Tue | Nov 30, 2021

DBJ grants three firms $37m to support expansion plans

Published:Saturday | August 28, 2021 | 12:05 AMKarena Bennett - Business Reporter
Managing Director of Development Bank of Jamaica Milverton Reynolds.
Managing Director of Development Bank of Jamaica Milverton Reynolds.

Three medium-sized companies – Bare Nutrition Limited, Intermed Company, and Sherwood Forest Coffee Company – have got backing from the Development Bank of Jamaica, DBJ, to expand their businesses, locally and regionally.

The $37 million grant shared among the three will finance their plans for 12 months.

The companies were picked from more than 100 applicants in the first round of the Innovative Grant Fund launched in September 2020, a programme set up under the Boosting Innovation Growth and Entrepreneurship Ecosystems Programme, called BIGEE, to support the development of new products and services, implementation of new business models, and market entry or expansion for medium businesses.

The Innovative Grant Fund is the first programme launched under the BIGEE initiative, through which the DBJ intends to distribute US$25 million to micro, small, and medium-sized companies.

Bare Nutrition Limited, which was adjudged to have the best pitch, is the owner of the Orijin brand of juices, with 24 products in its portfolio. The company, founded in 2010 and led by Mark McConnell, wants to become the first Caricom manufacturer of puréed fruit baby, a project that is expected to cost $33 million. The DBJ’s grant will cover $14 million of the cost.

The company intends to buy mango and bananas from certified organic farms to produce the Orijin purées, which it plans to pitch as a supplement to breast milk and formula.

Second-place company Intermed, which operates as Windward Medical Centre, has provided services in eastern Kingston for the past 30 years. The medical centre primarily targets low-income and vulnerable groups in that area but wants to extend its services to the wider Jamaica through digitisation.

Windward Medical has a client base of just over 120,000 patients, but Dr David Walcott, the company’s managing partner, says that number represents just 10 per cent of its target market with the inclusion of digitised services as part of offerings.

It needs $19.5 million to fulfil its expansion plan. The DBJ grant will cover $13.5 million.

The third awardee of the DBJ grant, Sherwood Forest, has operated in the coffee market since 1962 but is now ready to venture into the gourmet oyster mushrooms market. The project,which involves the establishment of a lab and modern, flexible production facilities at the Sherwood coffee estate, has been estimated at $13.89 million.

The company has already completed a pilot test for mushrooms and microgreens, Managing Director Courtney Branwell says, and buyers have been secured within the supermarket and restaurant industries for the final product. The DBJ’s grant will cover $9.72 million of the total project cost.

“At the DBJ, we are endeavouring to create a platform to develop businesses that can be competitive on the world stage, and so we have designed and developed special instruments to enable Jamaica’s business community from seed-stage development to the mature stage of business,” DBJ Managing Director Milverton Reynolds said at the announcement of the winners on Thursday.

The second staging of the Innovative Grant Fund is now open to application. Eligible firms must be earning $75 million to $250 million annually, have a strong management team and a board of directors, present an innovative project, and be registered as a company in Jamaica for at least five years.

The maximum support provided by the DBJ under the Innovative Grant Fund is $14 million.