We need to tap into the hotel industry and the grocery stores
I know many of us are not where we want to be but there is a significant number of Turks and Caicos Islanders who are entrepreneurs. Some are doing very well, and some are not doing well. For those that are not doing well, we must find ways to make their businesses successful. I believe if we were to count the number of local entrepreneurs and compare it to the local population, the percentage would be high especially when compared to other Caribbean countries.
I think what we lack though, is more local entrepreneurship in the hotel industry Tourism is our main industry and while there are many locals who are now villa owners, we have very few locals who are hotel owners.
Another thing we lack is entrepreneurship in the grocery stores industry. We have many grocery stores, but I don’t even think we have two locals that own a grocery store on the island of Providenciales. However, on the islands of South Caicos and North Caicos, there are a few that are owned by Turks and Caicos Islanders. Everybody needs food to survive and so a grocery store is something that can be profitable and more should be owned by Turks and Caicos Islanders.
We may say we don’t have the money, but I believe if some of us can come together and put our resources together, we can establish these businesses. We don’t need Government to help us, we can do this so let us try and form partnerships among one another.
We have more entrepreneurs than we think
The Turks and Caicos is so blessed, and I admire individuals who took the risk to start a business. In 2001, my wife and I took the risk and started our office supplies store and then I took a risk again in 2013 to start an accounting firm and a property management company. There are other locals who are also owners of office supplies stores and accounting firms.
We also have many local entrepreneurs of car rental companies, restaurants, dry cleaners, horseback riding, apartments, building materials, airline companies, gas stations, construction companies, architects’ firms, FBO, medical facilities, newspaper companies, taxi companies, real estate companies, plumbing and electrical supplies, watersports companies, private schools, villas, law firms, barber shops, salons, massage parlours, bakeries, liquor stores, water companies, mechanic shops, tire shops and the list goes on and on. Therefore, many locals are entrepreneurs and are benefiting from the economy.
The challenges some local entrepreneurs face
Even though we have many local entrepreneurs, there are challenges. Too many of us are in the same line of business and so there is a price war going on among our businesses so that we can retain or get more customers. While this is good for the consumers, I personally believe that some businesses need to merge, and they will be able to get more profit. However, there is a lack of trust among us and furthermore, many of us do not really want to be in partnership with anyone. Many other businesses in TCI are thriving because of partnerships.
Another challenge we face is that some locals are fronting and some of these businesses are so big, it is a challenge for some of the local businesses to compete against them. Fronting is illegal but it is quite prevalent in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Another challenge is the lack of support. Many businesses are not getting the support from the community. Some people rather not support some local businesses as they feel they are making some locals rich. Some locals are also not getting the support from non-locals especially if a non-local has the same type of business as a local. Another thing is some individuals and businesses are supporting businesses overseas by purchasing from them rather than purchasing local.
A major issue that local entrepreneurs face is the Procurement Ordinance. The Procurement Ordinance allows anyone (even if you don’t have a business licence from TCIG) to bid on a government tender. I wrote about this several times and I will continue to write about until Procurement Ordinance is changed and is level playing field for local entrepreneurs. Imagine you put in a tender and your supplier put in a tender, who do you think will win the bid.
There are some individuals who are entrepreneurs and find it difficult to start either because they do not know how to start, or they don’t have any money. I encourage you who are in this category to talk to an entrepreneur who can guide you. You may discover that you can start your business with the little that you have.
Entrepreneurship in the hotel industry and grocery stores
I believe tourism will continue to grow in the Turks and Caicos Islands and while there may not be much land available on Grace Bay Beach, there is land in the vicinity of Grace Bay Beach, and there is land available on the other islands in the Turks and Caicos. I know most of the resorts in Turks and Caicos are condo but many of us do not even own a condo. Therefore, I throw a challenge out there for us to come together and put our resources together to own hotels and condos. It is possible to do this. Maye some of us are trying to do this by ourselves rather than through partnership and it will be a challenge to build a hotel on your own unless you are very wealthy. The best thing is for us to develop a partnership.
The same applies to a grocery store. In the past, we had quite several local entrepreneurships in the grocery store, somehow, that is no longer the case. However, it can still be done. Let us leave a legacy for the future generation.
We should not become intimidated by the size of the local population nor the size of the competition or the number of the players in the market. We also need to overcome fear and the lack of trust. I believe there is enough of us who can come together and become entrepreneurs in the hotel industry and the grocery store. We need to blame ourselves for not coming together and for not supporting one another. Let us not waste time talking about the problem, let us use our energy and put the solutions in place. I am ready. Are you?