Opal Whyte, project manager for the Social Enterprise Boost Initiative (SEBI), a project of the JN Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is urging Jamaicans to support social enterprise development by purchasing goods and services from the entities.
“Our objective at the JN Foundation is to stimulate the social enterprise sector to achieve leaps and bounds in growth. therefore, we need your full support to make this possible,” she said while addressing a SEBI Biz Mix Networking Session held at the Opa Greek Restaurant and Lounge at Devon House recently.
“I encourage you to support the Buy Social campaign simply by purchasing the products and services being marketed by an increasing number of companies in the social enterprise sector,” she appealed.
Whyte posited that on a regular basis, Jamaicans purchase products regularly like coffee, craft items, clothing and accessories without giving thought about the manufacturer of the products and who the operations benefit.
“Why not consciously support a business or social enterprise, which assists in keeping its profits in our communities and the wider Jamaican economy and, in turn, addresses the social and economic challenges being faced by persons, some of who are members of the deaf and the visually impaired communities?” she asked.
Supporting Whyte’s appeal, Tishauna Mullings, chief executive officer of NexxStepp Educational Services, a social enterprise that provides personal development and life-skills training, said social enterprises such as her organisation need the support in order to be profitable.
“SEBI is a revolution in the entrepreneurship space, so these social enterprises that are a part of SEBI, they are developing products and services that serve a social mission. So, it is not just about making a profit, but it is about making a difference and improving the socio-economic condition of our country,” she said.
Mullings said that already, NexxStepp Educational Services, which has been operating for six years in St Thomas, has been assisting to improve the literacy level of the parish.
“This is where our social mission lies,” she said. “It is a part of our mission to bring personal development and improve the literacy levels of the parish. We offer empowerment events, training and academic workshops all across Jamaica, but our social mission is in St Thomas.”
Seretse Small, founder of Avant Academy of Music, underscored the importance of getting local support for enterprises such as his.
“If you want to invest in the future of Jamaica, invest in social enterprises and their products and services. You are not only supporting Jamaica, but you are also enhancing a section of our industry that believes in quality in terms of making our country better,” he added.
Whyte said that the social enterprises have a unique trademark that is easily identifiable. “In fact, wherever you see the ‘Buy Social’ trademark, it signals that the business is a social enterprise. I urge you to support the social enterprise sector in your purchases,” she added.
To date, more than 60 social enterprises have benefited directly and indirectly from SEBI through training and participation in its business-development programmes and open network. As a result, participants have enhanced their operations, generating in excess of $120 million in revenue, and have employed more than 200 community members.