The Lethem Business Incubator Centre (LBIC)

Written by on March 3, 2024

The Lethem Business Incubator Centre (LBIC) 

-The Home of Small Business Development

 

Ronella Harris talks with General Manager Ms. Trudy McCurchin

 

The Lethem Business Incubator Centre

Still basking in the glory of the Lethem community, amidst rolling hills and fertile plains, we come upon a hub of innovation and opportunity – the Lethem Business Incubator Centre (LBIC) an arm of the Small Business Bureau where dreams are born, and businesses are nurtured.

At the helm of LBIC stands the remarkable General Manager Ms. Trudy McCurchin, a passionate patron for entrepreneurs across Region 9. Despite the sweltering heat of the Thursday afternoon, Ms. McCurchin’s willingness to advance and showcase small businesses and community development motivated her to share the LBIC’s mission and vision as well as give me a tour of the facilities.

She explained that their goal is to support small businesses by providing mentorship, training, and office spaces: essentially fostering a vibrant business ecosystem that celebrates and promotes the local talent of the Rupununi communities. They would do this by providing mentorship and specialized training to help these businesses not only grow but thrive. I learnt from Ms. McCurchin that farming, particularly cassava cultivation, forms the backbone of life in Lethem. We can see this being attested to by the use of the cassava based staple- farine- which is a favourite amongst the locals. Ms. McCurchin noted that due to this, the  LBIC recognized the need for value-added services and mass production to elevate local enterprises. This path will seek to empower the local businesses and see them moving beyond traditional practices and exploring exciting new avenues for success.

 

The Patrons

Ms. Charlotte Hernandez – “Craft Kabaun”

Walking through the LBIC and discusing the dazzling tapestry of entrepreneurs who utilise the services of the centre with Ms. McCurchin, it was quite serendipitous for us to encounter Ms. Charlotte Hernandez, the creative force behind “Craft Kabaun”. Realising the word ‘Kabaun’ was not native to my ears, I inquired of it and learnt that “Kabaun,” means “house” in Wapishana, one of the many Indigenous tribes found in the region. Charlotte’s exquisite handcrafted jewelry: earrings, dream catchers, and necklaces adorned the walls, each piece telling a story of tradition and artistry.

Some  products from Ms. Hernandez “Craft Kabaun”

 

Interestingly, Charlotte explained that she found herself the recipient of a prestigious GOAL scholarship to pursue studies at the University of the West Indies. Her chosen course? Jewellery-making. This program would set the stage for her remarkable journey. What made her stand out amidst her peers was not just her skill, but her commitment to sustainability. While her classmates opted for synthetic materials, Charlotte’s creations were crafted solely from 100% organic materials, an avenue that distinguished her pieces from the rest.

Beyond her craftsmanship, Charlotte’s endeavors extended to uplifting communities and showcasing their talents. Her craft house became a hub for a diverse array of locally sourced goods, ranging from soaps to cashew nuts, peanut cookies, and mango jam sourced from villages like Annai and the women’s group in St. Ignatius. Additionally, she proudly featured on her shelves and walls hand-embroidered art from Massara village, highlighting the rich tapestry of talent present within these communities.

Mrs. Tasela Ramessar – Mayee’s Custom Design

Reflective of the diverse entrepreneurial landscape, the Lethem Business Incubator Centre serves as a thriving hub for a multitude of ventures, including Mayee’s Custom Design, a local enterprise specializing in garments crafted from vibrant African Print cloth tailored specifically for the inhabitants of the Rupununi.

Mayee’s Custom Design

Under the stewardship of Mrs. Tasela Ramessar, Mayee’s Custom Design has carved out a distinct niche within the region, leveraging a blend of locally sourced and internationally procured fabrics to create bespoke clothing that resonates with cultural identity.

Not limiting itself, the LBIC’s support extends beyond artisans like Charlotte and Tasela. Benefitting from the services there are also businesses like Rafeek’s Customs Brokerage and BeVa Herbal Tea.

