Growth and Jobs | DBJ provides much-needed support for small businesses | News

In 2017, when One on One Education Services was facing financial challenges, company founder and CEO (CEO) Ricardo Allen went to the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) for help.

At the time, he said, “our money was running out” and made the difficult decision to close the physical office and work remotely.

DBJ came to the rescue, providing financial support and direction to Allen, which enabled him not only to rebuild but also to grow his business outside of Jamaica.

One on One now has contracts with clients across the Caribbean and the United States.

Allen said One on One was able to fund the development of a program that “the government of the Bahamas, the government of St. Kitts, is using all these people now. I just got my first contract out of California, in the USA.”

One on One Education Services is among a number of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) that have leveraged billions of dollars in funding support to improve and grow their operations through a range of products and services offered by DBJ.

As an innovative technology company founded in 2013, One on One provides a suite of digital education and training solutions.

The company, which is based in New Kingston, has built an award-winning online learning platform, with courses intended for students as well as for businesses and governments throughout the Caribbean.

Clients benefit from e-learning courses, online training, instructional design services, and expert tutors and trainers. About 400,000 students have been served through the online platform.

Allen said DBJ has been with the company “every step of the way.”

He noted, “When we got up and started the online learning platform, we felt we needed money. We raised money from the market and got investors, but quickly ran out. With this big idea, we went to DBJ, and they supported us.” [under] Innovation Grant from New Ideas to Entrepreneurship Program (IGNITE)”.

IGNITE enables Jamaican entrepreneurs, particularly MSMEs with innovative business ideas, to access grant funds to develop and market their products and services.

Necessary directions

Allen noted that once he got the grant from DBJ, there was a team of people who provided the necessary guidance.

“When I sat down with my DBJ in that conference room, they had this ability to sit back and listen to my crazy thoughts, and their attitude is, ‘How can we help support? And so, since day one, when we got our $2.5 million IGNITE grant, it has worked wonders for us.

“It allowed us to create an online learning technology and software or platform that we can now offer to anyone, anywhere,” he said.

One on One also received loan support through DBJ’s Credit Enhancement Facility.

This is a risk-sharing arrangement under which the Bank provides partial guarantees to approved financial institutions to enable them to increase lending to MSMEs.

With the onset of COVID-19 and students studying online, Allen again contacted DBJ to help develop an innovative product, which will provide people with access to the internet, especially in remote rural areas.

“So, we created this thing called Internet-in-a-Box. It’s really a small device, and what we do is we download a copy of the Internet on this device and we roll it out in rural Jamaica,” Allen explained.

“I grew up in Jacksontown, Trillone, and if you put that down [device] In Jacksontown, students would gather around it, just as they would with Wi-Fi. And they can consume any Internet-based resources on that device, without the need for the Internet.”

“We needed to bring that to market, and we went back to DBJ and said we had innovation, and we needed the necessary funding. They had the perfect opportunity, which is this innovation grant. [fund]We have applied for it.”

Allen said the grant process was rigorous “because[the DBJ]wanted to make sure that whatever they put their money into was something that would build the country so we got the grant, and we are now developing the production of these devices that we are going to deploy across Jamaica”[DBJ]wanting to ensure that there is[DBJ)أرادواالتأكدمنأنكلمايضعونأموالهممنأجلههوشيءسيؤديإلىبناءالدولةلذلكحصلناعلىالمنحة،ونحنالآنفيطورإنتاجهذهالأجهزةالتيسنقومبنشرهافيجميعأنحاءجامايكا”[DBJ)wantedtoensurethatwhatevertheyareputtingtheirmoneytowardsissomethingthatisgoingtoleadtonationbuildingSoweaccessedthegrantandwearenowintheprocessofproducingthesedevicesthatwe’regoingtodeployacrossJamaica”

For the innovation grant, the company had to provide evidence that it had been consistently generating more than $75 million in revenue over the past three years and also demonstrate that the product could be marketed.

“Our product is in the process of commercialization so it is not ready for market yet. It is something we are building. The market had to need the product, DBJ looked into this, and the next thing they looked at was the quality of the team behind this. Can they deliver on that promise because Many of us have ideas but can’t keep that promise,” Allen noted.

Meanwhile, the CEO of One on One said he appreciates not only the financial support provided by DBJ over the years, but also the guidance and advice that has allowed his company to take advantage of growth opportunities.

He remembers that five years ago, when he made the decision to run the company from home “the DBJ team came to my bungalow, sat in a little corner and…worked through every problem I had. They gave me all the solutions. He never left me.”

“They have a team of people who stand with you head and shoulder to ensure that this is done and that he gets executed, plus they also connect you to their network of people and organizations to give you that support,” he said.

With DBJ’s help, Allen noted, One on One is already a regional company, noting that “90 percent of our customers are from outside Jamaica.”

“We wouldn’t have been able to do this without the vision, without the funding and guidance from DBJ,” he said.

editorial@gleanerjm.com