5 of the Most Important Points to Consider Prior to Opening a Rice Farm

Often referred to as the breadbasket of the Caribbean, Guyana is one of the world’s primary producers of staple crops like sugar and rice. The future of farming in Guyana is bright with many opportunities for people who want to get involved with the industry. Starting a new farm can prove daunting, especially with a crop like rice, which can be quite tricky to grow.

Luckily, Guyanese entrepreneurs have support from GBTI, which is one of the nation’s leading provider of farming loans with a specific product meant for growing rice. This loan can be secured for purchasing land, equipment, fertilizers, and more. Some key tips to keep in mind when it comes to launching a rice operation include:

1. Choose the right land.

Rice can be grown almost anywhere, but it will thrive in certain conditions more than others. Ideally, rice should be planted in a swampy or waterlogged area to get the largest yield. These areas will reduce the need for an irrigation system, which can add a lot of expense to the process of setting up a farm.

Look for fertile land that has a lot of water retention. The type of soil also matters as you look for the right plot of land. Clay-heavy soil is widely considered the best for growing rice, since it helps to retain water and organic matter that promote fast rice growth. Prior to planting, you will need to weed and cut down grasses. Also, the ground need to be level and then tilled to make it ready for planting.

2. Plant the right seeds at the right time.

One of the important things to keep in mind when it comes to farming is that the quality you put in is the quality you get out. In other words, you need to invest in high-quality seeds. While these seeds are more expensive, they can increase yield by up to 20 percent and reduce replanting rates. Also, great seeds promote uniformity and are more resistant to disease. Look for a double variety with up to 80 percent germination tendency as you buy seed.

Next, think about when you should be planting the seed. Some farmers will spread seed, which is time efficient, while others will transplant rice because it maximizes the harvest. If you plant seeds directly, wait until the rainy season is only a few days away. If you transplant, you will need to wait until the land is heavily flooded after the first or second rainfall.

3. Figure out a harvesting strategy.

For the most part, rice does not take a lot of time to mature. In general, rice is ready for harvest between three and five months after planting, although some varieties may take much longer. Be sure to pay attention to the seeds that you purchase. Harvesting is the process of collecting the mature crops so that they can be processed for sale. Before you harvest, you need to have the flooded water in the farm mostly drained but not completely to make it as easy as possible to collect the crop.

There are two main strategies for harvesting. You can use a harvesting machine, which minimizes time but can be costly depending on whether you purchase or rent the equipment. Availability may also be an issue. The other option is harvesting by hand using knives and sickles. You will need to hire labor to help, but it is often cheaper than using equipment.

4. Dry and mill the rice properly.

Once rice gets harvested, it needs time to dry. You should not underestimate the importance of this step. By giving the rice time to dry properly, it becomes safe for storage. Otherwise, the rice could rot and cost you the entire crop. Many rice farmers consider drying the most important step since it can ruin the entire harvest. The harvested grain should sit under the sun for at least 24 hours to dry and ideally longer.

The next step is to mill the rice to remove the husk and bran layers, which is what makes the grain edible. This process will depend in the variety of rice you grow, so pay close attention to the seeds that you buy. Typically, milling is done with commercial equipment to maximize the yield of rice. Many different processes exist, so do you research and understand what is involved, including the cost of using equipment.

5. Store the rice in a safe place.

Many farmers overlook how they will store the rice once it has been harvested. You need to know whether you will store the rice in paddy form and then mill prior to selling or save milled grain. The husk can help protect rice against insects, but it can be more costly to mill several times rather than once.

Often, farmers use storage rooms, sacs, or wood pallets to keep the rice. The decision depends on cost, space, and what is easily available. Make sure you think about how you will keep you rice safe from insects and rodents, as well as microorganisms. A clean, dry environment is important for minimizing growth of mold.

Spotlight on Small Business Grants for Guyanese Entrepreneurs – What You Need to Know

Small business remains extremely important for the economic development of communities throughout Guyana. These small companies provide vital jobs for the community while also providing the potential for significant income through products and services. As small businesses take off, their development brings more wealth into communities and provide jobs.

For this reason, it is essential to support small businesses in Guyana, especially during times of struggle. In the past year, many of the small businesses in the country have faced difficulties due to the pandemic. By focusing on the needs of these small companies, the Guyanese people can speed recovery from the pandemic and help rebuild the economy.

Guyanese Government Provides Support to Local Green Companies

In an effort to support small business owners in Guyana, the Small Business Bureau (SBB) recently announced $1 million rewards as part of the Green Business Technology Fund Programme. This money was presented to the owners of companies focused on sustainability and innovation.

The grants were awarded to 20 entrepreneurs as a means of driving the development of their businesses and expanding their reach. During a ceremony to recognize the grant recipients, the SBB offered the full support of the Ministry of Tourism, Industry, and Commerce as they develop their businesses and further encouraged the 20 grantees to provide assistance to each other.

