The Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ), in collaboration with the Jamaica Business and Development Corporation (JBDC), have launched a new year-long pilot capacity development programme to support local Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
Known as the Growth and Expansion of MSMEs Through Innovation (GEMINI) Grant Programme, the initiative is to replace the DBJ’s Vouchers for Technical Assistance (VTA) Programme, a capacity development product that provided approximately 30 business support services to MSMEs assisting entrepreneurs to create more viable and sustainable business operations.
Speaking at the programme launch on Wednesday (May 31), Managing Director of the DBJ, Anthony Shaw, in his remarks said, “Between 2008 and 2023, we’ve had no fewer than six programmes which have supported over 330 MSMEs in kind assistance and grants to build their capacity valuing over J$1.6 billion. This capacity building in support and grants included [the VTA Programme], energy audit supply chain grants and support to boost innovation for new ideas through entrepreneurship, [as well as] seed capital with the Boosting Innovation Growth and Entrepreneurship Ecosystems (BIGEE) programme.”
Shaw mentioned that the DBJ’s assistance with MSMEs has helped the them through capacity building at various stages in their business life cycle.
“The most requested services have included training in digital services, business pans, financial services, marketing and promotional plans, and mentorship,” he said.
“Since COVID hit in 2020, the demand for this support has exploded largely because the pandemic exposed us to our digital weakness and digital readiness of the country. So, after close to ten years of providing sterling service to the MSME community, the DBJ premier capacity building programme (VTA) has come to an end chiefly because we needed to restructure the programme to make it more relevant to the needs of the beneficiaries,” he added, noting the reason for the launch of the GEMINI Grant Programme.
He included, “I want to express my appreciation to the JBDC which will partner with us in delivering the services that GEMINI will provide. We’ve always had a voucher programme but we’ve only taken it to a certain stage and I think that in discussions with JBDC, there’s much further that we can take it. So, partnering with them will assist our MSMEs,” highlighting that the JBDC has proven skills, especially in areas of governance, integrity, fairness and cost effectiveness that will be of great benefit.
The GEMINI Grant Programme (GGP) is designed to support the growth and development of MSMEs enabling them to improve their operational efficiency, enhance their market competitiveness, access to finance, and ultimately increase their chances of success.
The grant programme is expected to provide MSMEs with the resources they will need to improve their operational efficiency, expand and grow, enhance their market competitiveness and ultimately increase their chances of success.
GGP will have two levels of participants. One level, which will include 100 participants who will receive direct programme support in capacity building. These 100 participants will be accessing paid services that the DBJ will offer for the lifespan of the pilot. The other level will be a general development aspect where varied training opportunities will take place and made available to up to 1000 participants.
GEMINI has been identified by as a cost sharing programme where both the partnering entities have budgeted J$100 million for the pilot year in hopes that the programme can be made better and replicated. The DBJ will cover 80 per cent of the cost up to a maximum of 800,000 per MSME.
For her part, chief executive officer (CEO) of the JBDC, Valerie Veira expressed the JBDC’s confidence that MSMEs will benefit greatly from the pilot grant programme.
“We’ve gone through the whole programme as it’s designed and we are very confident that we are at the point that we now have a worthwhile robust programme that our MSMEs will benefit from. We anticipate success, we anticipate growth for our participants, and we anticipate continuing to work very closely with the DBJ,” she said
“It is not a coincidence that we have ‘development’ in both our names. It is because our purpose is development and, in my view, that could be the real reason why our relationship is so strong as our purpose and concept of development is the same, Veira said, noting that the GEMINI pilot grant programme is about the two entities working alongside the participants to ensure a successful first year.
In his overview of GEMINI, Hugh Grant, general manager of the DBJ said that each MSMEs onboarded on the programme will be assessed to identify gaps and highlight needs, tiered and placed in one of four business development programmes currently being executed by the JBDC. They will also be provided with a workplan to help them move along the business life cycle.
“They will benefit from closer guidance and training in addition to specific needed grant support. For example, their business plan, financial statements, or digital services. There will be accompanied hand-holding [process] to guide MSMEs along their journey,” he said.
The tiers, as mentioned by Grant are:
- A Nursery Programme
- Incubation Programme
- Acceleration Programme
- Scale-up Community Programme
Harold Davis, deputy CEO of the DBJ support Grant’s explanation and said that the tiers follow a programmatic structure “that allows us to apply the appropriate support to the stage of business” that MSMEs find themselves in. “The [tiers] are customised, facilitating movement from point A to point B where point B indicates growth” of the participating MSMEs, he said.
Grant also said that under the GEMINI grant programme, the DBJ and JBDC will work to expand its registry of consultants and business development services to better provide the diverse skillsets and services needed by the MSMEs.
The programme will support short to medium terms needs by the MSMEs giving them a will needed hand holding programme that will be agile enough to assist MSMEs at any business stage. The JBDC network consists of 14 Small Business Development Centres (SBDCs) which are located islandwide.
“The SBDC network is a network of business development centres forged out of partnerships with mostly tertiary institutions. In each of these institutions, there are business development centres which the JBDC has assisted them to create and to maintain,” explained Davis.
“The SBDC network allows us to have a national accountability framework for the business development services that are offered to MSMEs. It makes sure that the quality of business development services is consistent right throughout the network. It also allows us to measure national impact of the business development services that we offer through the network, it facilitates innovation because of the relationships with the universities and the research and development that comes with that will fuel innovation in businesses and that’s one of the key fields that allow businesses to be sustained, scale and grow,” he added.
To be eligible, MSMEs should:
- be a registered with the Companies Office of Jamaica
- owned by a local entrepreneur
- have a valid TRN
- have been in operation for at least a year
- be operating within focus sectors (mentioned on programme website)
- be in possession of a commitment letter
To learn more about the GEMINI Grant Programme, visit the website at dbjgemini.com and interested MSMEs may apply to the programme through the website at dbjgemini.com.
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