It has never been easier to open a business, said WiPay Caribbean CEO Aldwyn Wayne at the launch of Genesis International – a social enterprise that trains micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) – on Friday.
“The internet is the greatest equaliser. Ten years ago the requirement for starting a business was having office space or having storefront locations, which means upfront capital.”
Before the technology revolution, he said, there was an inequitable ground in business where people needed to have the start-up capital to pay for overhead costs such as rent, a starting inventory and advertising in traditional media.
“I now spend most of my time explaining that we do not need start-up capital to start a business. The internet has caused us to fall into this globalised world where we can market to anyone, anywhere, at any time with tools that are available for free.”
Using a clothing company as an example, he said, before a person needed a nice location, they needed $10,000 to rent a store space, $10,000 to go to New York to buy the clothes, then hire staff for $5,000 per month.
That same business in 2021, a person could create a logo, buy the stock online, advertise on Facebook for US$5, pay via WiPay and ship using TT Post for a fraction of the cost of a storefront with less risk.
Former labour minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus said, “Most economies acknowledge that MSMEs are the pivot for net job creation and are the driving force of innovation and sustainability in the private sector.”
The World Bank defines micro enterprises as a business that employs one to nine people, small enterprises have ten to 49 employees and medium enterprises have 50-249 employees. MSMEs, she said, employ a “disproportionate” number of women and girls, which ensures women’s participation in business and trade.
“Almost 40 per cent of small businesses are owned by women, meaning that MSMEs play a large role in closing the gender gap.” She said worldwide the pandemic crisis has affected MSMEs disproportionately and revealed a vulnerability to the supply-and-demand disruptions.
“(There is) serious risk that over 50 per cent of MSMEs will not survive the next few months,” she said.