The Bermuda Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) “has grown recently to a complement of 14 posts in order to meet the substantial increase in demand for new financial products introduced in the 2018-2019 fiscal year”.
Updating MPs “on the progress of initiatives being offered by the BEDC on Friday, Premier David Burt said “the demands of its expanded entrepreneurship education offerings and entrepreneurial development initiatives” has also grown.
“Since day one of being elected, this Government’s focus has been to expand entrepreneurship; to create greater and fairer access to funding for business owners; to remove red tape and roadblocks to business creation; and last, but not least, to create opportunities for innovation in Bermuda,” said Mr Burt.
“I am pleased to say that we are making inroads in each of these areas and that entrepreneurship is growing; there are more accessible options for business financing; bureaucracy is being curtailed; and Bermuda is wholeheartedly embracing innovation!
“Thanks in part to increased and sustained grant funding the BEDC received in fiscal years 2018/19 and 2019/20 from this Government, I’d like to highlight key achievements it has made in Bermuda’s entrepreneurial eco-system,” he added.
The BEDC provides “financial support and technical advice to small and medium-sized businesses; for overseeing the Economic Empowerment Zones [EEZs]; for growing outside vendor markets; and for managing vendors and issuing vending licenses”.
“The organisation’s key objective is to assist the Government in encouraging economic growth for Bermuda’s local, small and medium sized businesses.”
Initiatives Highlighted in the Premier’s Update:
i.Entrepreneurship Advisory Services – In 2018 the BEDC held a total of 610 one-on-one advisory meetings with entrepreneurs surpassing the number of meetings in 2017 [568 or 7% increase]. More than half of them [58% or 355] were entirely new advisory clients to the BEDC reflecting the work the Corporation has done to raise its profile and market its services more strategically.
The BEDC has also implemented a series of Lunch & Learns to supplement its one-on-one advisory services to clients to provide, not just individual clients, but the broader public with advice, information and detailed instructions on how to successfully secure the BEDC’s products and concessions ranging from Micro Loans to Duty Deferments to Payroll Tax Relief. Four sessions have been held since January with 66 people registered. A fifth session was held on September 25th leading entrepreneurs through the BEDC’s Loan Guarantee Process and how to successfully apply.
ii.Entrepreneurship Education – The BEDC expanded its remit to develop and offer a comprehensive entrepreneurship education portfolio with year-round courses and workshops aimed at improving the business skills of entrepreneurs throughout their business’ lifecycle. The multi-week workshops provide guidance to entrepreneurs at various stages of their business from ideation and startup phases, to stability and growth phases. In 2018, 71 students graduated from BEDC’s multi-week entrepreneurship education courses.
This year, 52 existing and budding entrepreneurs have graduated from the courses thus far. By the end of this year hundreds of Bermudians will have graduated from at least one of the BEDC’s entrepreneurship education courses.
iii.Entrepreneurship Financing – The BEDC has worked extremely hard to develop options for business owners to access capital, to reduce overhead and operating costs, and to be ready to take advantage of business opportunities. As such, the BEDC has created a range of nine (9) financial and business products aimed at providing entrepreneurs support and a better chance at success, with the startup and sustainability phases of their businesses. As a direct result of the increased grant funds in the 2018/19 budget, the BEDC currently offers the following products to assist entrepreneurs:
- Loan Guarantees;
- General Micro Loans;
- Debt Consolidation Micro Loans;
- Sports Club Micro Loans;
- Retail Goods Customs Duty Deferment;
- New Start Up Entrepreneur Payroll Tax Relief;
- EEZ Payroll Tax Relief;
- EEZ Customs Duty Deferment; and
- Vending Licenses.
Twenty-seven (27) businesses were approved during the 2018/19 fiscal year for direct micro loans [general and debt consolidation] resulting in $431,816 of BEDC’s funds lent, surpassing 2017/18 figures. In addition, 20 businesses had their bank loans supported by the BEDC in 2018/19 through $1,693,059 in guarantees securing a total of $3,816,101 in loan funds. The decision to increase the BEDC’s loan guarantee percentage from 50% to 65% resulted in 5 businesses receiving approved bank loans, surpassing fiscal year 2017/18 number for approved loan guarantees.
Twelve  businesses have been approved for micro loans in the first five months of this current fiscal year resulting in $183,156 of the BEDC’s funds being lent. Multiple applications are actively being processed for both micro loans and loan guarantees. The BEDC anticipates surpassing the previous year’s approval numbers.
The BEDC recognizes that it cannot assist entrepreneurs on its own and as such continues to partner with Bermuda’s Financial Institutions to also provide access to capital and products to small and medium sized businesses.
In June 2019, the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation Act was amended to allow the BEDC the specific power to engage in the incorporation of entities in support of public/private partnerships. As a result the BEDC has seen interest from at least four entities. The Government also desires to create an environment where entrepreneurs can benefit from economies of scale through the creation of shared assets and infrastructure. The ability for BEDC to create subsidiary companies based on a public-private partnership model will progress this concept of shared assets for entrepreneurs. The BEDC is currently seeing the beginnings of this concept with BEDC’s incubators – shared spaces, shared resources, shared support.
The Enterprise Bermuda Incubator was piloted in 2018 with six companies in the first cohort “incubated” for nine months. Eight  new innovative startups have been accepted for the second year-long cohort in 2019. As a result, four new businesses have been launched with 11 jobs being created. The BEDC is currently planning to roll out 3 branch Enterprise Bermuda Incubators in its 3 Economic Empowerment Zones in 2020.