The fund has provided rewards to entrepreneurs since its inception in 2018. At that time, only 12 entrepreneurs applied and 6 received the reward. The next year, 8 recipients were chosen from 12 applications. Last year, 85 businesses applied with 20 being selected, which shows the rapid growth of the program and the extreme need for support from Guyanese small business.

SBB has recognized the need and made a pledge to increase access to financing as well as provide programs for entrepreneurial skill development. The government has acknowledged the importance of supporting both existing entrepreneurs and providing tools necessary for new businesses to be founded.

The grants to green-focused companies will certainly help certain entrepreneurs find solid footing during a difficult time for businesses. However, many companies that do not have a focus on sustainability continue to struggle. Focusing on their needs will prove extremely important moving forward through 2021.

Assistance to Small Businesses Impacted by the Coronavirus Pandemic

Last spring when the coronavirus pandemic caused massive shutdowns of economies across the world, the Guyanese government reacted by offering relief grants to local small businesses. The Ministry of Business combined its relief grants, meant to sustain operations and make it possible to maintain employees, with training and development programs designed to help small business owners pivot and maintain solvency during the pandemic.

These programs taught entrepreneurs how to use online platforms to sell their products and emphasized the important of diversification. Training was also offered to help entrepreneurs forge new supply partnerships and reduce operational expenses.

The first grants were released in June of 2020 and 12 business owners collectively received a total of $1.6 million in assistance. Another set of businesses received grants shortly thereafter. These grants were an acknowledgement of the challenges created by the pandemic.

The Guyanese government recognized that the grants were not a panacea, but hoped that they might sustain businesses through the most difficult time so that they could recover. While these grants were certainly helpful, nearly a year has passed since they were given. Many business owners are calling for more assistance as they continue to struggle with the pressure of the pandemic.

Numerous potential solutions have been offered, such as reducing business taxes for a period of time to increase the revenue that entrepreneurs can use to pay employees, or allocating a percentage of gross domestic product to  other opportunities for entrepreneurs. Of course, individuals are also calling for additional grants beyond those aimed at green businesses to avoid closures that will cost jobs. Also, while the government has focused largely on capacity building through training, business owners believe that more of this programming could bolster the community and help protect against the economic threat of the pandemic.

Another Option for Entrepreneurs Facing Economic Pressure

While government intervention can help sustain small business in Guyana, GBTI also has a range of financial products intended to help entrepreneurs. Several different varieties of business loans are offered by GBTI, including options for expanding agricultural operations, bolstering manufacturing projects, and even creating green processes, which can help control business expenses.

These loans come with flexible repayment terms and competitive interest rates, which make them a solid option for entrepreneurs that need a little extra help to stay afloat during the pandemic. GBTI even offers a temporary moratorium on payment installments for certain situations, which can make the option more appealing to entrepreneurs. Individuals interested in business loans from GBTI should get in contact with a credit officer from one of the bank’s 12 branches countrywide to discuss options.

What You Need to Know About Creating and Funding an Emergency Account

One of the trickiest personal finance questions to answer relates to whether it makes more sense to pay off debt or save. While paying off debt is often the better choice, something that should take priority in this circumstance is creating an emergency fund.

Having money set aside makes it possible for us to weather financial emergencies without going into more debt. Unplanned expenses often arise at the worst time, but knowing you have some money set aside for emergencies can make the experience less stressful. Having an emergency account means you can stay on track for meeting major financial goals even when you’re faced with unexpected expenses.

The Basics of Creating an Emergency Fund

As the name implies, an emergency fund is a cash reserve that helps you deal with unplanned expenses like home repairs, medical bills, car maintenance, or even loss of income. Without this sort of account, you may need to dip into other savings or, worse, go into debt to cover the unexpected expenses.

Taking out a loan or putting these expenses on a credit card makes it more expensive in the long run as you will need to pay interest, which can put you even further behind with your financial goals. When it comes to creating an emergency fund, the question that many people have is how much they need in the account. The answer to this question is different for everyone.

You can start by reviewing the unexpected expenses that have arisen in the past to figure out how much you might need. However, it is also important to think about your overall income and your ability to pay the account back if you use it. While it may sound paradoxical, having more money in the account provides more of a cushion if your income is low or varies. With this approach, you give yourself more time to pay back the amount you needed.

Paying into a fund when the budget is already tight may seem impossible, but even putting a little aside each month adds up quickly. Another strategy is thinking about you monthly expenses and saving for six months’ worth of living costs. Then, if you lose your job, you have a good cushion to keep you afloat as you look for other opportunities.

