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The "Business Incubator" (BI) concept can be described as enterprise 'gateways' that are small institutions (or should be) with just two or three staff (counselors) assisting business start-ups. Often, they would include offices counselors and visiting entrepreneurs, along with a training room, meeting room and usually two or so "rentable" spaces from which new businesses can actually operate until they are mature enough to find their own premises.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to appreciate that this has great applicability for countries like Dominica, where the private sector is relatively small and where there is much need to encourage – and facilitate – small business development for jobs and economic growth. Establishing new "enterprises" is growing in our culture – and that's very good – but they all need guidance for a better chance at long tern survival.

Unfortunately, the BI assistance model has seemingly not worked for Dominica! In the last five or so years the only two such institutions operating here have closed their doors. One was established by the former Eastern Caribbean grouping of Development Foundations (ECODEF) based in Dominica. The incubator failed in receiving enough rental income from the small businesses who rented stalls, and the writing was on the wall when ECODEF itself folded up.

The other BI institution was the "National E-Business Incubator", an EU funded project implemented and operated by the University of Technology, Jamaica. I can attest that the staff of UT knew what they were about, but the enthusiasm for their services was not apparently shared by the sponsoring / supporting facilitators – or the small businesses they tried to assist! The allocated space for this RDB column requires we pause at this stage, but next time, we will examine the reasons for the "incubators" failure and what could be done in the future to ensure sustainability.


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