Small business support systems

Read our article in the Cayman Financial Review Magazine, eversion 

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Small Business Support 

An allure of entrepreneurship is knowing that you’re out on your own, with nobody to issue commands or siphon off your hard-won profits. A potential distress is thinking that you’re out on your own, with nobody to give guidance or with whom to pool your resources.

For small business owners in the Cayman Islands, however, there is a robust support system from the public and private sectors geared toward helping entrepreneurs get started and succeed. On the government’s side is the Department of Commerce and Investment and the Cayman Islands Development Bank.

In the community, several different organisations serve as a resource and platform for small- and medium-size enterprises. Some of these include the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, Cayman Islands Tourism Association, Sister Islands Tourism Association and the Cayman Contractors Association.

Government
Established in 2005, the Department of Commerce and Investment’s Small Business Development programme offers technical assistance to entrepreneurs looking to start a business and also small business owners who need assistance.

A dedicated Small Business Development Unit provides training for small business owners and their employees. Services include business counselling, where business ideas are evaluated and assistance given in the development of business plans. Business advisors can help explain laws and regulations related to business registration, according to information provided by the government.

The Small Business Development Unit hosts regular workshops – featuring department staffers and/or private sector volunteers – that cost $5 if prepaid and $10 on the day of the workshop. The Small Business programme includes lunchtime networking sessions for business owners, as well as free marketing opportunities for owners to promote their products and services.

The department’s business advisors can provide guidance on how to secure financing for small businesses. Financing sources can include banks, personal savings, family members, friends, venture capitalists and angel investors. The department has established a partnership with the Cayman Angel Investor Network, a group of local individuals who are interested in investing in local business ventures.

Another public support for small private companies is the Cayman Islands Development Bank, a statutory corporation with a mandate to support entrepreneurial, economic and social development. The bank’s products include grants and loans for tertiary education, housing, agriculture and small business development, according to its website.

A primary purpose of the bank is to develop local business sectors in all three Islands, by providing financial assistance to individuals and small corporate entities wishing to start or expand their businesses, particularly in agribusiness, industry (such as light manufacturing and information technology) and tourism spinoff industries.

The bank can provide financing of up to $500,000.

To stop illegal businesses, the Trade and Business Licensing Board requires companies who operate locally to register and pay fees.

Chamber

The Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce exists to support, promote and protect all local businesses, not just the smaller ones. However, current Chamber President David Kirkaldy – himself a small business owner – has pledged to focus on small businesses and the challenges specific to them.

Mr. Kirkaldy said during his incoming address as president, “Over the past three years our local economy has been impacted severely. While I don’t think any clear statistics are readily available, we do know that many local businesses have ceased operation over the past few years, and that a great number of small businesses struggle to keep their doors open.

These businesses, sometimes referred to as small- to medium-size enterprises, or SME’s, are the lifeblood of our or any economy, and it’s the very essence of the Chamber’s existence. We must work together to support, promote and protect this sector.”

To that end the Chamber has unveiled training programmes aimed at small businesses and will launch its multi-employer health insurance plan also targeting small businesses.

In addition, Chamber Secretary Len Jackson was appointed Chairman of a newly established Small Business Committee in January 2012. Len is interviewed in the Chamber Interview in this edition regarding the committee’s objectives.

“The chamber is very supportive of small businesses. The membership of the Chamber is made up of a majority of small businesses,” said optometrist Elaine Campbell, owner of Shedden Road Vision Clinic and Tropical Optical.

Ms Campbell, who has been a Chamber member since the early ‘80s, said the Chamber’s Business After Hours events are very helpful for networking, and the Chamber’s pension plan is also a great resource.

Small Claims Court
Small businesses and individuals who have legal grievances but can’t afford to pay for high-priced attorneys can seek solutions for civil disputes through the Summary Court.

According to the Office of the Complaints Commissioner, “’small claims’ are those which are normally seen as being too small to justify the expense of engaging an attorney. In such cases, the Court encourages claimants to act for themselves.”

The Complaints Commissioner has a handbook to help guide people through the small claims process.

“Any person or business claiming an amount (whether fixed or to be assessed) that does not exceed $20,000 may bring an action in the Summary Court,” according to the handbook.

The handbook advises that court proceedings are not to be taken lightly or entered into hastily.

“To save the time and trouble of a small claims lawsuit, you would be well advised to initially contact the other party in the dispute to try and discuss the problem calmly and objectively. Make a serious effort to arrive at an agreement that will settle the matter fairly. A reasonable solution worked out to the mutual benefit of the parties will eliminate the stress of a courtroom confrontation. It will also reduce or eliminate the long-term personal hostility that often results from this type of grievance,” according to the handbook.

Copies of the Summary Court Rules can be purchased at the Legislative Assembly from 9am-3pm, Monday to Friday, at a cost of $7.20.

People bringing a claim for payment of debt or damages need to file a “Plaint” for a fee of $25. The Plaint – which includes details of the disagreement and request for action by the Court – must be served personally on the Defendant, meaning handed to the defendant face-to-face.

In some situations, it makes more sense for a third party, such as the Court Bailiff to serve the Plaint on the Defendant. The bailiff’s fee to serve a Plaint ranges from $30 in George Town to $125 on the Sister Islands.

The Defendant has 14 days within being served to respond to the Plaint, notifying the intention to defend against the claim or not, or whether to file a counterclaim against the Plaintiff.

A Magistrate or Justice of the Peace will set a court date and hear the Plaintiff’s case and the Defendant’s defence. The winner of the case may be awarded costs of going to court, which will be determined by the Magistrate or JP, in addition to the award for the primary judgement.

Awards for costs will not exceed $500 (where the judgement is between $0-$2,000), $1,000 (where the judgement is between $2,000-$10,000), or $2,000 (where the judgement is between $10,000-$20,000).