The Expo is over, what next?
SEARCHLIGHT wishes to congratulate all the individuals and businesses, as well as Invest SVG for the impressive display put on at the Everything Vincy Plus Expo, one of the highlights of our national Independence celebrations. This was a clear demonstration of the abundant talent and creative capacity of our people, our young entrepreneurs in particular.
However, as so often happens, success, even if partial, brings its own challenges and this is no exception. Inevitably one begins to ask, “After all this, what next”? What is required to take this potential to a new level, to provide the markets, here and abroad to make these ventures into profitable enterprises, employing many Vincentians and bringing rewards to the entrepreneurs?
It is significant that among the comments about the Expo were several expressing surprise at the range of local skill displayed, saying that they were unaware that our country has such a variety of goods and services. This places the critical issues of marketing and promotion squarely on the agenda. It is one thing to produce for an exhibition, quite another to be able to access reliable markets on an ongoing basis.
Entrepreneurs in small countries like ours face formidable challenges. The small size of our local market is one of them, especially when it is not only the size itself but also the limited purchasing power in a small-island economy. Many promising businesses have failed because of a lack of marketing support and inadequate promotion. You can have the best services and goods but getting people to know and then to purchase is another matter.
It must be remembered too that entrepreneurs do not exist in isolation. There is fierce competition in today’s world, at home, abroad and even online. Modern trading arrangements are opening markets to competition, as we face within our own CARICOM and OECS. It means that the quality of goods and services provided must be able to compete on the market and, crucially, the cost of providing those goods and services must match that of the competition.
Another challenge is finding the capital, both to sustain the activity as well as for expansion. That has historically proven to be a major hurdle for Vincentian businesses. In a risk-averse environment like ours, even the most enterprising businesses can become stifled. The experience of our small producers is not an encouraging one.
Yet formidable though they might be, with the right enabling environment, policies and support they can be overcome. It is not beyond us but it calls for hard work, support from government and the financial sector and above all winning over our people, here and in the diaspora to demonstrate confidence in our local entrepreneurs to maximize our potential. We all have a part to play.