Capacity Building Learning On The Job

At most trade shows, you can expect the excitement to revolve around cool displays, innovative products and the showmanship of sharpened sales people. But for TEPA’s Anthony John, behind the scenes at March’s Specialty Caribbean Expo was where the real buzz was to be found. Although ‘capacity-building’ may not be the sexiest sounding component of the event, to the exhibitors and the agencies who facilitated the expo, improving the skill base of entrepreneurs and business-owners is crucial for the future growth of trade in the OECS.

A traditional element of the best international trade shows, training workshops are often an important draw for exhibitors who take the opportunity to increase and update their knowledge, learn about best practices, new trends and business methods. The programme of capacity-building activities for the Specialty Caribbean Expo was “unique” and as diverse as the rosta of exhibitors, with five workshops for business owners and one specifically geared to the Business Support Organisations (BSOs) whose role it is to facilitate ‘trade and export’ in the wider context.

“We tried to strike a balance by providing a range of workshops for exhibitors and also include the organisations that provide a level of support for trade and export. The topics included ‘Exporting to Cuba’, conducted by our partner the OECS; ‘Roadmap To Exporting Your Services’ which was facilitated by the Saint Lucia Coalition of Services; ‘QMS In A Nutshell’ was held by our client Moz Inc; our principle sponsor Amerijet hosted ‘Exporting: What Does It Entail’; and the British Caribbean Chamber of Commerce sponsored ‘Exporting to the UK and European Union’.

Support organisations had their moment too, as ICT Geneva delivered training for members of BSOs from Grenada, St. Vincent and Saint Lucia at an unprecedented event which was very well-attended.

The subjects dealt with in all the capacity-building activities very much reflected the role of support played by Saint Lucia’s TEPA and other OECS export and trade agencies, fulfilling the passionate objective of not only providing the platform to showcase and connect, but continually strengthening the foundation of knowledge and skills in the local private sector. By tackling the common problems faced by exporters across the region, lessons can be learned and pitfalls avoided.

But it certainly wasn’t just about classroom learning and traditional workshops. Here again, TEPA sought to bring innovation to the mix, especially where the creative arts, media and entertainment were concerned. Apart from the musical showcase staged by way of audition for a U.K. jazz and blues festival, the Caribbean Specialty Expo brought in new activities like the film-makers’ workshop and boot camp conducted by a British film-maker from Grand Independence UK, which resulted in a pop-up cinema screening of their work at the show.

One of the surprise successes of the event came in the form of a ‘Music Masterclass’, which the TEPA team joke was an idea that came about “on the fly”. Former international runway model, our own Denise Lay spent weeks before the event coaching Saint Lucian models and offering advice about entering the fashion industry.

According to Anthony John, “the advice and her own story helped them tremendously, and the response to the fashion show from patrons and everyone at the ground was amazing.”