What Kind of Account to Use for an Emergency Fund

Choosing how to store your emergency fund is another important question to answer. You may be tempted to invest the money so that it can grow while it goes untouched, but this can actually be problematic. Because of the nature of this fund, you may need quick access to it, and invested money does not typically have the liquidity to make it feasible. Also, you may find yourself forced to sell investments when they are down if you do not have the time to wait out a market recovery.

A better option is choosing a savings account with a high interest rate. Emergencies can happen at any time and a savings account gives you immediate access. Importantly, you should create a separate account from the one you use daily so that there is some barrier to dipping into the reserve.

Putting the money in a savings account can allow it to earn some interest, even if the returns are much less than if you invested it. You do have some other options when it comes to saving an emergency fund, but they all have fairly significant drawbacks.

For example, you could keep the money in cash, but then you leave yourself open to loss or theft. Another option is putting the money on a prepaid card, but this also leaves you open to loss or theft. Moreover, it could be tempting to use the card for situations that are not emergencies. In general, a savings account is the best option for storing this money and keeping it safe.

Strategies for Saving Money in an Emergency Fund

As already mentioned, saving money in an emergency fund can seem like a daunting task. Once you have a goal in mind for the account, you need to have a strategy for achieving it. One of the best ways is to make steady contributions. You can set aside a specific amount each week or month to put into the account.

Even if this amount is small, you will be surprised how quickly the account accumulates money when you are consistent. Check in on the account regularly to make sure you are on track and celebrate the milestones you hit. After all, savings is hard, and it is worthwhile to recognize when you have saved enough.

Automating your savings is the best way to grow the account. You may be able to set up an automatic monthly transfer to the account or choose a certain amount form each paycheck to go to it. However, you should also keep the account in mind whenever you come across a windfall. If you receive a bonus at work or inherit money, this can be a great way to boost the emergency fund.

Once you have achieved your goal, you no longer need to save money in the account regularly, so it pays to use these windfalls to fund the account. Importantly, whenever you dip into the emergency fund, you will need to resume regular payments to bring the account back to its baseline.

This Is Why the Guyanese Agriculture Sector Is Poised for Growth

Agriculture accounts for about a third of Guyana’s entire gross domestic product and this industry is responsible for an equivalent number of jobs in the nation. GBTI helps local Guyanese farms through agricultural loans that and is now one of the nation’s largest agricultural lenders.

Guyana has actually been called the “breadbasket” of the Caribbean due to its agricultural production. The primary agricultural exports for the country include sugar, rice, forestry, and seafood, although many other products are grown in Guyana.

Understanding the unique pressures on this industry and the trends can help farmers prepare for the future and ensure they protect their livelihoods. In recent years, extreme weather, declining productivity, and instability in commodity prices have all presented challenges for the country’s agriculture system. However, going forward, the agricultural sector is poised for growth. Here’s what you need to know:

Emerging Opportunities for Agriculture in Guyana

Moving forward, the longstanding sugar and rice industries in the country will likely continuing contributing substantially the nation’s economy. However, it is important to recognize that non-traditional agriculture has shown exciting growth potential in recent years.

In the past few years, there have been significant increases in the export of prepared foods likes coconut milk, spices, and jams. The non-traditional agriculture sector needs more investment in facilities and quality assurance to become a more significant part of Guyana’s exports, but the potential for growth is significant.

In addition, Guyana has significant potential for a fishery industry considering its long coastline along the Atlantic Ocean and the network of rivers throughout the country. Guyana became certified to export seafood to the European Union and has long exported to the United States.

Historically, the seafood industry focused on wild-caught seafood, but aquaculture has recently attracted a significant amount of investment. Some segments of the marine market, including prawns and shrimp, are already facing sustainability pressure, which is what makes aquaculture so appealing for the future. Large tilapia and shrimp farming industries have emerged due to private investment and encouragement from the government.

What Farmers Should Know about New Opportunities

Importantly, not all the new opportunities for agricultural growth in Guyana are related to emerging industries. The traditional agriculture sector also has significant opportunities. For example, the mature sugar sector still needs more processing plants to turn the raw product in brown and white sugar. According to the Guyana Sugar Corporation, this remains an underserved segment of the industry.

Also, farmers have opportunities for generating byproducts of sugar production, including ethanol. Similarly, the rice industry needs upgraded milling facilities that make it possible to create value-added rice products. While shipping rice has been lucrative for the country, more money could be earned by producing breakfast cereals, quick-cooking rice, and similar products domestically.

In terms of non-traditional products, a lot of opportunity exists for fresh fruits and vegetables. In the past few years, international demand for fresh produce has grown exponentially. Guyana is well-positioned to provide citrus fruits, as well as exotics like passion fruit, mangoes, and papayas. In terms of fresh fruit, Guyana could easily produce pumpkin, cucumber, and some exotics like bora and seim.

