Ian K Ramdhanie, msC,
Successful T&T entrepreneurs who have made their mark locally and internationally will be in the spotlight when the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce hosts the 4th Caribbean SME Business Conference, Innovation in business—The Caribbean Experience, July 9 and 10 at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain. Featured speakers will be Maxine Williams, global head of diversity, Facebook; Dr Wayne Frederick, president Howard University; Dr Camille Wardrop Alleyne, assistant programme scientist, International Space Station at NASA Johnson Space Centre; Etienne Charles, assistant professor of Jazz Trumpet, Michigan State University and CEO/founder, Culture Shock Music; Nigel Henry, founder/lead analyst, Solution by Simulation; Christian Stone, founder/director, More Vino, More Sushi; and Antoinette Maund, founder/owner. Ate Logo Shoe Store. Jerome Chambers, chairman of the Chamber’s Nova Committee, said the upcoming conference is part of a continuing effort to “respond to the expressed needs of this important sector of the economy by way of example”. “In 2010 it was estimated that in Trinidad and Tobago, SMEs numbered approximately 18,000, contributing nearly 28 per cent to GDP and employing 200,000 persons—approximately 30 per cent of the labour force.” he said.
“The Ministry of Labour and Small and Micro Enterprise Development have indicated that 91 per cent of business establishments in T&T are SMEs with 75 per cent being micro enterprises.”
Speaking at the launch of the conference at the Chamber’s Westmooring headquarters yesterday, Chambers said the aim was to highlight foreign and local based T&T nationals who have excelled in their respective fields so that participants can learn from their experiences. CEO Catherine Kumar said the Chamber has made SME development one of its strategic areas of focus.
She said: “It has been said in many fora that SME growth and development is an important pillar in the growth and development of our national economy. This is evidenced by the fact that, just as with many countries worldwide, SMEs account for thousands of companies operating in T&T. They employ a significant part of our labour force, and contribute over 20 per cent of our GDP.
“We must therefore build structures that support their growth, and I use this opportunity to renew the Chamber’s call for the review and enactment of the fiscal incentives for SMEs listing on the Stock Exchange to improve access to capital for SMEs.”
Kumar said too often the tendency was to look externally for examples of successful entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, “not realising, or appreciating, that we have our own examples of sons and daughters of our soil, who are eminent business owners or leaders.” The target audience for the conference is owners, management and key staff of SMEs, as well as students, people considering starting a business, academics and researchers. There will be presentations by the various speaker followed by a short Q&A session. Participants will then be divided into groups of 12 to 15 for the opportunity to interact more directly with presenters who will rotate to different groups. This will allow for a more direct interaction between the presenters and participants.