Jamaica Business Development Corporation – Kingston, Jamaica

written by BVC August 1, 2022
Jamaica Business Development Corporation - Kingston, Jamaica

Jamaica Business Development Corporation

“How can we help?”

 

Business View Caribbean interviews Valerie Veira, CEO of Jamaica Business Development Corporation, for our focus on Best Practices in Business Development

The Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) is a cooperative arrangement among Government Agencies and the private sector, associations, academic, and research communities – and one of the premier business support organizations in Jamaica. A valued resource that is respected by clients and funding institutions alike.

Over 2,000 businesses have benefited from the JBDC’s services since its inception. Now in its 21st year, the Jamaica Business Development Corporation operates from a modern office/training suite in Kingston, where its exceptional team of business people, admin staff, and 30+ knowledgeable advisers and consultants provide current information on government business-related products, programs, services, and regulations to the MSME (micro, small, medium-sized enterprises) business community in Jamaica.

Valerie Veira, CEO of the JBDC, recounts, “We originally served as the technical component of JAMPRO (Jamaica Promotion), and the government asked us to establish an organization that brought together all of the support services for the MSME sector and to move us out of a situation where there was fragmented support. There was no real recognition that the sector was capable of making a contribution; they were there but not seen as significant contributors to national development – which was erroneous. So with help from the United Nations, a few of us from that division of JAMPRO established Jamaica Business Development Corporation.”

With a mandate to lead the development of the MSME sector in Jamaica, the JBDC has evolved from 45 staff members to 123, and every day their portfolio expands. They take pride in providing a full service ‘From Concept to Market’ and everything in between. “We have a business advisory team that processes ideas that people bring in,” says Veira. “No matter how minimum the thought. Our team is there to maximize that process; to help them understand that what they are talking about is a real business opportunity, or that it should be refashioned in some way, or abandoned totally if necessary.”

Jamaica Business Development Corporation - Kingston, Jamaica

The Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) is a cooperative arrangement among Government Agencies and the private sector, associations, academic, and research communities – and one of the premier business support organizations in Jamaica. A valued resource that is respected by clients and funding institutions alike.

Over 2,000 businesses have benefited from the JBDC’s services since its inception. Now in its 21st year, the Jamaica Business Development Corporation operates from a modern office/training suite in Kingston, where its exceptional team of business people, admin staff, and 30+ knowledgeable advisers and consultants provide current information on government business-related products, programs, services, and regulations to the MSME (micro, small, medium-sized enterprises) business community in Jamaica.

Valerie Veira, CEO of the JBDC, recounts, “We originally served as the technical component of JAMPRO (Jamaica Promotion), and the government asked us to establish an organization that brought together all of the support services for the MSME sector and to move us out of a situation where there was fragmented support. There was no real recognition that the sector was capable of making a contribution; they were there but not seen as significant contributors to national development – which was erroneous. So with help from the United Nations, a few of us from that division of JAMPRO established Jamaica Business Development Corporation.”

With a mandate to lead the development of the MSME sector in Jamaica, the JBDC has evolved from 45 staff members to 123, and every day their portfolio expands. They take pride in providing a full service ‘From Concept to Market’ and everything in between. “We have a business advisory team that processes ideas that people bring in,” says Veira. “No matter how minimum the thought. Our team is there to maximize that process; to help them understand that what they are talking about is a real business opportunity, or that it should be refashioned in some way, or abandoned totally if necessary.”

Jamaica Business Development Corporation - Kingston, Jamaica

Appropriate access to finance has been a perennial challenge for businesses in Jamaica, and the JBDC’s help with that is two-pronged. First, they make sure that the businesses themselves are structured sufficiently to attract the right financing. That’s one part of the equation. They also partner with the bigger financial institutions that exist in Jamaica to make sure the products they are marketing to the small businesses are appropriate. The JBDC team even trains those financial institutions on how to navigate the small business space and understand that these businesses have specific challenges and needs.

Davis adds, “A third critical component is ensuring that the policy is in place to provide financial products for the different sectors. For instance, the social enterprise sector and what would be the appropriate policy framework to define what financial support for that sector would look like. We can help with these challenges.”

One of the JBDC’s mantra’s, “How can we help you?” is both a question and a promise. “Helping is what we are about,” says Veira, “and when we’re talking about the creative and the unusual it means that we really have to enlighten our financial sector, which tends to be very traditional and thinks predominately of the risk. That is a big problem, because Jamaica is all about creativity.”

A lot of the JBDC’s work is not only formalizing the businesses but collecting data in the way that will tell the real story of the contribution of the sector. Veira explains, “When we go to the government for resources, for instance, we need to be able to put the facts on the table about the impact and contribution of the sector. So we’re working in those areas, as well, to ensure that the eco system is nurturing. That it provides sustenance for solid, sustainable growth. So while we’re working with the companies, we’re working with the systems, as well.”

The Jamaica Business Development Corporation communicates with companies using different modalities. During the pandemic, they had to be extremely creative… and actually built out their technical architecture so that when clients needed them most, they could be there to offer encouragement and review their businesses to see how and why they’ve been impacted. “Whether it’s COVID or a hurricane, they need to build resilience into the business,” says Veira, “and we used it as an opportunity to speak in those terms and convinced them because it was right in front of them.”

The pandemic also taught the JBDC that they can survive and thrive with fewer resources thanks to new technology, so now they incorporate a combination of online and face-to-face training and communication. Going forward, that hybrid model will continue to be used – because it works. Networking cohorts for companies, including a boot camp and presentations from financial and other specialists, are also major opportunities for growth that JBDC offers to its clients.

Looking ahead, Veira states that the JBDC is definitely going to be a larger organization. She shares, “We plan on establishing some subsidiaries because we need to break out now from the parent organization and focus specifically on some specialized activities, including some international work. I think the ecosystem is going to get very busy and we have to make sure we keep the focus on the clients and that the relationships with all the support systems that are popping up is beneficial and symbiotic.”

Davis adds, “We see ourselves as the stabilizing force for the future of MSMEs in Jamaica, and through organic growth of JBDC, we are going to be called upon to do that more and more.”

AT A GLANCE

Jamaica Business Development Corporation

What: A premier support agency for micro, small, and medium businesses in Jamaica

Where: Based in Kingston, Jamaica

Website: www.jbdc.net

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July-August 2022 Business View Caribbean issue cover
July-August 2022

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