The Hon. Walter Roban, JP, MP
Acting Minister of Economic Development and Tourism
Friday, April 27th, 2018
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report on an exceptional new measure taken to enhance the local entrepreneurial experience in Bermuda and provide our Island’s rising business owners with greater tools for success.
Earlier this month, the BEDC announced its latest example of how it was choosing to equip local start-ups and budding entrepreneurs with skills and resources to thrive in the 21st Century. As you may know, the BEDC was established on January 20, 1981, with the mission of inspiring, informing, supporting and growing new and existing Bermuda businesses. This is done through a host of educational programmes, seminars and workshops; mentoring initiatives; networking opportunities; financing and much more.
Over the last 37 years, the BEDC has assisted thousands of local Bermuda business owners and entrepreneurs – and today its passion for enhancing micro, small, and medium businesses is still very much alive and well. The Enterprise Bermuda Incubator Programme is one such example of this. Launched in February 2018, the programme is focused on walking participants through an in-depth nine-month development process, which ensures the entrepreneurs get beyond the idea stage and start to bring their businesses to fruition. This pilot initiative is being run with the winners of the tenth annual Rocket Pitch competition – six local entrepreneurs who proved their innovation at the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) event, held on November 16, 2017.
- Surlena Smith – Pitch Green Winner with her all-natural deodorant brand, PondaPits;
- Nakia Smith – Pitch Pink Winner whose Sip and Savor Bermuda food tours offers visitors the chance to eat and drink like locals;
- Chris Phillips – Pitch Tech Winner whose mobile app, Dealio, alerts customers to the closest local deals;
- Tracey Hayward – Pitch Town Winner whose online business, School Boxez, provides parents of children in middle and high school with school supplies;
- Chaella (pronounce Chay-la) Bradshaw-Douglas – Youth Pitch Winner whose vending machine business, Good Chew, aims to provide homemade, healthy snack alternatives to school students; and
- Cire’ (pronounced Sigh-Ree) Bean – Youth Pitch Runner Up whose online matching business, Pay-A-Kid, pairs young people between the ages of 13 and 18 with odd jobs.
Mr. Speaker, these six Bermuda talents have been taken through a detailed process of analyzing and refining their business idea, so they can best determine if it will work in – and beyond – the Bermuda market. Participants are provided with complimentary access to BEDC’s educational courses and programmes; free and subsidized office space; and personalized mentoring with financial advisor, Bruce Sharpe, of Sharpe Financial Services Ltd.
And that’s not all. The BEDC is also using its vast database of industry contacts to find participants pro-bono or subsidized services in areas such as marketing, accounting, legal support, and web development, which were all identified by the entrepreneurs in a recent needs assessment. Last, but not least, those taking part in the 2018 Enterprise Bermuda Incubator Programme will meet one-on-one with BEDC’s Officers on a biweekly basis to provide updates and receive added encouragement and support.
The idea for this programme was first sparked several years ago. It was determined entrepreneurs needed more support to get beyond the idea stage and bring their business solutions to reality. The BEDC believes this pilot Incubator Programme will give individuals all the resources they need to become successful entrepreneurs – and so far the results have been very promising, with participants being very involved and engaged in the learning and development process.
Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago these six entrepreneurs were invited to take part in the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) in Istanbul, Turkey from Sunday (April 15 to Thursday, April 19), thanks to sponsorship from BEDC. They were given unparalleled access to some of the brightest minds in the global entrepreneurial ecosystem through GEC.
Each year, the Congress gathers together thousands of entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, policymakers and other startup champions from more than 170 countries to identify new ways of launching and scaling their business ventures. The local entrepreneurs soaked up every opportunity last week to network, make connections, gain insights and learn about new research.
The objective was that by including them in on this international event they would leave the Congress ready to renew their business ideas and bring new skills and strategies for success back to Bermuda. And I am proud to say that mission has been accomplished. One of the youngest participants, 17-year-old Chaella (pronounced Chay-la) Bradshaw-Douglas, said the experience had expanded her mind and inspired her to reach for the stars with her own business aspirations. Local teacher Tracy Hayward commented that the expertise and information shared at the GEC was mind-blowing. She said she was amazed to see so many different countries from around the world represented at this one event.
Mr. Speaker, Incubator participant, Mrs. Surlena Smith, the Pitch GREEN winner, was given the chance to represent Bermuda in the Global Future Agro Challenge a few days prior to the Congress in Turkey. She was able to share her business pitch for her all-natural deodorant product PondaPits alongside other environmental innovations from around the globe. She described the experience at GEC as being “exceptional”. And said being a part of the Future Agro Challenge and part of the Bermudian consortium to attend the GEC was one of the most exceptional opportunities of her entrepreneurial journey so far. It provided her with an avenue to represent Bermuda on a global stage and introduce PondaPits to the world. She described this as a dream come true.
The GEC experience is just the start of the road for these local startups and budding entrepreneurs. The goal moving forward with the Enterprise Bermuda Incubator Programme is to make it available to new start-up business owners ready to take their operations to the next level. The next cohort of the scheme will start in January 2019. Applications with criteria for selection will be made available online, and for pick-up at the BEDC’s office in Sofia House, located at #48 Church Street, Hamilton, from September 1, 2018 until November 1, 2018.
In closing Mr. Speaker, I believe recognition is due to the BEDC for launching this Enterprise Bermuda Incubator Programme. I believe this aligns with Government’s commitment to support local entrepreneurship and provide small business owners with greater access to opportunities.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.