#BTColumn – Create an Entrepreneurial Economy – Barbados Today

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by Ryan Walters

Small Business Week 2022 is an important reminder that all big businesses began small as a single idea.

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

Of course, big businesses have their place. But it’s small businesses that are the engine of growth in our economy.

They create most of the new jobs and they are more nimble 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 steadfastly contributing to your own livelihoods, the livelihoods of others and
to the economy as a whole.

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

As I ponder on what our Micro, Small and Medium Business Enterprises (MSMEs) need, many things come
to mind. But as I list the many things that need to be addressed to the benefit of the sector, I realised that before we can chip away at a list of things to be done, we need to embrace an overall perception and repositioning of how we view our business owners.

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

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

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

I imagine that that is still the case today, give or take…

COVID brought the opportunity to pause, think and redesign what we call small businesses but what I prefer to call the Entrepreneurial Economy.

We need once and for all to create an Entrepreneurial Economy and do away with this notion of micro and small
business sector.

There is something very counter-productive about labelling the sector by using a word that connotes size – “small” – making its significance appear to be little.

While the individual businesses may be small in size, the sector as a collective, makes a big contribution.

To reposition into the Entrepreneurial Economy, serious questions have to be asked.

Business owners are finding it very difficult financially to run their businesses and maintain their households. Is a small loan enough to sustain the business?

Is a pop-up shop every other month enough to bring in sales to cover expenses? So, the question is how do we sustain our businesses in the Entrepreneurial Economy? This is something we can all discuss in more detail going forward.

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

Talking down to the small man rather than encouraging him and lifting him up! I would love to see an Entrepreneurial Economy that speaks not only to minimum contributions of self-employed persons but
to sickness and unemployment benefits for our business owners when they too themselves suffer unexpected sickness or injury and are unable to earn. Personal Income Tax allowances should be a standard.

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

The unfair application of VAT in some sub sectors need to be addressed. Each entrepreneurial venture should be benefiting from a strong support structure that focuses on the success of each venture.

As I said previously, there is so much to do but as a start let’s lift up and empower our small business owners and fit them into a new Entrepreneurial Economy.

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

Kudos to you all for fighting the fight. Your work and contribution have not gone unnoticed. Keep up the good work and God Bless!

Ryan Walters (MBA in Finance) is former spokesperson on Small Business for the Democratic Labour Party and Manager of International Franchises in Barbados.


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