Shelly Ann Baptiste, manager, Business Development Unit, Tobago House of Assembly, has called on small entrepreneurs to collaborate to compete with the larger establishments.
At Tobago Matters virtual forum titled Thriving in the Pandemic, Baptiste said, "To really thrive it requires a new approach, one that calls for networking and strategic alliance – strategic alliance with the right stakeholders to ensure the right synergies are achieved and maintained.
"For example, restaurants and food places are opening on Monday. How can we network to ensure, as we like to say, everybody eat ah food?
"I have a restaurant. I need to engage the butcher down the road, the person doing the seasoning and pepper sauce, the gardener with the provision. We need to ensure we work together."
She said marketing must be treated with the importance it deserves.
"If we are to compete with the big industry, we need to step up our game. We can't go on the computer and print out an old label and slap it on the product. It cannot compete on the market.
"We need to improve our customer service. When I walk into your restaurant you can't tell me, 'Take it or leave it.'
"No, we are dealing with intelligent consumers now who understand their rights. And they will stand up and speak loudly. We have the proliferation of the social media. One bad mistake, one salty rice and Facebook has it all over the place.
"No more can we say, 'I doing this on my own.' You will not be able to make it."
Baptiste urged aspiring entrepreneurs to use social media to their benefit.
"Covid provides a perfect opportunity to expand your market. Because everybody is now online you now have a wider market. You can reach you customers in their homes, where they are comfortable, and provide a service.
"Utilise the various platforms that are available. Not just the Facebook to make the commess. Put yourself out there, put your product and your service out there. The world is at your fingertip."
Baptiste noted though that her unit has to be realistic and cannot help every person with an idea.
"Not because you come for a grant (you will get through)...(For) some people...it's just a dream."
"We need to examine if there is a market for the product or service you're offering, or is it just a pie in the sky?
"Who is your target market?
"Is it plausible?
"What are the returns on the investment?"
She noted that the unit does not solely provide funding, but also expert consultancy.
"Part of the service we offer is training/discussion. Some people don't need money, they just need to sit and talk. They may have a product or service. How do you re-engineer to make what you already have viable? Part of our portfolio is counselling, nurturing, hand-holding and walking persons through the process."