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Comprehensive report on Self Starter Program coming

With some$450,000 allocated for this fiscal year, and nearly$1.5 million spent since the inception of the Self Starter Program, Bahamians can expect to see a comprehensive report on the impact of the program soon.

Minister of State for Culture in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture Charles Maynard toldGuardian Businessyesterday that the ministry was in the process of contacting recipients of funding through the program to determine their level of success and how to take the program forward.

“We want to go public with it because we want the country and the wider business community to know exactly what is being done and how it is impacting the economy,”Maynard said. Maynard expected to see a preliminary internal report on the program by the end of January, but no later than early February.

The government-funded program, now in its third year, awards from$1,000 to$5,000 to successful entrepreneur applicants between the ages of 18 and 30.

According to the minister the program, which was introduced in 2008, has had actual expenditure of$748,097 and$713,840 during its first two fiscal years. The program is currently in its third fiscal year for which$750,000 had been allocated. The allocation for this fiscal year, however, has been split with$450,000 for the Self Starter Program, and the balance of$300,000 allocated to a comparable program offered by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, for people over 30 who completed the National Training Program, according to Maynard.

According to Maynard, over the course of the program recipients met with varying degrees of success, and the report will break these into three levels.

The first group will be businesses that are not only able to sustain themselves, but also provide employment opportunities for other Bahamians. The second group will be for recipient businesses which are currently sustaining themselves, and the final category will be those businesses which were not successful.

“We don’t want to look at anybody as a failure, but to look at all the recipients as successful in one way or the other, depending on what they received from the program in terms of a life fulfilling experience,” Maynard said.

One result of the study may be an adjustment of the program’s regulations to allow for applicants who have already received funding, but may not have had success, to be eligible for consideration again.

“One of the realities is that after three or four successful years of the program, the pool of potential self starters dries up a little bit–and that’s by essence of the success[of the program],”Maynard said.”One of the things we will be looking at is those persons who would have went through it, learnt from some experiences, but don’t have a business that’s now sustained. We may be able to allow them to offer a new proposal.”

“When you look at the success rates of businesses, typically seven out of ten fail within the first three years,”Chairman of the Self-Starter Program Philip Simon toldGuardian Businessin an interview on Wednesday.”That’s not the end of the world, it simply means you figured out a way not to do business.”

Simon said that the program is looking at greater privatization. It is currently funded by the government, but he said with additional resources, the monitoring of recipient businesses and further technical support, and even’angel investors’and grants may be possible.

The charmian also said that the program was hoping to expand on its technical training this year. He said that in past years it partnered with the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce(BCC)to send successful applicants to its business development seminars free of charge. This year he said the program was hoping to expand to add specific technical assistance courses through the Bahamas Techincal and Vocational Institute.

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