By our CEO Erica Wynter

Part one

Survival of the fittest has been the law of the nature and the same law applies in the world of business. We find that the playing field has been vastly conditioned for businesses to grow and nurture themselves through government policies and regulations, especially since a flourishing atmosphere for small to medium enterprises, independent businesses and entrepreneurs will significantly enhance the economy.

Unfortunately, government policies are not always in favor of entrepreneurs and so is the current regulatory scenario in Jamaica. For instance, consider the tax incentive issue. For more than 50 years, the Jamaican government has provided tax incentives to foreign investors without an adequate assessment of their benefits to the economy. Further, a new Bill has been passed that will exempt non-resident Jamaicans from paying the income tax. The memorandum of objects and reasons of the Bill to Amend the Income Tax Act clearly states: “It is hoped that, by facilitating the establishment of group head office companies in Jamaica, other companies will realize the economic benefits, including increased foreign investments, access of alternative capital providers, new markets and the creation of new jobs.” This Bill directly discriminates against Jamaican entrepreneurs and their employees who are trying to survive in the same markets as the foreign investors; this grossly imbalances the playing field.

The General Consumption Tax (GCT), although an integral source of revenue for the government, has also become a slow killer for entrepreneurs. Now, as a case in point, late GCT payment incurs 15% interest and 15% penalty charges hence 30% compound interest. In addition, under the new payment regulation, businesses will have until the last working day in the following month to file their returns, are expected to file and pay based on invoicing and not collection, and are to charge GCT on sponsorship.

For businesses to flourish, entrepreneurs require the supporting presence of banks and financial institutions which provide financial assistance and inflow of funds during critical times. The lack of collateral and the perceived high risk of lending to micro-entrepreneurs continue to be major barriers to financing for the Jamaican micro-business sector. Approximately 500,000 micro entrepreneurs exist who have no connections with financial institutions or banks, and this lack of access to loans diminishes their ability to contribute to the economy. The Secured Transactions Act can broaden the collateral requirement to include appliances and business equipment, still the question mark remains for those young entrepreneurs who have not acquired assets. The Credit Reporting Act provides access to funds through availability of credit scores, however, this does not mean that financial institutions will lend without a collateral to good credit scorers.

In other news under the dark side of entrepreneurship we are all shocked by the suicide of our Jamaican born entrepreneur who built the empire Golden Krust with more than 120 restaurants in nine states in the USA. When I first heard the news I was shocked indeed but the first question that came to mind was, could this be as a result of the struggles of entrepreneurship? Hours later the Daily News answered my provoking question. According to Stephen Rex Brown and Reuven Blau of the Daily News “Lowell Hawthorne was worried about the liens, which included more than $150,000.00 in city taxes on the company’s buildings, a police source said.” Now, this might be hard for the average Jack or Jill to understand, however, a true entrepreneur can relate to the many challenges of entrepreneurship. Many of us are wearing our best smile as a disguise to hide the stress and depression faced as a result of the entrepreneurial journey.

The last comment I heard was a man calling Hawthorne a coward. Let’s call our loose mouth friend John. He was within his right to his own opinion and I am now going to share mine about his comment. In my opinion John is showing apathy towards Hawthorne. Hawthorne was also being sued by a former employee and these two issues had absolutely nothing to do with the everyday challenges entrepreneurship.

The aforementioned dilemmas along with the difficult and exhausting work hours are only a handful of problems entrepreneurs are combatting. Nonetheless, they are evolving in the face of adversities and now more than ever, a new generation is entering the business scene, with an indomitable willpower to create a better future and leave their mark.

Until next time, talk to a friend, join an association, take deep breaths, have a glass of wine or two if you must but keep pushing.

Look out for part 2.