Thursday, August 11, 2022
By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
THE SBDC/Access Accelerator’s Summer Entrepreneurial Training & Mentorship (SET) series kicked off its first of three pitch nights in grand style awarding $25,000 in cash prizes to local small business owners.
Modelled after the television show Shark Tank, the Innovative Business Pitch Competition featured six Bahamian entrepreneurs of Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) presenting their innovative concepts to a panel of judges and a room full of business leaders, mentors and spectators.
The competitors were given five minutes to demonstrate how their small business relies on unique products, services, processes, platforms or channels to gain a competitive advantage, create multiple revenue streams and ensure financial viability. Entrepreneurs stepped up to the task and wowed the audience by presenting live at the Access Accelerator Headquarters with pitches complimented by product samples, props and live demos. Participants then had to defend their concepts during a question period by the judges.
First place winner, Jenson Rolle, Owner of Stay Chill 242 won a $5,000 cash prize and business gift set donated by J.S. Johnson Insurance Agents & Brokers (JSJ). Second prize winner, Charles Richardson of CEE-MAR Telecoms earned a three-night stay at Fountain Bay Resort in Cat Island donated by the resort and a JSJ travel gift set. The third prize winner, Antonio Miller of Raw Build earned a gift bag from JSJ. Also putting up a good fight in the pitch arena was The New Duff, Chickcharney Chirren and Ami Da One.
“J.S Johnson has always been a keen supporter of organizations that address the growing needs of society. In a time of economic recovery, we found this partnership a great match for our financial support as the small business community continues to evolve,” said Stephanie Hanna, Public Relations & Administration Vice President of JSJ. “We are proud to support the efforts of Access Accelerator and look forward to our continuous impact together,” she continued.
Inspired by the enthusiasm of the competitors, entrepreneur and angel investor, Henry Dean, pledged an additional $20,000 in a surprise turn of events to be evenly split between first through fourth place winners. As a community leader, successful businessman, counselor and visionary, Dean saw this as an opportunity to advocate for small business owners through his support.
The judges had the important task of scoring the participants on the feasibility of their innovations. The panel consisted of Financial Institution representatives: Crestwell Gardiner, Vice President of Banking, Fidelity Bank (Bahamas) Ltd; Robert Pantry, Chief Executive Officer, Simplified Lending Ltd; Ellistina Knowles, Business Banking Manager, Scotiabank (Bahamas) Ltd.; Darvin Russell, Project Manager, Inter-American Development Bank; and industry experts: Petra Haven, Chameleon Management Group; Charles Sealy, Founder, Centris Distributors Ltd.; and Anthone Deveaux founder, Orca Construction Ltd.
As Access Accelerator prepares for the continuation of the series, Interim Executive Director, Samantha L. Rolle reflected on the programme’s impact.
“It’s not just about the Pitch Competitions and access to funding, but the entire educational series and how, through our programming, we (at the SBDC) instill the importance of entrepreneurial training and mentorship and prepare our MSME community for how they present themselves, the confidence they show and a wholistic approach to business ownership,” said Ms Rolle.
Pitch judge and top sponsor representative, Gardiner of Fidelity also chimed in, “Fidelity has and will continue to partner with the Access Accelerator, Small Business Development Centre to provide opportunities to those entrepreneurs that demonstrate preparedness, as this develops a vibrant ecosystem for business development and in turn supports national development.”
Sponsors and participants look forward to future events as the organization will host its Global Business Pitch Competition on August 30, wanting to attract growth-minded Bahamian entrepreneurs for a cash prize of $7,500 sponsored by Simplified Lending. The grand finale will take place in September with a top prize of $10,000 donated by Fidelity.
The pitch competition is open to startup and existing business owners, as long as the business does not generate more than $5m in annual sales and/or does not employ more than fifty people. Competitions are In-person only events to protect the confidentiality of our clients’ business ideas.