The primary hurdle to entering this industry remains developing modern post-harvest handling procedures to ensure that the products do not spoil during transit. A big part of the issue is time needed to transport products. To enter this market, farmers will need to increase their airlift capacity to export fresh produce in a timely manner.

Another crop that has earned a lot of attention in recent years is quinoa, a seed that is native to South America. Demand for quinoa has grown because of the health benefits associated with the product. While the crop has not historically been grown in Guyana, the conditions are favorable so farmers can also take advantage of this health food trend. Quinoa provides all nine essential amino acids, which is what makes it such a desirable health food product.

Other Guyanese Agricultural Industries with Growth Potential

While livestock and dairy have not traditionally been major Guyanese exports, this could change in the coming years. Recently, many investment opportunities have emerged in the meat industry, especially in terms of production of beef, mutton, and poultry. There is also potential to export milk and related products to Caribbean islands, where it is difficult to generate these items. Guyana’s savannahs are perfect for large-scale cattle farms, which were once popular decades ago.

Another area that agricultural experts can consider for investment is in support services. This sector is currently emerging, and farmers will need machinery and technology to support production. As already mentioned, there is a particular need for air cargo services. With more flights specifically for agricultural exports, many new opportunities would be available to Guyanese farmers.

In addition, there is a growing need for cold storage facilities and packaging services. The post-harvest handling process in Guyana is in desperate need of modernization. Investors and agricultural experts can find many opportunities for ensuring that farmers export only the highest-quality products. This will, in turn, open even more doors for non-traditional production.

This Is How GBTI Is Helping the Local Community in the Wake of Severe Flooding

GBTI provides a wide range of services to the Guyana community, from convenient online banking to specialized loans for local entrepreneurs and farmers. Dedicated to helping the Guyana community as much as possible, GBTI also regularly engages in philanthropy and has recently focused on assisting communities affected by flooding.

Guyana has often struggled with flooding due to excessive rainfall, with 2005 one of the primary examples. That year, 34 lives were lost to flooding, which also affected crops and livestock. However, 2020 also brought a considerable amount of rain, damaging hundreds of homes in several parts of the country. Particularly in the last half of October, critical flooding affected more than 1,600 households.

The flooding that occurred in late October was related to heavy rainfall and thundershowers combined with abnormally high tides that prevented rivers and the sea from compensating appropriately for the additional water. This type of flooding is known as a flash flood. Recent flash floods in Guyana have occurred in both 2013 and 2016.

The damage that occurred in 2020 affected several regions, including Pomeroon-Supenaam, Demerara-Mahaica, Essequibo Islands-West Demerara, Mahaica Berbice, and Upper Demerara-Berbice. Altogether, dozens of communities were deemed to be severely impacted by this flooding, with many people reporting flood waters in their homes. The rainfall also impacted Georgetown, the capital of Guyana.

Initial Responses to the 2020 Flooding Experienced in Guyana

As a result of the flooding, the central government collaborated with local governing bodies and community stakeholders to help drain affected cities and villages and minimize the impact of the waters. The government sent engineers to all regions affected by the floods. Additionally, a task force was sent to Georgetown to work with local organizations to determine how to respond most effectively to this emergency.

Several different engineering solutions were activated to provide relief, save people’s homes, and protect their communities. For example, the drainage networks in some places were clogged, which worsened the flooding. Clearing these networks helped the water drain more effectively from commercial and residential areas.

Other efforts to protect Guyanese citizens included offering sandbags and cleaning supplies to affected buildings to help prevent water from entering the lower levels and the creation of temporary shelters within affected communities. Guyana also activated its National Emergency Operations Center.

This brought the Guyana Red Cross Society and the Ministry of Health, among other organizations, into the orchestrated effort to protect the country. Relief packages were created and distributed to residents that had been severely impacted by the flooding. Pumps were installed to remove water from affected areas as quickly as possible.

How GBTI Helped a Community Recover from Recent Flooding

For its part, GBTI has also made substantial contributions to relief efforts within the country. As soon as reports of families being affected were released, GBTI approached the Charity Squatting Area to help individuals in need. The team going to the area was led by acting chief executive officer James Foster along with public relations and marketing manager Pamela Binda.

The media reports were so moving that the bank felt a duty to step up and offer assistance. Once Foster and his team made it to Charity, they noted that the destruction was more widespread than anticipated and pledged to continue helping even beyond the initial GBTI assistance. GBTI owns a bank in the Charity region and feels a special connection to that community, which is what drove the organization’s quick response.

The initial GBTI intervention consisted of a hamper handed out to families in need. This hamper included cleaning supplies to help with the process of returning to normalcy, as well as food to ensure that no one went hungry as a result of losing their home.

