“Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” – Joshua 1:9
The seed of a vision now incorporated as, the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation Inc., was fertilised less than two years ago during a casual conversation between the fertile minds of two individuals who are passionate about growing the Barbados economy at a faster rate than we have witnessed since Independence.
This vision was nurtured by other like minded individuals and, within a few short months, a team of ten enthusiastic souls, five of them resident in Barbados, five of them outside of Barbados, but all of them who had the development of Barbados at heart, emerged.
The Vision took shape early in 2010 and has been articulated as: “Barbados – The #1 Entrepreneurial Hub in the World by 2020” with a clear indication as to the key performance indicators which would be used annually to evaluate incremental success and ultimately signal the realisation of the Vision.
The private sector team led by Peter Boos, with Damian McKinney as visionary, presented the vision to the late Prime Minister, Hon. David Thompson, who immediately gave it his blessing and asked us to develop it.
The team then set about raising funds and planning for the first BEF SUMMIT in November 2010. So great was the ground swell of enthusiasm in the entrepreneurial community that at the opening of the SUMMIT, which was done with international flair and panache, there were over three hundred persons coming through the door for this session – standing room only! The participants presented the team with many a post SUMMIT challenge, in each of the interactive dialogue pillar discussions.
Our new Prime Minister, Hon. Freundel Stuart, was the featured speaker at the final gala event of the SUMMIT at which he unequivocally endorsed his predecessor’s commitment to the cause.
The Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation Inc. has now been formally established with a special advisory group; and a Board of Directors (12) which includes many of the original group of volunteers but to which has been added five others, a mix of private sector resources and representatives of labour and government. Three members of the original group, for various reasons, are not on the board but have offered their services as part of the special advisory group. Peter Boos is the BEF Chairman, Damian McKinney is the CEO and Chris Harper, himself an entrepreneur, was appointed full time Project Manager from February 01 2011.
At last Friday’s BEF Board meeting, after the organisational preliminaries, we reviewed the progress in each of the five pillars of support for the BEF entrepreneurial thrust. In the Government Policy pillar, we have identified a liaison resource in government through which two-way communication will be shared as our rocket soars towards the moon. Also, it was reported that the Barbados Social Compact was so enamoured by the BEF vision that they have included it in Protocol No. 6 of the social partnership which means that it will be a recurrent item on their agenda.
In the Business Facilitation pillar we had an update on the “11-11-11 ON” project where BEF is working to establish free WIFI from “bus stop to rum shop” throughout Barbados before our November 2011 SUMMIT; also, this pillar has made significant strides in providing business facilitation support for fledgling entrepreneurs.
There was a report from the Education pillar on the Business Challenge “Classroom to Boardroom” programme with the youth. The Financial pillar is focussing its initial efforts on an Angel Investor network and the mentoring pillar is working to ensure that all new businesses have access to some level of mentoring from the important initial guidance to a fully fledged shepherding programme, where shepherding is heralded as “mitigating the risk of business failure”.
There is now an Executive Management Committee consisting of the CEO, Project Manager and five Pillar Champions. This Committee will meet monthly and advise the Board at their quarterly meeting.
The BEF Vision has been continually nurtured by all the volunteers who have signed up for the Pillar Teams. The monthly BEF Fora, which have attracted an average attendance in the range of 75 to 150 persons, is a major communication mechanism.
At the five monthly BEF Fora to date, we have had presentations from: a successful Barbadian entrepreneur; one of our pillar champions; our passionate CEO; a young successful Barbadian entrepreneur from the Diaspora; and a panel discussion centred on the exciting theme of our first major project “11-11-11 ON”.
The planning team for the second SUMMIT in November 2011 is now in place and we have already secured a venue with greater capacity than the last to accommodate the expected larger numbers than 2010 coming from a wider range of special interests and over a wider geographic domain.
Our website and our monthly BEF Fora will soon be used as media for the build up of interest in the Summit 2011 scheduled for Thursday 17 and Friday 18, November. We are also in discussion with Prof Cardinal Warde, President of the Caribbean Academy of Sciences, towards a partnership with his organisation at the SUMMIT.
We are strong and courageous; we are not afraid and discouraged for the lord our God is with us wherever we go. All volunteers are welcome!