For entrepreneurs and business owners, more often than not, financing proves the difference between business idea and business reality; business success and business closure. Indeed, “access to finance and poor management of finances are major impediments to businesses in Saint Lucia,” says Esli Lafeuille; Business Development Officer at the Department of Commerce, International Trade, Investment, Enterprise Development and Consumer Affairs.
With this in mind, and in an effort to empower small business owners, last month the Department of Commerce, International Trade, Investment, Enterprise Development and Consumer Affairs hosted a two-day Finance and Equity Symposium. An official activity for Business Month 2016, the Finance and Equity Symposium was specifically tailored to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and ran from November 2nd to 3rd at the Golden Palm Event Centre in Rodney Heights, Gros Islet.
Held for the second consecutive year, attendees of the MSME Finance and Equity Symposium gained insightful information as lenders and investors from various financial institutions presented on a range of topics such as; Equity and Debt Financing, Investment Guidance, Crowdfunding and Managing Your Business Finance. This year’s symposium included a special address from the Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA) on Angel Investing and insight into the application process for funding though Link Caribbean. Business-to-Business meetings were also facilitated to enable entrepreneurs and small business owners to directly network with lenders and investors, and among themselves.
“Poor management of finances and lack of record keeping are common occurrences with small businesses in Saint Lucia; which makes accessing finances more difficult,” says Lafeuillee. “In St Lucia there are not many established venture capital or angel investment firms, and grant funding is not readily available. A large percentage of the capital is from lending. So for those who don’t meet the requirements set by the lending institutions it’s almost impossible to start up. This is why this symposium was so important; as a means of introducing business owners to key financing options available to them but also to help them understand what is required in order to access the various types of financing options.”
Lafeuillee noted that the Department of Commerce was extremely pleased by the level of participation at this year’s MSME Finance and Equity Symposium, which increased from last year. Attendees were very receptive and provided positive feedback.
The MSME Finance and Equity Symposium is in keeping with the Department of Commerce’s mandate to provide training and consultation to entrepreneurs, as a means of promoting the sustainable growth of the MSME sector. It also formed a part of planned stakeholder consultations as the Department of Commerce seeks to address the issue of capitalization for small businesses.