By Christopher Tobutt
The Cayman Islands Centre for Business Development (CICBC) welcomed 16 fledgling businesses into their ‘Incubator,’ the name given to a large sub-divided office space. The 2 year Incubator programme aims at nurturing new businesses by providing them with basic office facilities such as internet connection and access to printers and photocopiers, as well as free advice from all the CICBD staff and mentors. The Incubator was originally slated to open a year ago, but the covid lockdown came along first, delaying it for a year, explained Hon Joey Hew, Hon. Joey Hew, Minister of Commerce Planning & Infrastructure who welcomed the Incubator’s first cohort, and presented each of them with their starter package.
Outlining some of background to how the idea of the Incubator came about, Minister Hew said, “In 2013 when I was campaigning I found a lot of young people on stairwells or at the side of buildings so they could get access to wifi and working on various businesses. The one thing I took away from that was that we were being too shortsighted. Here in the Cayman Islands there is such opportunity in financial services and hospitality that we tend to ask, ‘why aren’t you doing that?’ But I came to see you can’t fit a circle into a square hole. People have different ideas, and want to express their sense of accomplishment.”
It was from there that the idea for a special new business incubator, where a wide variety of different kinds small and microbusinesses could gain much-needed support, began to hatch. Mr. Hew went on to explain that he saw the value in helping a variety of small and microbusinesses that might not fall into traditional categories, and that represent a processes of economic diversification which is a desirable attribute for any country’s economy in an uncertain world, and that the opening of this incubator facility was one of the highlights of his time as minister. The Incubator is part of a much more extensive government programme, focusing on small businesses, “I want to thank my government because we were able to help small and micro businesses to the tune of 17 million dollars,” Mr. Hew said.
Antoleen Williams, one of several CICBD business advisors said the incubator represented a “community workspace, enabling new businesses to launch and grow with the aim to identify, nurture and mentor innovative businesses and entrepreneurs, helping them become more locally and globally competitive.”
Addressing the business owners who will be using the new facility, Althea West-Myers, Director CICBD said: “The incubator is just one arm of what we do “Your net-work tells the value of your net-worth,” she said, “so it is very important for us to build your network, in order to build your net worth.”
The Incubator is designed to help small and microbusinesses develop healthy and extensive networks. The program progresses through several phases, with business advisors being assigned from early on from within CICBC. At the six-month stage, each business is introduced to experienced business mentors. After the first year, each of the businesses is prepared to meet bankers and investors.
Not all those who make up the new cohort are truly new businesses, however, with some of them up and running for several years.
Phillip Ebanks who started “Collective,” a digital marketing services company in 2015, was glad of the opportunity he had been given to use the new facility, “this opportunity is good because it provides networking opportunities and the opportunities to bring products to market and eventually find investors,” he said.