Many people were directly impacted by these efforts, including a mother of seven. Her home had been inundated with floodwater for several days and her husband was unemployed at the time, which made her worried about procuring key supplies. A number of families noted that the groceries were especially important and helped calm many of the anxieties they had due to the flooding.

During his time in this region, Foster met with a number of regional officers to discuss how they could move forward and continue helping the region. This team identified ways they could collaborate in the weeks and months to come, as well as potential partnerships that could increase the impact they have.

Multiple employees from the Anna Regina team, as well as members of the Region Two Administration, came out on very short notice to help their community and speed recovery efforts. GBTI remains committed to addressing the needs of the community and will continue to seek out opportunities for helping people in need and easing the burden of natural disasters like flooding.

To learn more about GBTI’s services and its efforts to serve the people of Guyana, please visit GBTIBank.com.

Featured image courtesy Bernard DUPONT | Flickr

Spotlight on 7 of the Reasons Your Business Should Go Green

In recent years, many companies have taken steps to go green. Becoming more ecologically conscientious has a number of benefits, from reducing operating costs to improving relations with customers.

While many of the steps your organization can take to become greener involve an upfront investment, the payoff can be significant. Plus, GBTI offers loans specifically designed to help customers adopt greener processes.

Still, you may be wondering why you should go through the effort to become more environmentally friendly. Some of the key benefits you can expect by making your company greener include:

1. Healthier Work Environment

One of the best ways to show your staff that you care is providing them with a healthy work environment. By making your office greener, you may replace harsh chemicals that are usually present in corporate environments with less abrasive cleaners.

Also, making the office greener often improves indoor air quality. Giving your employees a healthy work environment drives wellbeing and productivity. You staff may end up feeling better and taking fewer sick days, which can add to your bottom line even more.

2. Greater Appeal to Top Talent

Adopting green processes can help you attract and retain top talent. Great employees are hard to come by. Many of them are attracted to companies not just for a paycheck, but also for the ability to make a difference in the world. To that end, many employees now seek out environmentally-conscious firms when they are applying for jobs.

People want to be proud of their workplace. Going green is an effective way to build that sense of pride and establish the company as a leader in the local marketplace. Plus, many of these potential employees understand the value of having a greener workplace in terms of providing a healthier environment.

3. Stronger Competitive Edge

Just as employees want to work at a green firm, customers want to buy products from companies that share their values. Many customers will pay more for a product knowing that they are supporting a green enterprise.

By going green, you can attract new customers who want to be ecologically conscious when they make purchases. Along the way, you may even build some loyalty with your existing customer base. Be sure to talk about your efforts to become green on your website, on social media, and even in person at the store.

4. Greater Potential for Industry Leadership

Your firm can help set the tone for your entire industry by going green. Once you take steps to reduce your environmental impact, measure the results and talk about them with other people in your industry. If you position yourself as an industry leader, you can get a lot of free publicity for your organization.

Speaking about your efforts to go green will help distinguish you from other companies in the same sector. It can also give you a reputation that leads to attracting employees and new customers alike. Sustainability is an important topic right now, and getting involved in the conversation can help you grow your organization quickly.

5. Environmental Stewardship

One of the most important benefits of going green is that this really does help the planet. The future of the human race depends on protecting the planet as much as possible. Becoming more responsible at the corporate level is an important step toward sustainability.

Some very simple changes in your office can significantly improve the wellbeing of the earth. If all businesses start to do their part, the planet will be here for generations to come. Making decisions that harm the environment put this future in jeopardy.

6. Lower Expenses

One of the key reasons to go green is that it will likely end up saving you money. A lot of green optimization involves reducing reliance on water and electricity, which can lower utility bills. Something as simple as switching from incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent lighting can help reduce your electricity use by more than half, which is directly reflected in your bill.

Also, making your office paperless will save on printing supplies and paper, not to mention filing cabinets and other forms of storage. These steps may seem small, but they have a meaningful impact on the environment while saving you significant money.

7. Potential Tax Benefits

Many governments around the world have adopted tax benefits, such as credits, to encourage businesses to go green. In Guyana, some tax advantages are likewise available to companies that use alternative energy. Like other nations, Guyana is taking the sustainability movement seriously and more tax advantages may become available in the future.

If you emerge as a leader in green business transformation, you could also play a key role in leveraging that position to advocate for more tax advantages from the government. You may also be eligible for tax benefits from other countries if you operate internationally. Do some research to figure out where the opportunities exist.

6 of the Most Important Factors to Consider as You Plan Your Small Business

GBTI offers individuals a wide range of loan products, including those meant to fund the creation or growth of a small business. Guyana is quickly becoming an environment welcoming of entrepreneurs, with more access to support and guidance.

