“So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who testified to the word of His grace by granting signs and wonders to be done through them.” – Acts 14:3

The population in the Caribbean is estimated to be English Heritage (6 million), French Heritage (11.2 million), Dutch Heritage (0.8 million) and Spanish Heritage (22.5 million), a total of 40.5 million people. The populations of even the larger Caribbean countries are too small to support themselves and hence we have to be clever and export goods and services, for which we have a competitive advantage, to the global consumer.

We must recognize that we are now in the information age and that the Earth must now be seen as a global village, where the global consumers, in return for products and services, must pay all our bills. In this context we must mobilize initiatives which will allow us to evolve from being a mendicant society, where we depend on aid and talk about reparations, to become an enterprising society.

Last week I was part of the launch of the Caribbean Food Business Innovation Revolution initiative which is promoted by the Global Business Innovation Corporation (GBIC) and was hosted by exporTT, the national export facilitation organization of Trinidad and Tobago. This is an example of an initiative which, as we expand it throughout the Caribbean, will allow global consumers to pay all our bills.

There were many aspects of this initiative for which one must credit Divine intervention. The introduction of Guyanese-American Dr. Owen Carryl (an Open Innovation Expert) to my son Bevan Springer (Media, Marketing and Public Relations) when Owen’s brother, a longtime friend of Bevan, connected them.

Owen and Bevan talked about my work in shepherding which piqued Owen’s interest. He wanted to know more about it which led to a one-hour Skype call in the summer, followed by a face-to-face meeting a month later which also included Owen’s Brazilian colleague from Mexico, Diego Bolson Ruzzarin (a Food Design Expert). Owen had previously worked with Diego at Pepsico. Our personalities gelled and we agreed on an approach, led by Diego, which has resulted in the birth of the Caribbean Food Business Innovation Revolution initiative.

This GBIC initiative, with its expertise in the four competencies of shepherding, open innovation, food design and communications, offers Caribbean entrepreneurs avenues to take their products and services to the regional and global marketplace.

I introduced the concept to the Trinidad and Tobago Minister of Trade, Industry, Investment and Communications, Senator Vasant Bharath, who immediately identified exporTT as the appropriate agency with whom GBIC should liaise. exporTT embraced the approach from GBIC with enthusiasm and agreed to host the breakfast launch at their headquarters.

All four GBIC resource persons assembled in Trinidad a week ago and launched the initiative to a packed house. Diego led the presentations, followed by Owen. These two presentations captured the interest of the audience as to how food and beverage manufacturers could quickly gain access to the US market, in particular, with products which were appropriately developed to satisfy the needs of consumers.

I addressed the need to shepherd (life coach and business mentor) the enterprises to mitigate the risk of business failure as they accept the challenge to move to a larger consumer base in the global market. I pointed out that shepherding also secures the seed and equity capital investment.

As I handed over to Bevan, the moderator, to share his GBIC role with the audience, I realized, in a quiet emotional moment, that this handing over to my son was a symbolic manifestation of succession planning even though retirement is not proactively defined in my vocabulary. He talked about the role of the communications platform which cannot be overstated. The GBIC initiative will benefit from a wide-variety of communications tactics as we move products from the farm to the consumer.

The next day and a half we spent interviewing potential clients who would participate in the first cadre of food and beverage manufacturers under the GBIC initiative. We need a critical mass of 20 companies to consummate the venture which we expect will be funded from a combination of Government support, the justification for which is increased foreign exchange earnings; and upfront investment from the companies themselves as well as a commission on sales, the justification of which would be the enhanced profitability of the enterprises as they grow exponentially in the global marketplace.

Remember that another enterprise development initiative, Bank on Me, starts on Tuesday, January 20 at 8 p.m. on Barbados’ CBC TV Channel 8 and continues for seven consecutive weeks.

Let us step up to the plate and speak boldly for the Lord, our wonders to perform in getting global consumers to pay all the bills while they benefit from the excellent products from our region.

(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. – CBET. His columns may be found at www.cbetmodel.org and www.nothingbeatsbusiness.com.)