ENTREPRENEURS are like acorns; scatter them around your economy and watch them grow. Some will put forth shoots then quickly wither, others will struggle on, but never quite make it to maturity. A few, however, will become the oaks of the private sector, sturdy pillars that provide sustenance for a whole eco-system of smaller companies.
Too often we in the media pay attention more to the established giants — the Apples and Volkswagens, the GraceKennedys and Scotiabanks and Digicels — and overlook the smaller, newer companies that are taking risks and innovating in ways that could shape the future.
The Jamaica Observer's start-up programme launched today, aims to redress that imbalance, bringing entrepreneurs from all over the island front and centre, celebrating their accomplishments and encouraging others to emulate them.
Nominations are now open for candidates that can meet a few simple conditions. They must be properly registered, tax compliant and not more than three years old. And, of course, they must be generating sales. Businesses of every size and type, whether in hairdressing or high-finance, are welcome to apply.
If you own such a business, or know someone who does, please send the business name and the contact details of its owners to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with "Start-up" in the subject line. A brief paragraph explaining what the company does that makes it special would also be helpful. The deadline for receiving nominations is midnight on January 31.
Each week we will publish three articles about selected nominees, how they got started, the obstacles and opportunities they faced and how they dealt with them. We hope that this will encourage others to take a risk and try to make Jamaica a better place.
You'll be able to view them on our website and indicate the one you like the most.
All of these companies can be thought of as winners, simply by virtue of giving it their best shot in the marketplace, but we'll be spotlighting three in particular when the programme reaches its grand finale on March 7.
Being selected by our judges won't guarantee success, of course, because operating a business is tough. We hope, though, that the public exposure of being in the start-up programme will attract the attention from customers, suppliers and business partners that our nominees need.
Because our country needs them.
"Entrepreneurs produce solutions that fly in the face of established knowledge, and they always challenge the status quo," says the UNCTAD, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
"Emerging markets need to nurture and develop entrepreneurs able to take advantage of opportunities created by globalisation," it says on its website.Which is why our entrepreneurs deserve a little recognition for the risks they're taking.They're helping to build Jamaica's future.