Tackling economic growth through entrepreneurship

Originally published on Virgin.com by Lisa Lake.

Economic Growth Is Complicated – Sustainable Economic Growth, Even More So. We Know We Want It, But How Do We Get It?

For decades, economists have created models to determine what best drives economic growth, in an effort to help policy makers know where best to focus their efforts. Is it education, labour force, natural resources, innovation or productivity? Even if we could determine a singular driver with total accuracy, what exactly does it tell us about what we can and what we should be doing?

The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship – Caribbean (BCoEC) believes that entrepreneurship – in particular, the growth of businesses that are driven by people, profit and planet – is an effective and inclusive path to achieving Global Goal 8: sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all. We are the only accelerator in the Caribbean, backed by a globally recognised brand, that offers a full suite of services to support entrepreneurs. We have seen our community of 80 entrepreneurs create over 140 new jobs, support over 200 existing jobs, and grow revenues by 214 per cent – and as our community grows, we believe Caribbean economies will grow along with it.


Winners of the Made of More Entrepreneurs Challenge

On Friday September 25th, the BCoEC with our partners, the Arthur Guinness Project, hosted the first‘Made of More Entrepreneurs Challenge’ at the ATL Automotive Showroom in Montego Bay, Jamaica. It is important that on the day that the Global Goals launched, five Jamaican entrepreneurs received US$130,000 in collateral-free, low-interest loans to provide the growth capital needed to transform their business. A relatively small amount of capital can have a transformative effect on entrepreneurs from emerging markets, leading to true, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth. Solving small problems faced by entrepreneurs can go a long way in solving big problems of economic growth and development globally.


Lisandra Rickards of BCoEC

It doesn’t happen overnight, but it can absolutely happen by 2030. It can happen by taking an entrepreneurial approach to what might seem like a daunting problem. Using the ‘Made of More Entrepreneurs Challenge’ as an example, I’d like to share three strategies that you can use to attack Goal 8 as an entrepreneur yourself, or as an organisation that wants to support them:

1) Break down the problem to find its root, then apply innovative solutions

In Jamaica, founders of small and medium size businesses were finding it difficult to get funding. Upon analyzing this challenge, the BCoEC identified two main problems. Firstly, banks and investors felt that they were not being presented with business plans that showcased a viable investment opportunity. Secondly, even businesses with ‘bankable’ plans were not able to get financing because they lacked collateral required by the banks.

We needed to apply two separate approaches to address each of these issues. Firstly, we created a practical training program to help entrepreneurs prepare a business pitch to sell their businesses. We then put this online through the Branson Centre Caribbean website to make it free and open for anyone that wants it. Once we had a community of Branson Centre Official Entrepreneurs with bankable businesses, we worked to address the collateral problem. We created a pool of funds from donations that could be lent to the entrepreneurs collateral-free and created a sustainable fund for other entrepreneurs to borrow from in the future.

We mitigated the investment risk not through collateral, but through the relationships we’d built with entrepreneurs and the extra support we’d provided through mentorship and coaching.


Judges deliberating at the Made of More Entrepreneurs Challenge

2) Test then scale

Even after you pinpoint the problem and create an actionable strategy, it’s worth while testing it first, before undertaking a widespread push. In 2013, Richard Branson provided loans to a select group of Branson Centre Official Entrepreneurs who participated in a pitch competition at the Centre in Montego Bay. This provided a perfect opportunity to test what would happen if we supported the entrepreneurs to create scalable and sustainable business models, whilst taking away the collateral requirement so they could finally access funds to grow. The result for us has been transformative growth of the entrepreneurs and their businesses in the order of 100-700 per cent – with a 100 per cent repayment rate to date.

3) Build long lasting partnerships

So you know it works. Now what? Don’t try to do it all alone. Share your experience with partners who have the same objectives as you and collaborate with them to amplify the impact. The Branson Centre was lucky to find such a partner in the Arthur Guinness Project (AGP). Rooted in their interest to support business as a force for good, AGP first supported the BCoEC by donating funds to build out the Centre’s home in Montego Bay. They have subsequently committed over US$400k to support Branson Centre Official Entrepreneurs to access the funds necessary for growth.

The Global Goals are grand, and can at times seem daunting. In Jamaica, we have a saying that “every mickle mek a muckle,” which translates to “every little bit counts.” We exhort all global citizens to take an issue, break it down, think of a new solution, test it, and find others who share your motivations to do it with you.

As global citizens we all need to commit ourselves to achieving these goals. Our livelihoods and our planet depend on it. At the Branson Centre Caribbean, we act on our commitment to Goal 8 by supporting our entrepreneurs to scale. By 2030 we may very well find that the solution to the big growth debate didn’t come from economists, it came from entrepreneurs!

Read more blogs about the Global Goals by visiting our content series homepage.

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