Still, the success of a small business largely depends on the legwork that you do prior to opening your doors. While money is certainly an important consideration, you should think about a wide range of other factors as you gear up to open your business. Some of the key considerations include:

1. Your Personal Strengths and Weaknesses

Before starting a business, it is important that you understand where your strengths lie and also recognize your personal shortcomings. Creating and running a business is hard work. You will need help and understanding of your weaknesses in order to find people who complement your skills and deficiencies.

Establishing a company involves financial, marketing, and legal considerations Think about what you can do well and what you might be able to teach yourself. Where you have gaps in your knowledge and proclivities, note them so you can find the right people to help you when the time comes. Ultimately, when you are honest with yourself regarding your strengths and limitations, you will be more prepared to run the company effectively.

2. Your Professional Support System

Opening a business is challenging. When you have more people in your corner, you have a greater chance of success. Try to find someone who can give you advice about different aspects of the business. For example, someone who has started a business in your town may be able to guide you through some of the legal hoops. Someone who owns a business in a related field can likely give you tips on expanding your customer base.

Ideally, mentors and advisors should be people you feel comfortable being completely honest with and who will make themselves available for questions or advice around the clock. You can find mentors a number of ways, from getting involved with local business communities to searching them out online.

3. Your Local Markets

Businesses are successful when they fulfill an unmet local need. You do not need to be the first one to the market with an idea if you improve upon current offerings and listen to what customers actually want. To that end, you should have a clear idea of your local market and its needs.

Talk to people and listen to their answers to make sure there is a demand for your product or service. Understand the demographics and their buying habits. You may also want to spend time research nearby markets so you can position yourself to expand in the future.

Pay close attention to competitors and how they have positioned themselves in the market to make sure your business is distinguished enough to compete successfully. Doing this legwork will also help you market the business well.

4. Your Business Plan

A key step in the process of opening a business is creating a plan. Entrepreneurship is a risky venture and a business plan is the best way to mitigate this risk. By creating a comprehensive business plan, you will force yourself to think through many of the issues that could arise and establish paths to deal with them.

A plan forces you to think in detail about your business and the various means of fostering its growth in the years to come. Additionally, a business plan creates a map for the company that you can go back to and assess whether or not you are on the right track.

If you have veered from the business plan unexpectedly, you need to think about why and whether or not you should steer back toward it. Changing courses is sometimes necessary for survival, but you need to do so in a calculated manner.

5. Your Estimated Costs and Returns

Part of the business plan is running the numbers. By looking at how much money you will need to launch the business and estimating the likely returns, you can verify that the plan is viable. Crunching the numbers will also help secure financing as you will be able to demonstrate how the loan gets repaid.

While the numbers are estimates, they are important for projecting growth and development. Think about the overall startup costs, sales, and cash flow. Depending on the nature of the business, you may need to seek out more data.

Look at the performance of similar businesses in your own market and others to get a better understanding of what you can expect. Mentors and advisors can also help a great deal when it comes to making these estimates.

6. Your Contingency Plan

Even when you think you are prepared to start a business, unexpected issues can occur. The past year was an example of that, with the pandemic rapidly changing how many people approached their own businesses. Contingency planning helps guide you when the unexpected happens and can help the business from floundering.

When first starting a business, you may also want to think about income and what you will do if sales are not at the level that you expected. If you have another job, you may want to keep working it for the initial startup period to make sure your business is viable. You may also want to consider different avenues of funding that could help keep the business afloat if you run into unforeseen issues.

How to Approach to the Question of Whether to Save Money or Pay Debts

Once you have established a budget and begin to save money, it can be confusing what exactly to do with those funds. On the one hand, you may be tempted to save and invest it to let the money grow over time. On the other hand, you may have some debt that still has not been paid in full.

Choosing how to allocate this money can be very difficult. After all, if you do not save enough money now, you may struggle when it comes time to retire. However, the prospect of entering retirement while still in debt can also cause a lot of anxiety.

For many people, the right approach is a blended one that allows them to save while also working on paying of debt. Here’s what you need to know to make that call:

What to Think about When It Comes to Paying off Debt

Paying off debt is a noble goal and should be a priority when it comes to personal finances. However, if you focus completely on paying off debt you will not have money to fall back on in case of an emergency.

If you do not have an emergency fund, you may end up taking out more debt to cover an emergency, which can make you feel like you are not making any progress. Unexpected expenses can creep up at any time, so it is important to have some amount of money set aside to help when this happens. Many experts recommend having $1,000 in a savings account to cover emergencies before focusing on paying off debt.

As you start to focus on paying off debt, make sure you make your high-interest debts a priority. By paying down the principal on these accounts, you reduce the amount of interest that you pay each month. This could ultimately have a bigger impact than you would make by investing the money.

For many people, it makes sense to focus on high-interest debt first and then make minimum payments on low-interest debt since they could actually come out on top by investing the money. Student loans and mortgages tend to carry fairly low interest, but it is important to keep track of each account on your own.

