Small businesses join force

A brand new association, the Cayman Islands Small Business Association, dedicated to promoting the interests of small businesses in Cayman has recently been named. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull speaks with the organisers to appreciate the particular needs of this slice of business life and how the Small Business Association could help.

Businesses in Cayman, large or small, all have to cope with a variety of issues that can set back a business, however unintentionally. Immigration, financing, cost of doing business, staffing, attracting customers, and, in today’s economy, just keeping afloat, are all areas that can create difficulties for entrepreneurs in Cayman. The Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce and the Cayman Islands Investment Bureau are two excellent organisations that provide a whole raft of services for the business owner, yet small business owners have still felt the need to create their own association, to ensure that their specific and often unique needs are being met.
Dax Basdeo, executive director with the Cayman Islands Investment Bureau has been assisting the group in establishing its association. He explains why he believes such an organisation was necessary: “Small businesses have unique needs and challenges and a dedicated association has the potential to offer the kind of support that will improve their chances of success.  Such an association is also an excellent point of contact that can allow more focused input on government policy and programmes to ensure that the needs of small businesses are being met.”
Chief organiser of the SBA is Rhonda Kelly, a small business owner. Her business, Kelly Holding Ltd, was formed in February 2002 as a business venture between Rhonda and Antiguan Laurie-Ann Holding. An event management and communications company, the business’s main projects include on-site event and branding management for Digicel for their West Indies Cricket sponsorship, as well as owning and managing the Cayman Islands Marathon.
Rhonda states: “Owning a small business in the Cayman Islands for the past seven years I have often felt that the one policy approach to business is not fair to Cayman’s smaller organisations.  The needs and issues facing a company that employs four or five people are vastly different from those with 50 or 100 employees.  I am hoping that by forming a union of Cayman’s small business owners that we can work towards changing policies and practices that will help all of us to be more successful.  Small businesses in Cayman provide many essential services and employ many Caymanians and our survival is important to the island’s economy.”

Issues facing small business owners
Joel Scott and his wife Christie own and run Cyber Joe’s, an internet and IT support company and have had a raft of issues to deal with in establishing and running their small business.
Joel states: “We feel that small businesses need to pool their resources and help to create a more level playing field so everyone gets a slice of the pie. At present we feel the market is too slanted towards larger businesses. We are not worried about competition but we do feel we should be able to compete fairly.”
Government could greatly assist in this way by putting in place systems that deal with small businesses, according to Joel. In particular, he would like to see the Immigration Department develop ways to get to know the needs of small businesses and work with them.
“I’d like to see an Immigration Business Accreditation System, for example, which targeted small businesses in particular. We would hope that having a well organised SBA would allow for a more influential small business community voice that would ensure small businesses could reap the same benefits of the new system as a large business. An immigration business accreditation system setup specifically for small businesses with reasonable and clear guidelines would be beneficial,” he states.
Knowledge sharing is another huge issue which small business owners believe would be immensely beneficial for them.
Madhavi Mathura owns Accounting & Enterprise Solutions, Ltd., a company specialising in accounting services. In the course of servicing her clients at their places of business she is in touch with a variety of small businesses and notes some of the issues that small businesses face on a regular basis: “I see everything from a company not having any accounting system to track the results of their operations, to management issues, which include cash flow problems, difficulties in marketing a business properly, not getting timely financial statements in order to catch problem areas early on, etc.  I think that the Small Business Association could greatly assist small business owners by working with the CIIB in hosting workshops or seminars on the various major problem areas that small businesses face.”
Madhavi says that time management is another issue faced by small businesses, including allowing time for administrative matters. 
She states: “Though the administrative function does not generate direct income, it is an important area to address for the smooth and professional operation of a business.  At times, it is a fine balance as an owner to wear the many hats required in a small business or a young company.” 
Joel agrees that sharing information is crucial for the success of a small business: “I feel that the sharing of knowledge between a member network on how to best address general business issues faced in our country is extremely important, for example, how to deal with delinquent customers.  I am sure members have all had experience of this and it would be beneficial to know what the most successful methods were in recovering those delinquent funds.”
Other issues such as banks better gearing up to help small businesses with funding and negotiating better rates with service providers such as couriers are other issues that Joel would like to see addressed by the SBA.
Robert Wood of Robert Wood Lighting and Interiors says that as a small business owner, he is looking for like-minded individuals to band together to form a consistent and coherent voice that will be heard by both government and the private sector alike.
“If the current system is allowed to continue I fear that small businesses in Cayman will die,” he worries. “People set up small businesses here without proper guidance and without understanding the concept and then try and compete in a market that is geared towards clients purchasing overseas, thus our market here is contracting significantly. It is little wonder that small businesses fail.”
Robert feels that education, coupled with proper regulation by government for the protection of small businesses would be a good start. He says he hopes the Small Business Association will be able to achieve this.
“Small businesses need a voice,” he states.

Up and running
At the first meeting for the SBA, held earlier this year, a dozen small business owners, along with a good number of supporting business owners who were not in attendance, as well as Dax Basdeo, joined together to flesh out the specifics of their mission and objectives.  These include the desire to influence the development of the small-business community through open dialogue, the sharing of knowledge, ideas and experiences and the establishment of mutually beneficial relationships.
They also decided that they would lobby and work closely with government and key non-governmental organisations to change and create policies which will ensure the continued growth and prosperity of small businesses.
The aim is also to encourage a continually expanding network of small business owners that will serve as the voice of small business in the Cayman Islands.
Support will be on hand for Caymanian entrepreneurs by providing assistance in the establishment and operations of their businesses. This support could come from the creation of a funding scheme to ensure continued small business development.
Education and motivation is key, as Rhonda explains: “We need to educate the public to ensure a full understanding of micro and small businesses and how they are beneficial to the future of the Cayman Islands. At the same time we also want to motivate and stimulate young Caymanians to become entrepreneurs.”
The SBA sees itself as acting as a resource to small businesses, government and other organisations for information about and for small businesses, while providing training and support for small businesses to succeed and become profitable, including negotiation and mediation where appropriate.
First on the agenda is to formally establish the SBA as a non-profit organisation and then to develop a logo and website.

Read the Journal every month as we put the spotlight on issues facing small businesses in Cayman.


Rhonda Kelly: The needs and issues facing a company that employs four or five people are vastly different from those with 50 or 100 employees