain as viable entities,” he said, as he gave the rationale for the panel that comprised four entrepreneurs – Owner of Coral by Hand, Omar Ward; Owner of Earthworks Pottery, David Speiler; Physiotherapist, Dr. Phyllis Burnett; and Manager of Shine Automotive, Dario Greenidge.

Adding that in an effort to build out the micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sector, it was important to engage communities, Minister Sutherland said that community entrepreneurship would revive this sector.

Stating that agencies and government could not do it alone, he stressed the need to hear about the journeys of the four entities, their challenges, experiences and success stories. And, he noted Government’s mandate was to create the policy environment through which these businesses could flourish.

“They have the challenges they went through, the obstacles they would have faced, the falls and indeed they bounced back and they now run successful businesses. So, we want to create the whole cluster approach whereby [you can] think about the cluster as a ring and you have the small businesses and the entrepreneurs who are now engaging in entrepreneurship holding hands in St. Thomas.

(Stock Photo)

“And, as we build out entrepreneurship in Barbados, you form your ring in St. Thomas, but within that ring, you have the likes of Earthworks Pottery, artists, the physiotherapist. Even though they are not related businesses, they will hold your hand and guide you through the process, as we as a Government set the policy for what we call the Financial Literacy Bureau,” the Small Business Minister explained.

He noted too that an important aspect had to do with sustainability in business. While acknowledging that this, along with access to capital, posed challenges to MSMEs, Mr. Sutherland said: “The sustainability is fundamental for me ….  I can give you all the access to capital, but if you are not well endowed with the financial literacy, [you may fail].”

The Small Business Minister further noted that such an education must be started in schools, with children being taught how to manage their money; debt management; why not to run up high credit card bills; what the interest rate means and how to save.

Commending St. Thomas for hosting the We Gatherin’ exercise, he pointed out that it was not to be seen as a “talk shop” or “song and dance”, but as an opportunity for “enhancing Barbados’ social and economic prospects and development, something we call sustainability”, that was not to be taken lightly.

He also explained that the Straight Talk forum would from time to time include experts, representatives from government agencies, as well as “experienced people who would have gone through the ‘horn pipe’ or jumped obstacles, had falls but bounced back and are running successful businesses”.

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