If you want to make extra payments on a fixed-payment loan, you will usually end up paying off the loan early as a result. The loan is not typically recalculated to lower your monthly payment. Importantly, if you make an extra payment, ensure that it is going toward the principal rather than being allocated toward a future payment, as that is the fastest way to reduce overall balance. You may need to request formally that the payment gets applied to the principal.

What to Think about When It Comes to Saving

Saving money is another important goal when it comes to personal finance and seeing the cash in those accounts grow can be very exciting. The primary issue that can arise when prioritizing saving over paying off debt is the fact that many debts have such high interest rates that you will pay more in interest charges than you gain by saving.

Also, if you prioritize saving, then you run the risk of carrying debt into retirement. Of course, many people have comfortable retirement lives while continuing to pay on debts. However, this can limit what you feel comfortable doing and place a significant strain on your monthly budget.

Some situations exist in which you should prioritize saving over paying off debt, such as any debt with a low interest rate. In this situation, you will likely see more growth in money saved in an investment account than you would avoid in interest payments.

If you find yourself with only low-interest debt, you should make sure you grow a significant emergency fund before you focus on paying off more debt. Ideally, an emergency fund covers between three and six months’ worth of living expenses.

However, if you do not focus on saving until your debt is completely gone, you will put yourself at a disadvantage in terms of retirement savings. Putting money away early gives you the benefit of compound interest. When money is invested for a long period of time, you will start to earn interest on the interest you already earned. These ultimately means you get exponential returns. This is the reason that it is so important to save for retirement as early as possible.

The Bottom Line in the Question of Saving Versus Paying Debt

In the end, it will probably be best to both save and pay back your debts simultaneously, but the balance of these actions will likely change over time. While you have high-interest debts, it is important to focus primarily on paying them off. If you can, however, you should also save a small amount in a traditional savings account to ensure you have money to cover unexpected expenses as well as invest a small amount in retirement savings to take full advantage of compound interest.

As your high-interest debts are eliminated, you can begin to focus more on saving since the benefits of paying off this sort of debt are more limited. The balance you strike between paying off debts and saving also depends on your own feelings. If you can only have peace of mind when you are free from debt, it could make sense to focus on that. On the other side of the coin, if not having anything saved gives you anxiety, prioritize that process.

Guyana Opens Small Business Incubator in Berbice to Help Entrepreneurs

GBTI maintains a number of unique lending programs to help people in Guyana. One of these programs is specifically designed to benefit small business owners in Guyana as they create ventures that can support their families and foster growth in their communities. Recently, Guyana has spearheaded new initiatives to help small business owners, such as the Belvedere Business Incubator Center, which opened in February 2020. This facility is designed to reinforce strong entrepreneurial skills and serve as an educational center where business owners can obtain direct, practical support.

A Look at the Belvedere Business Incubator Center

The new Belvedere Business Incubator Center includes six distinct pods. The first three pods are reserved for entrepreneurs to participate in a three-year training program to support inexperienced entrepreneurs. Once they graduate from the program, other people can enroll and obtain the same support. The other three pods contain manufacturing equipment that small business owners can use at a subsidized cost to help process products and boost inventory without the need for too much upfront capital. The point of the center is to provide Guyanese entrepreneurs with the support and guidance they need to launch successful companies that continue to thrive without the center’s continued intervention.

Many small business owners in Guyana have already celebrated the opening of this facility, which is helping many people to meet goals that they would otherwise not be able to accomplish. For example, one entrepreneur who creates coconut products stated that he is unable to adequately process his supply at home, but said that it will be possible using the equipment at the facility. Another entrepreneur who sells treats said she looks forward to the training in finance and marketing, which will help her to sell her products more effectively and ensure that she can save for important financial milestones. The center will provide a range of classes and seek to inspire people to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

How Guyana Could Benefit from a Larger Network of Incubators

Alongside the Berbice facility that opened earlier this year, another one is already being constructed and developed in Lethem that is expected to open in the near future. Such facilities are extremely important for Guyana, as entrepreneurship is challenging regardless of the physical location. The Caribbean provides its own unique challenges. In Guyana, the space for home startups is quite limited, yet renting space for a business can prove to be an insurmountable financial hurdle. Incubators like the ones being opened provide a solution to this problem and offer additional support to ensure that the businesses being launched are successful. Many people who wish to start companies may not have the business training needed to make the process efficient and cost-effective, yet an incubator can provide this sort of assistance.

Incubators tend to closely examine the communities that they serve in order to understand more fully the particular challenges of starting a company in that location. To that end, incubators can prove even more helpful than typical business courses, as they provide localized support and instruction that can respond to changing conditions. In Guyana, there has been a general consensus that the country needs to scale and grow more businesses to boost economic development and participate more fully in global markets. Guyana struggles with a shortage of business mentors. In this sort of environment, the coaching and networking facilitated by incubators is a great way to produce successful entrepreneurs who can later become mentors.

