Originally conceptualized as a forum intended primarily to expose local “export ready” business houses to foreign potential buyers, this week’s Guyana Trade and Investment Exhibition (GUYTIE) which commenced on Wednesday at the Marriott Hotel and concludes tomorrow ‘went back on its word,’ including eight small, women-run enterprises that do not, at this stage, meet most of the ‘export ready’ criteria for participation, set by the organizers, in what is seen locally as the country’s first ever big-stage business-to-business event that puts local and foreign enterprises together primarily in yet another effort to boost international market access for local products.
Credit for the opportunity afforded the eight fortunate to have secured what some would regard as a breakthrough opportunity arising out of the presence here of ‘buyers’ from locations ranging from the Caribbean and the hemisphere to India and the Republic of Korea, is being given to the local Small Business Bureau (SBB) whose Chief Executive Officer Dr. Lowell Porter told Stabroek Business on Wednesday that his role as one of a team of state and private sector officials put together to support the effective delivery of the GUYTIE event, had positioned the Bureau to make a case for the inclusion of small businesses in the event. The eight enterprises afforded the opportunity to promote their modest mostly agro-processing ventures are Diekas Spices, SS Natural Flavour Sauces, South American Cocoa Company, Magnificent Flavours Scented Candles, Amazon Authentics, D’s Body Therapy, Pleasurable Flavours and Nature’s Finest Herbal Teas.
A representative of one of the eight enterprises selected to ‘take the stage’ at GUYTIE told Stabroek Business that while immediate significant access to an external market was not an “immediate focus,” any interface with visiting businesses from the region that might lead to “joint venture arrangements” in the areas of production and marketing would be regarded as a major breakthrough.
Porter told Stabroek Business that there was ‘really no good reason” why businesses not necessarily regarded as immediately ‘export ready’ could not get the opportunity to parade their goods on a bigger stage. He said that while GUYTIE had been promoted as a business to business event designed to create a platform for export-ready businesses to engage international buyers, the promotional material associated with the event had pointed as well to opportunities arising out of other types of partnerships for smaller businesses that might not, at this stage, be necessarily “export-ready.”
The organizers of GUYTIE had indicated in their promotional material that the event was also aiming to “foster investment opportunities” for fifty-six export-ready local exhibitors” though Porter pointed out that the nature of the event had also made allowances for the creation of other types of relationships including possible interest by participating visiting enterprises in investment partnerships that could possibly take smaller local enterprises to the next level.
“We took account not only of the exposure opportunity afforded the products produced by our clients participating in the event but also of the fact that buyers aside, there was the considerable likelihood that overseas participants would include potential investors who may yet be interested in infusing resources into promising local ventures to help prepare them for the export market,” Porter said.
Porter told Stabroek Business that the decision by the SBB to facilitate the participation of smaller businesses in GUYTIE had to do with its conviction that the country’s economic growth was linked largely to the employment-generating possibilities afforded by the expansion of the small business sector. That, he said, was one of the rationales behind the Bureau’s decision to “stand with its clients’ by funding the participation of the eight selected companies in the event.
Information on foreign participants in GUYTIE seen by the Stabroek Business outline the range of their potential trading and product promotion interests which, according to a list issued by the GUYTIE Secretariat include locally produced apparel and garments, food processing, food distribution, agro processing and food packaging, all enterprises in which local small businesses have expanded their involvement in recent years.
Porter told Stabroek Business that the eight small business entities identified by the Bureau for sponsorship to participate in GUYTIE were pulled from its list of clients who have benefitted from grants to help consolidate their businesses.
“Small businesses are really the ones that drive the economy in terms of creating sustainable family businesses, creating more jobs and introducing new products and services to the local and external markets. I believe that when occasions like these arise they should be provided with the opportunity to prove that they are capable or otherwise of satisfying the requirements set by the big occasion,” Porter told Stabroek Business.