Mon | Aug 10, 2020

JSIF props up 45 small businesses with $40m in grants

Published:Friday | July 3, 2020 | 12:25 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Omar Sweeney, managing director of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund, listens as Janet Madden shares information on her sewing business at the ICDP Enterprise Development Project grant awards ceremony at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel yesterday.
Omar Sweeney, managing director of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund, listens as Janet Madden shares information on her sewing business at the ICDP Enterprise Development Project grant awards ceremony at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel yesterday.

“A dream come true.”

That was how Merrick McNaughton summed up the grant of roughly $600,000 in equipment and material he received from the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) yesterday to invest in his apiculture business.

McNaughton was one of 45 entrepreneurs from seven parishes across the island selected for the grants, with a combined value of $40 million under the JSIF’s Integrated Community Development Project, financed through a World Bank loan to the Government.

“I have been doing agriculture since I was 20, and now, I am 33. I was introduced to it by a friend,” McNaughton told The Gleaner.

“I, at first, got five boxes from Food For the Poor and put them in my yard. I didn’t have much experience or knowledge, and so I met a barber who was in the business, and he began teaching me what I know,” the beekeeper added.

He disclosed that he while the business was lucrative, he had suffered a major loss during Tropical Storm Gustav in 2008.

“It has been an up and down journey. I lost some of my bees in the hurricane. I lost around 20 boxes and had to start over from one box again. Each box would contain anywhere from 40,000 to 80,000 bees, depending on the size of a colony,” McNaughton said. “This is like a dream come true. I am able now to produce and sell to other beekeepers.”

THE NEXT LEVEL

Another recipient, Denise Roache, was hopeful that the grant would help her grow her business, Bounce to the Beat Party Rentals, to the next level.

“I am very excited. It is amazing to know I can take my business to the next level ... . We provide popcorn, snow cone, hot dog machines, bounce-about, water slides, and other stuff. I also do table decorating. I see myself going into different schools to have popcorn on Fridays,” the Whitfield Town native said.

JSIF Managing Director Omar Sweeney told The Gleaner that the entity was trying to assist communities with small economies that residents depend on heavily.

He shared that a programme is being worked out to fund projects of roughly 200 of the more than 500 persons who had applied for the grant under this project.

“For years, we have been trying to find ways to support factory enterprises, getting, for example, lenders and financiers to come and offer programmes. We took an approach where we would identify promising businesses that have the potential to employ at least one more person. They will receive sewing machines and other things to make their businesses bounce,” he said. “Things have been unstable, but we are now at a point where we can move on, in light of the COVID-19 stimulus, and give them the best ability to supply their communities.”

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com