ON THE LEFT: BEF supporting entrepreneurship

The Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation,

Added 11 December 2013

Our mission is to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem that attracts and supports entrepreneurial activity, both local and international. We provide thought leadership and direction to the initiative and are catalysts, working with other key stakeholders to make the changes necessary in our business environment. “Barbados – the entrepreneurs’ island” would be a good way to describe our vision. The Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation (BEF) works with many stakeholders in five pillars of a world class entrepreneurial ecosystem: government policy, business facilitation, finance, mentorship and education/talent development. Established in 2010, the foundation has, in its short life, also successfully implemented several projects. For example, in 2011 the BEF launched the Free Wi-Fi Project, which undertook the then “unthinkable task” of increasing free Wi-Fi coverage around the island; today free Wi-Fi coverage stands at 74.1 per cent around Barbados.  This project has received wide support from the public because free internet connectivity is the new gateway to education, productivity, business development and communication in the global community.  It creates a level playing field and gives access to everyone with an internet- enabled device. Another important project for the BEF is the $20 Challenge, which is an entrepreneurial competition for fourth and fifth form students designed to spark the interest of young people in being an entrepreneur. The students have four weeks to come up with a project concept and put it into operation assisted by ambassadors (entrepreneurs who actually run their own businesses) who go into the schools and offer the students coaching and advice on their projects. The challenge is into its third year, and the BEF has been able to expand its reach because of the support from Columbus FLOW, with 19 schools and 497 students participating in the competition in 2013. In 2014 we will establish a Barbados Angel Investors Network to invest in worthy Barbadian-based start-ups. In selecting the areas for intervention and development, the BEF was guided by the belief that Barbados must develop a highly favourable business environment in which domestic and foreign entrepreneurs can prosper. This supportive environment will only come about when the population believes that entrepreneurship is an important driver of the economy and deserves their support. This change in mindset will only be brought about by education and dialogue on the importance of entrepreneurship. Ultimately the role of the BEF is to provide the leadership to create the eco-system for entrepreneurship and unlock the potential inherent in Barbados so that the country can compete on a global level. The BEF is run by a group of experienced, highly respected senior leaders chosen from the various elements of the Social Partnership. Some are entrepreneurs in the true sense of the word but all come from the business community and represent a wide spread of talent from the fields of publishing, strategy execution, accounting and finance, law, tertiary education, labour, international business services, distribution/manufacturing and management. The board is active and involved and several board members actually have responsibility for the implementation of projects. A board member champions all pillar teams. The work of the BEF is also supported by a committed group of volunteers. The BEF employs just one person, who manages the projects and deals with administrative matters. • The Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation is a private sector-led non-profit organization.

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