#BTColumn – Create an Entrepreneurial Economy

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the authors do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.

through Ryan Walters

Small Business Week 2022 is an important reminder that all great companies started small with a single idea.

A single person with a dream and determination to make it happen. That’s what Small business week is about celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit that is the lifeblood of our economy.

Of course, big companies have their place. But it is small companies that are the growth engine of our economy.

They create the most new jobs and are more agile and adaptable than their larger counterparts.

As Small Business Week 2022 comes to an end, I want to congratulate and commend the micro and small business community for being steadfast in contributing to your own livelihood, the livelihoods of others, and others
on the economy as a whole.

Trust me when I say I know it doesn’t come without hard work, dedication and sacrifice, but we do
are grateful for their existence and contribution to the economic landscape of Bajan.

When I think about what our micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) need, many things come up
make something up. But as I enumerate the many things that need to be addressed to benefit the sector, I realized that before we can come up with a list of things to do, we need to embrace a general perception and repositioning of how we view entrepreneurs.

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The truth is and facts show that this country cannot run without the little man. Small businesses are everyone’s business.

Most businesses start from humble beginnings, are small in nature, and scale and grow over time to become the tycoons they are today.

Those involved would say that it is a long and arduous journey, but one that can be very rewarding when you reach your destination. But to the point that micro and small businesses are everyone’s business, firstly because pre-COVID over 90 per cent of businesses in Barbados were micro and small businesses, and secondly the sector accounts for nearly 45,000 jobs.

I can imagine that this is still the case today, more or less…

COVID provided an opportunity to stop, reflect and redesign what we call small businesses but what I prefer to call the entrepreneurial economy.

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We need to create an entrepreneurial economy once and for all and get rid of this notion of micro and small
business area.

It is very counterproductive to label the sector with a word that means size – ‘small’ – and make its importance appear small.

While individual companies may be small, the sector as a collective makes a big contribution.

In order to reposition yourself in the entrepreneurial economy, serious questions must be asked.

Business owners find it very difficult financially to run their businesses and support their households. Is a small loan enough to keep the business going?

Is a pop-up shop every two months enough to generate sales and cover costs? So the question is how do we sustain our companies in the entrepreneurial economy? This is something we can all discuss in more detail in the future.

I marveled at the conversation about the National Insurance Scheme and the continued reference to the “informal economy”.

Talk down to the little man instead of encouraging and lifting him up! I wish for an entrepreneurial economy that not only speaks of minimum contributions for the self-employed, but
on sickness and unemployment benefits for our entrepreneurs if they themselves unexpectedly become ill or injured and are unable to work. Income tax credits should be a standard.

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The current tax regime encourages our business owners to hide income rather than declare it.

The unfair application of VAT in some sub-sectors needs to be addressed. Every entrepreneurial venture should benefit from a strong support structure focused on the success of each venture.

As I said, there is so much to do, but first, let’s uplift and empower our small business owners and integrate them into a new entrepreneurial economy.

You deserve it, you deserve it and Barbados deserves it.

Kudos to you all for fighting the battle. Your work and contribution has not gone unnoticed. Keep up the good work and God bless!

Ryan Walters (MBA in Finance) is a former Democratic Labor Party Small Business Spokesperson and Manager of International Franchises in Barbados.

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