The Ministry of Social Development and Family Services yesterday distributed $1 million in grants to 67 recipients of the Sowing Empowerment through Entrepreneurial Development (SEED) programme.
Each recipient received a grant of $15,000 by Minister of Social Development and Family Services Minister Cherrie-Ann Crichlow-Cockburn at a distribution ceremony at Government Plaza, Port-of Spain.
One recipient, Ursula Mark-Kelly promised to put the grant to good use, as she plans to open a mini-mart next month at her home in Sherwood Park, Arima.
In addition to selling dry goods and a variety of frozen meats, Mark-Kelly, 45, said she will offer pastries and cakes to her customers. “This business will help supplement my family’s income. My husband is a labourer and jobs have not been coming in on a regular basis due to the downturn in the economy,” Mark-Kelly said.
For several weeks, Mark-Kelly was exposed to training at the University of T&T in business management which was facilitated by the Central Bank of T&T.
“This training guided me on how to run my business efficiently and effectively and attract customers. I certainly learnt a lot. I am forever thankful to the ministry for helping me to open my own business which has been a long-life dream of mine,” the mother of three said.
Of the 67 recipients, the majority ventured into agriculture, while other chose garment construction, catering, cosmetology and establishing mini-marts.
In delivering remarks, Patricia De Leon-Henry, director of the ministry’s National Social Development Programme told the recipients that this programme was one of the key drivers of the ministry’s thrust to strengthen its national social safety net.
She said the programme encourages individuals, families and communities to become more resilient while the grants will provide assistance to clients interested in starting a business or improving their skills set.
“The primary objective is to empower and to transform the lives of all successful applicants particularly those in receipt of welfare grants but desirous of starting a micro-enterprise.”
De Leon-Henry said the ministry envisaged a new pool of business owners who will assist in reducing levels of dependency on the State and add to the country’s overall competitiveness and innovation.
The recipients were trained in financial management, record keeping, costing and pricing, marketing, customer service and development of responsible behavioural and attitudinal skills.
In extending best wishes, Crichlow-Cockburn told the recipients that the ministry was prepared to provide support throughout their entrepreneurial journey while monitoring their businesses.
“What we try to do is work with our clients. The intention is for them to become self-sufficient. That is the basic idea behind the grants,” the minister said.
Last year, the ministry distributed grants to 20 clients many of whom still operate as entrepreneurs today. The recipients, Crichlow-Cockburn said do not have to repay the grants.