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Stories of successful black businesses must be told

by Ken Hewitt

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To be able to live by honest toil is indeed a blessing from Heaven. 
I NOTE WITH INTEREST that in recent months entrepreneurship has been the subject of much comment and discussion. I certainly support any effort that would increase the quantity and improve the calibre of entrepreneurship in Barbados since such would help to create employment opportunities and earn much needed foreign currency.
However, I believe that rather than “selling” entrepreneurship to young people, we should be preaching to them the importance of acquiring relevant skills and expertise that are in demand.
The skilled person may then choose to sell his expertise to an individual, his employer, or to several individuals, his customers and clients. In short, the skilled individual will have the luxury of deciding whether he should be an employee or whether he should be an entrepreneur. 
It is pertinent to note here that most of our successful entrepreneurs were initially employees who later became entrepreneurs.
Skill and expertise
It is also important to stress to the young that we live in a dynamic world and hence, skills and expertise which are relevant today may not be relevant tomorrow. Sustainable success therefore requires a mindset of continuous learning.
Inevitably the subject of black entrepreneurship reared its head. Unfortunately, the emphasis has been on the many challenges that black entrepreneurs face rather than on the success achieved by black businessmen in spite of these challenges.
Such an approach can be counterproductive by readily dissuading potential black entrepreneurs from entering the field of business. Journalists/commentators must widen their research and tell the stories of the successful entrepreneurs at Branckers, Firgos, Trident Insurance, Hotel Foods, Jordans Supermarket, Carlton Supermarket, L. E. Gibbs and others.
In this way, aspiring young black businessmen will be alerted to the various challenges they are likely to face in their effort to grow a business, but the fundamental message sent to them will be that many black entrepreneurs have succeeded in spite of these challenges.
Nation Group
Above all, adequate research should be done on the Nation Group whilst Sir Fred Gollop, Harold Hoyte, Carl Moore, Grenville Phillips et al are in full possession of all their faculties. 
No commentary on black business in Barbados during the past 30 years can be complete without extensive cover of the Nation Group. Indeed the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, should by now have developed a comprehensive case study on this remarkable group of black businessmen.
I must also attempt to debunk two long-standing myths. The first is that being a “professional” and being an “entrepreneur” are mutually exclusive. Hence, our elders have been criticised for influencing their children to become professionals rather than businessmen.
The truth is that some of our most successful entrepreneurs have been professionals.
M.E. Murrell & Co. is an accounting business that has been in existence for some 50 years and is now being managed by a second generation Murrell. I am not aware of any journalist ever interviewing Mr Bill Murrell to inquire as to his formula for success.
There is a well-known doctor who has been in the business of real estate for over 40 years, yet the media has never seen it fit to interview him in regard to his business success despite that success being very visible.
Medical services
In more recent times doctors have engaged in entrepreneurial activity to provide much needed medical services at FMH Emergency Medical Centre and Sandy Crest.
A firm of architects was involved in the development of land and the building and sale of more than 80 houses. This certainly was a large entrepreneurial venture. 
Finally, there are accountants who started accounting businesses from scratch and developed them into sizeable enterprises employing many people and earning much needed foreign currency.
These various activities are at the very core of entrepreneurship and are areas where black businessmen have enjoyed a fair measure of success.
The second myth is that black business and failure go hand-in-hand. The demise of Enron, World Com, Lehman Brothers and others overseas readily indicates the folly of this belief.
It is accepted that over the years black businesses have failed but it is seldom recognised that here in Barbados the major insolvencies over the past 30 years have been by businesses, not owned, not controlled and not managed by Blacks. Barbados Foundry, Home Centre, Trade Confirmers and Carib Express readily come to mind.
The truth is that success or failure in business is not the preserve of any particular group of businessmen. Many businesses will succeed but some will inevitably fail.
I believe, however that the quantity and quality of black businesses are heading in the right direction.