Eight  new businesses took advantage of the New Start Up Entrepreneurs Payroll Tax Relief in 2018 resulting in 19 new jobs brought to the market. In 2019, seven new businesses have been approved for the First Time Entrepreneurs Payroll Tax Relief bringing 14 new jobs to market. The BEDC is actively processing four applications.
iv.Youth Entrepreneurship – The BEDC is committed to developing youth entrepreneurship in Bermuda. As such, the Summer Student Entrepreneurship Programme [SSEP] was piloted during Summer 2018 with 10 students between the ages of 14 and 20 years old being selected. The programme was designed to promote a culture of enterprise and entrepreneurship as a viable career option and inspire and equip young people in the local community to learn and succeed. The programme allowed young people to gain valuable life skills while developing an entrepreneurial mindset to benefit them in their life journey. These students were seeded loan funds, training, and mentorship to establish businesses that earned a total of $20,898.77 in revenues over a 6-week period resulting in the BEDC earning a 115 percent return on its investment.
The second cohort of the Summer Student Entrepreneur Programme was held for a longer period of 8 weeks this summer from July 8th to August 31st. Having just concluded the programme, 9 student entrepreneurs between the ages of 15 to 25 participated.
- Mya Thompson, owner of Simply Sweet, a natural beauty products company
- Tyler Cook-Aitken, owner of Tiki-Shack, a snack vending and concession business that operated at Church Bay
- Kenai Stowe, owner of BTG [Be the Greatest] Designs, a customization and printing business of stickers, clothing, and more
- Xela Swan, owner of BDA Appareldise, a custom-designed Bermuda merchandise business
- Jaaziah Richardson-Webb, owner of Island Events, an event planning business
- Giovanni Hollis, owner of Home-in-One, a property management and landscaping service business
- Dymare Simons, owner of Aloe, an Organic aloe-based beverage, popsicle, and skin product business
- Jaden Taylor, owner of Snack Spot, a beach snack concession business at Horseshoe Bay; and
- Andreaz Glasgow, owner of Bermuda Local Guides, a Twizzy-guided tour business
“I had the distinct pleasure of meeting with one of these young entrepreneurs, Dymare Simons, to discuss his next steps and to give him advice on being an entrepreneur,” said Mr Burt.
v.Economic and Cooperative Development – BEDC’s economic development and cooperative development impact has steadily been growing since the new director was hired in February 2018.
3 information and business planning sessions were held with Sports Club to strengthen their business acumen and the BEDC is currently processing its first Sports Club Micro Loan. Promises made, promises kept.
The BEDC has completed first level meetings with key stakeholders within some of our Lodges, Friendly, and Mutual Aid Societies to better understand Bermuda’s early history of cooperative and collective economic structures.
The BEDC has commenced a public cooperative development education campaign aligned with international partners aimed at informing the public about what cooperatives are; highlighting Bermuda’s long cooperative history; outlining the benefits in forming cooperatives in the 21st century; and explaining how persons can form cooperatives. This education campaign has begun to cement the principles and values of cooperatives in our culture, mapping a solid way forward and a clear pathway for Bermudians to build wealth for themselves, their communities, and their country.
The BEDC has now conducted seven workshops and learning sessions providing over 300 people with information and access to resources on developing cooperatives.
vi.Economic Empowerment Zones
The BEDC is committed to using innovative economic development tools to revitalize and regenerate its three (3) EEZs.
This summer, the BEDC was tasked with creating an initiative in the St. George’s EEZ for the Insignia Cruise Ship passengers. The BEDC, recognized an opportunity to create a more inviting solution and most importantly, stimulate spending in the St. George’s EEZ. The BEDC created the “Eat, Shop, Play” – Shop To Win Initiative which saw passengers afforded the opportunity to shop at any participating St. Georges business and spend $25 or more to be entered in a draw to win one of three grand prizes.
The campaign saw 276 visitors participate spending a total of $17,125.00 at 34 different shops and restaurants, a 428% return on investment based on the BEDC’s funding of the programme.
In the NE Hamilton EEZ the BEDC continues to meet with stakeholders to come up with solutions to increase activity and commerce in the area. One way is to make the area more attractive for visitors and the public through providing free Wi-Fi throughout the zone and evolving it into an Innovation Hub through embedding technology throughout the area. As such, the BEDC has released an RFP seeking innovative proposals on supplying Wi-Fi to the zone.
Although much progress has been made in ensuring new products and services are developed to continue to facilitate entrepreneurship and new business formation on Island, the Government is desirous of BEDC focusing on seven (7) key areas in 2019-2020 it believes can provide further benefit and positive impact economically in Bermuda. These 7 areas are:
- i.Offering a One Stop Shop Business Start-Up Service;
- ii.Facilitating Annual Business Registration;
- iii.Developing Online Virtual Markets;
- iv.Evolving the EEZs as Innovation Hubs;
- v.Creating Cooperative Enterprises and Embedding Technology; and
- vi.Shared Business Assets.
As you can see the BEDC has been extremely busy over the last 18 months and has not slowed down this year in providing all it can for Bermuda’s businesses. This is just a testament to the amount of work that this small team has taken on for the benefit of our local entrepreneurs. The team should be commended for their efforts and should know that this Government will continue to support them and the work that is being done to develop a vibrant and thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in Bermuda.