400 graduate from small business programme

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon, third from right, and general manager of Coca-Cola Caribbean Bottlers, Camille Chatoor, centre back, pose for a photo with graduates during the Coca-Cola and UWI-Roytec’s Growing Together Small Business graduation at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya on February 21. – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

Four hundred individuals and businesses graduated on Wednesday from the Growing Together Small Business Training Programme, carried out by Coca-Cola Caribbean Bottlers TT Ltd in collaboration with UWI-Roytec.

The ceremony took place at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya, on Wednesday.

Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon said the year-long programme provided participants with the technical and practical aspects of business management covering essential concepts such as business ownership and entrepreneurship; customer service; business finance; attracting customers and generating value; and innovation.

“Through programmes such as these, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can generate immense benefits, and over time, they are able to pivot, grow and expand into medium and large businesses. The concepts and modules covered during its delivery will be very useful to successfully manage and operate a business and will have a positive impact on building an effective entrepreneurial ecosystem among SMEs.

“Having benefitted from the programme, you are now equipped with the skills, tools and techniques to better manage your businesses and be agents of change,” she said.

Gopee-Scoon asked the graduates how they would implement what they had learned to reposition and grow their businesses, and shared some tips from her personal business background.

“Remember you are leaders. You must have control in your business, and by that I mean, record keeping and having control of your cash records, employee records, management records and so on. Do not avoid your responsibility to pay your NIS for your employees.

“You must become formal – register your business. Formalise so you can participate in various government initiatives.”

She appealed to the participants to formulate effective business plans and focus on their target customers and their needs.

“Whether through a periodic survey, user reviews or direct customer interaction—you must ask for honest feedback. Take note of consistent grievances amongst your customer base and use those to introduce new features and make internal adjustments. Always remember, it is far less expensive to retain a customer than to acquire a new one.”

Gopee-Scoon said the businesses should know their markets, reduce or eliminate risk, avoid spending on unnecessary items or accumulating excess debt, know their business models, analyse their business performance, and regularly examine their current sales, expenses and cash flow position.

“It is important that you maintain proper management and, where possible, audited accounts. This will also allow you to access support from the Government and the private sector to grow your business.

“Expanding your business may require you to explore a new customer base, geographic territory or business model. When expanding, you need to treat it like starting a new business. You must research, test the idea, understand legal requirements, etc. Don’t just launch a new location, target a different customer base, or adapt your business model. Do the necessary research, test as much as possible, and expand slowly.”

Gopee-Scoon urged them to remember that education is a continuous journey, and wished them fruitful endeavours and flourishing businesses.

Coca-Cola Caribbean Bottlers TT general manager, Camille Chatoor, said the programme was focused on supporting entrepreneurs and business leaders who bring passion and drive to the business sector in Trinidad and Tobago.

“For Caribbean Bottlers and the entire Coca-Cola system, these businesses have been the foundation of Trinidad and Tobago, building commerce for our communities and families for centuries. In partnership with CBTT, these business enterprises refresh families, create generational prosperity, and serve as hubs for economic growth.

“Today, we welcome 400 graduates, representing essential partners in bringing quality beverages and nourishment to thousands of homes. We share in their goals and aspirations for the future.”

UWI-Roytec executive director Wendy Augustus commended the graduates for taking the proactive step towards honing their entrepreneurial abilities and embracing the challenges and opportunities that come with running a small business.

“We commend you for staying the course, for giving up business and family time, for demonstrating your commitment to personal and professional growth. We have no doubt that it will pay dividends in your chosen path.

Augustus said the graduates now had a solid foundation on which to build their own ventures.

“Moreover, we hope that this training programme has not only provided you with essential business knowledge but has also fostered a supportive network among fellow entrepreneurs. The connections and relationships you have established with your peers are invaluable resources that can provide encouragement, advice, and collaboration in your entrepreneurial journey.”