BeVa Herbal Mango Leaf Tea

As a lover of teas, BeVa Herbal Tea caught my attention with its range of organic teas- a pioneering venture dedicated to crafting wholesome, organic tea bags tailored to individuals grappling with chronic ailments such as diabetes and high blood pressure. BeVa Herbal Tea has swiftly become a beacon of health-conscious consumption, drawing patrons not only from from the surrounding neighborhoods but also Georgetown. The entrepreneurs behind this innovative endeavor, Ms. Vanessa House and Ms. Beverly Fiedtkou, have responded to the growing demand by curating an impressive array of tea blends, featuring ingredients like sorrel, lemongrass, daisy leaves, St. John’s Wort, soursop leaves, mango leaves, and cinnamon leaves that they dry and package in teabags using the machinery provided by the LBIC’s agro-processing unit.

With a commitment to wellness and utilizing nature’s bounty, this business stands as a testament to the power of local entrepreneurship in addressing pressing health needs while championing sustainability and organic practices much like Craft Kabaun.

Though our conversation focused on the many positives happening at the LBIC, I learnt from Ms. McCurchin thattransitioning to value-added services isn’t always seamless. She shared that accustomed to traditional methods, some farmers are initially hesitant to embrace new approaches making consistency and continuity a bit challenging. To bridge this gap, the the Small Business Bureau, in collaboration with the LBIC, conducts outreach programs within villages. Through these interactive sessions, residents learn about the benefits of diversification and mass production, empowering them to pave the way for a more sustainable and prosperous future for their community.

EDYOU FM is broadcasting in Lethem on 99.9 FM

Tune in this and very Friday for Community Train with Jonathan and Ronella

 

The Future of the Lethem Business Incubator Centre

Construction on the additional wing

Looking ahead, the plans for the future of the LBIC shines brightly, anchored in collaborative efforts with NGOs, private companies, and schools.

Since its inception, the Entrepreneurship Programs in schools have emerged as a cornerstone of youth empowerment initiatives through business. Designed to cultivate a culture of innovation and healthy enterprise among students, the program encourages the formation of clubs that evolve into viable businesses over time.

Pepper drying facility

Under this initiative, budding entrepreneurs receive guidance and support to nurture their ventures, with grants earmarked for those demonstrating sustained success and potential for long-term viability. Notable participants in this endeavor include Karasabi, St. Ignatius, and Aishalton Secondary schools, each actively fostering entrepreneurial spirit among their students.

As the program gains traction, efforts are underway to expand its reach, with plans to engage additional schools like Sand Creek on the horizon. By integrating entrepreneurship into the educational fabric, these initiatives not only equip students with practical skills but also lay the groundwork for a future generation of dynamic and innovative leaders.

How Can Businesses join the LBIC?

To join the LBIC, businesses must ensure that they have proper business registration and compliance with the Guyana Revenue Authority(GRA) as well as the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). The centre simplifies this process, offering guidance and assistance throughout if necessary.

Additionally, partnerships with institutions like Republic Bank and the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry provide much-needed financial backing through loans from as low as five million to as high as thirty million Guyana dollars, enabling small business entrepreneurs to invest in growth and expansion.

And in the end…

The spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship continues to bloom within the walls of the Lethem Business Incubator Centre. It is a testament to the community’s unwavering spirit and the power of collaboration. The space, I’ve since come to realise, isn’t just an incubator for businesses; it’s a catalyst for change, nurturing dreams, fostering creativity, and empowering individuals to chart their own path towards success with the guidance and support of the Small Business Bureau through the centre.

So, the next time you hear the name “Lethem,” remember not just the sun-drenched plains, but the vibrant tapestry of entrepreneurship woven within its heart, thanks to the services and initiatives set out by the Lethem Business Incubator Centre powered by the Small Business Bureau.

Story by: Ronella Harris 


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