Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Report: Jamaican entrepreneurs get star treatment

Published:Wednesday | February 15, 2017 | 2:00 AMSteven Jackson
In this June 2016 photo, a row of shops is seen on the waterfront in Kingston. Jamaican entrepreneurs tend to be treated like stars by the media, a new report has found.

Jamaica ranks among the top five countries with high perception of their entrepreneurs, according to a global report, which also found that their 'stardom' fails at times to translate into sales and support.

Socially, entrepreneurs are held in 'high regard', a view that gets reinforced by the Jamaican media, which tends, more than other countries, to give entrepreneurs a voice, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2016/17 report released by Babson College, which runs one of the most respected entrepreneurship programmes in the United States.

"In Jamaica, people do not necessarily support your business, but they do have a favourable perception of entrepreneurs," local entrepreneur Cherie Dowdie commented to Gleaner Business, following the release of the report.

Five years ago, Dowdie, a Jamaican sole trader at Live Juice Bar, contemplated opening her business in the US, but chose Jamaica instead. She wanted to take advantage of what she saw as a burgeoning local industry with higher growth potential than the highly competitive US market to make 'live juices' and smoothies.

"We don't necessarily have a drive to support local industry and small business. In general, that is not a part of our culture. Everybody loves a hustler, but we are not looking at supporting the business," Dowdie said.

She reasoned that although US perceptions of entrepreneurs are at times on par with Jamaica, there is "absolutely" more support exists in the US.

"Certainly in the US, there is a focus on entrepreneurship. Definitely, it is a big deal in the US, to the degree that 'start-up' is such a buzz word there," said Dowdie, who also lives in the US.

GEM surveyed over 60 countries in the 2016 report, covering 69.2 per cent of the world's population and 84.9 per cent of the world's GDP. In its 18th consecutive year, the report's publishers describe it as the largest single study of entrepreneurship in the world.

ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY

"Sixty per cent of adults believe entrepreneurs receive positive media attention. Jamaica reports the highest levels of media attention at 87 per cent, consistent with its strongly positive perceptions about entrepreneurship at 85 per cent," said the report.

Consequently, Jamaica ranked second in terms of perceptions of the entrepreneurs' capabilities or their competence to run a business, and fourth in terms of the perceived opportunities.

On the flip side, the report said that when the venture doesn't make money, the founders of the business, in Jamaica and other jurisdictions, often close shop quickly.

"Exit rates because of a lack of profitability are particularly high in Brazil (66 per cent) and Jamaica (56 per cent), while lack of finance is a particularly prevalent exit reason in Belize, affecting just under a third of entrepreneurs," said the report.

In North America, on the other hand, only 20 per cent of entrepreneurs exit for lack of profitability, and only nine per cent cite problems with access to finance, while 40 per cent of entrepreneurs cite sale, retirement, pre-planned exit or pursuit of another opportunity, the report stated, adding that regions differ on the reasons for exiting business.

"Greece has the highest proportion of entrepreneurs exiting because of lack of profitability, with three-quarters citing this reason," added the report.

Fifty-five per cent of entrepreneurs worldwide expect to create at least one job in the next five years, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. Global challenges for the growth of these entrepreneurs include sophisticated technologies and communications that may enable entrepreneurs to operate on their own, rigid labour regulations, poor availability of skilled or educated labour, limited access to entrepreneurial finance, and the decision to stay small to avoid the complexities of formalisation.

"The power of entrepreneurship to create jobs demonstrates its crucial importance to economic growth and stability around the world," said Babson College Professor and GEM US team lead Donna Kelley, in a statement released with the report.

"Whether this means alleviating regulatory burdens or offering specialised financial support, policymakers and private stakeholders will need to direct their attention towards policies and practices that can together strengthen the ecosystem that supports the efforts and ambitions of entrepreneurs," Kelley said.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com