$1m start-up fund shortlists four bids

A $1m fund established by the Bahamas Striping Group of Companies will this week begin interviews with shortlisted entrepreneurs seeking to access its funding.

The Investment Group’s (TIG) second financing round has shown how difficult it is for budding business owners and start-ups to make the grade, with almost one-third of the 63 initial applicants rejected almost immediately due to flaws in their plans.

“I’ve been impressed by some of the ideas we have seen,” said Mick Holding, chairman of TIG’s board of directors. “They are outside of the box in terms of what people are looking to do. Not everyone will succeed but some of them have got huge potential if it comes off.”

The Investment Group aims to support entrepreneurship and employment by providing seed capital to fledgling companies, taking an equity stake in the enterprise in return.

It was established by Bahamas Striping in 2017 to nurture start-ups possessing the vision, drive and innovation to succeed, but lacking the necessary financing to drive business growth. The venture recalls Bahamas Striping’s roots as the recipient of a $5,000 self-starter grant from the last Ingraham administration, which was issued to founders Atario Mitchell and Dominic Sturrup.

The first three recipients receiving undisclosed sums in 2017 from TIG were United Data Technologies, KW Paving and Global Energy Solutions.

Applications for TIG’s second round of funding closed last September. Although 63 persons applied with ideas ranging from catering to agriculture to tourism, 20 applications were immediately dismissed due to the lack of a business plan of any description.

“By far the biggest reason for not progressing to the next round was inadequate business plans and lack of financial projections,” said Mr Holding, a former president of Grand Bahama’s Chamber of Commerce.

“Some may have had an idea but not been able to connect that idea to paper and put it into a plan. Many did not include any financial projections, which is clearly something that is essential. If you go to a bank or any other financial institution, unless you’ve got financial models, you are not going to be entertained at all.”

After a first round of scrutiny by fellow board members Fredericka Sturrup, Bahamas Striping’s vice-president of human resources and training, and Yvette Ingraham, president of 360 Training and Consulting, they and Mr Holding emerged with a shortlist of seven candidates to be interviewed. The number was narrowed down further when only four applicants progressed to stage three.

“The first step of stage three will take place this Friday. That is where we invite them back and start to ask them more detailed questions about their business plans,” Mr Holding explained.

“Following on from that we will go into more depth in three areas: Financial projections, which is obviously very important; commercial considerations, how well they know their market and competition; and the third area is the structure of the investment.”

Those discussions are expected to continue over the next few weeks, ending with at least two successful candidates emerging.

“We are looking for people with different ideas. It is innovation that catches our imagination, followed by the quality of the applicants themselves,” said Mr Holding. “It’s not just a good idea that we’re looking for and a sound plan; we are also looking to see if the individuals themselves, in our judgement, are able to deliver. You might have a great idea, but you may not be able to execute it.”

One of the finalists is in the agricultural sector, while another has export potential. TIG will invest between $50,000 and $150,000 into the winning ventures, although those numbers are not set.

“If someone came in with an excellent idea that required $175,000 or $40,000, we wouldn’t exclude them,” said Mr Holding. “Our objective is to try and help as many as possible with the funds that are available.”