Published On: Thu, Jul 27th, 2023

Business incubators

Cdr. Bud Slabbaert floated an interesting concept in a column that describes the benefits of business incubators. Incubators have a strong resemblance with the business centers that were all the rage in the eighties in the Netherlands. It is still a valid concept though: it focuses on creating jobs by building businesses, rather than on teaching job seekers how to find meaningful employment.

A brilliant idea is not necessarily the key to building a successful business. Just think about what happened to the innovative electrical bicycle-manufacturer Van Moof in the Netherlands. The idea was good, the execution lousy and the business-end was just a mess. Result: spectacular growth followed by the inevitable bankruptcy.

Slabbaert reports that a Saudi Development Fund has extended a $10-million loan for the construction of business incubation centers in The Bahamas. These projects intend to contribute to the growth of tourism, to create direct and indirect job opportunities and to enhance sustainable economic development. It could also lead to new business projects for one hundred small companies.

If this sounds too good to be true, it probably is. But at least, it is ambitious and there in nothing wrong with that.

Start-ups have one big hurdle to overcome before they can get anything going: funding. A business incubator can provide those resources and its centers could offer affordable fully furnished units, secretarial and accounting services, a central phone system, internet connectivity and other services ranging from cleaning to recruitment.

Another interesting aspect is the offer of management training to aspiring entrepreneurs.

Slabbaert points out the importance of proper funding. In 2009, ten independent Caribbean countries established the Caribbean Business Incubator Association with support from the World Bank. The association soon became dormant due to a lack of funding. In 2014 the entrepreneurship program for innovation in the Caribbean launched another initiative: Accellerate Caribbean. Two years later it met a similar fate, also due to a lack of funding. Other projects are still around, like Cariri in Trinidad and Revup in Jamaica.

Education does not create jobs, as Slabbaert point out. Jobs are created in the private sector and business incubators can play a role in that process by supporting new initiatives. Those new businesses will result in economic growth but also in job opportunities.

Banks were heavily involved in the creation of business centers in the Netherlands. They provided access to financing for young entrepreneurs and they offered support services, affordable offices and a variety of support services.

There is no reason why local banks cannot take a shot at similar initiatives in St. Maarten, where  unemployment remains a major headache. There are talented people on our island and quite some of them could make a success of their idea if only they could operate in an environment where they get the proper support. It is at least something to think about and in that sense, Slabbaert’s column has this bull firmly by the horns.


Other columns by Cdr. Bud Slabbaert:
Top Research and Development in the Caribbean
The Caribbean is as super-rich as the Middle East
More columns….

About the author: Cdr. Bud Slabbaert is the Chairman and Coordinator of the Caribbean Aviation Meetup, an annual results and solution oriented conference for stakeholders of ‘airlift’ in the Caribbean. Mr. Slabbaert’s background is accentuated by aviation business development, strategic communication and journalism.