The Role of Accelerators for Small Businesses in Guyana

While incubators are already opening in Guyana, the country has a limited number of accelerators. An accelerator operates much like an incubator except that the engagement is typically limited to a few months rather than a year. An accelerator is sort of like a jump-start for a business. By participating in an accelerator, entrepreneurs can obtain help on particular issues related to the business, whether that means the business model, avenues for revenue, or professional networking. Accelerators — especially when paired with incubators — can create a large group of business-savvy entrepreneurs who can collectively help new generations of entrepreneurs as mentors.

In Guyana, an ongoing accelerator program has been offered through the World Bank. Known as the Women Innovators Network in the Caribbean, this opportunity is specifically focused on female entrepreneurs. The accelerator works specifically with women who have an established business, but who need to learn how to grow and scale as their companies expand. The program fulfills a key niche need identified in Guyana, yet many more unmet opportunities exist to address the needs of local businesspeople. The community hopes that more accelerators will develop to complement the offerings from the two incubators. If these incubators are successful in facilitating business growth, then a rise in accelerators is the next logical step.

What You Need to Know about the History of Sugar

Known as the “breadbasket” of the Caribbean, Guyana is one of the world’s top producers of rice and sugar. GBTI supports local Guyanese farmers through its agricultural loans, and it has emerged as one of the largest agricultural lenders in Guyana. Sugar is one of the most in-demand crops around the world with an incredible array of applications. Sucrose, the white sugar that you can buy from a grocery store, is the most widely used sweetener in the world, which is remarkable considering that it has only been broadly harvested for about 400 years. Prior to that time, honey, dates, and other fruits were the primary forms of sweetener.

Key Points about the History of Sugar Cultivation

As a crop, sugar likely originated from a perennial grass that grows wildly in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. Sugar has been a domesticated crop in New Guinea for as long as 12,000 years, and records from India show people using sugar as early as 800 BCE. However, sugar was not popular elsewhere until much more recently. Sugar first became popular in Europe in the late Middle Ages. People from the Middle East brought sugar to Spain, and its popularity grew from there. However, sugar cost a great deal of money at the time since it was imported to the Middle East from India. “Sugar” is actually an Arabic term that referred to the imported crop.

Today, the most popular source of sugar is sugar cane, which appears to have originated in the Canary Islands. Christopher Columbus brought sugar cane to the Americas in 1493, by which time it was already very popular throughout the Caribbean. Sugar cane was used in the production of sugar, rum, and molasses, all of which were important exports. By the 1700s, settlers in the Americas had begun growing sugar cane to support demand from Europe. Between 1700 and 1800, the average consumption of sugar in England rose from about 4 pounds per person annually to 18 pounds. The production of sugar cane has actually decreased since 1967, as more farms have begun to grow sugar beets.

The Difference Between Sugar Cane and Sugar Beets

Today, commercial sugar comes about equally from sugar cane and beets and the sucrose produced from each is identical. Resembling a turnip or large radish, the sugar beet grows best in temperate climates. An average sugar beet weighs about 2 pounds and produces 14 teaspoons of refined sugar. The sugar beet industry began in Europe in the 1700s after Andreas Marggraf discovered the wild beet, and one of his students figured out how to extract sugar from it a few decades later. Sugar from these beets was first commercially produced in 1802 in Germany. Napoleon played a major role in the widespread popularity of this crop, which can take up to two years to mature, although it is less labor-intensive than traditional sugar cane.

Sugar cane, which many people are likely more familiar with, resembles a stalk of bamboo. The sugar is in these stalks grows best in tropical climates. Each stalk has a purple outer covering that needs to be peeled or ripped off before enjoying the sweetness of the inner stalk. While the stalks are too fibrous to eat, they can be chewed or processed into sugar. A press can be used to excrete brown sugar cane juice that is directly consumed or processed further. Since sugar cane is a type of grass, it grows very quickly, and several harvests are possible before farmers need to replant it. Like sugar beets, the crop requires a great deal of water to grow it. Sugar is more labor intensive than beets and is typically grown commercially, although the stalks are sometimes sold without being processed. 

How Sugar Is Processed

Once sugar cane is harvested, it is pressed either by hand or a machine. The resulting liquid is brown and extremely sweet. Subsequently, the juice can be consumed or turned into molasses. Steaming and smoking this juice will result in brown sugar. Also, this juice can be fermented directly into rum or other spirits. Byproducts of the steaming process are used to feed livestock, and pressed stalks become fodder and fertilizer. In some commercial processes, the cane is pressed so thoroughly that it becomes dry enough to fuel boiler fires. The typical treatment process for sugar cane juice removes impurities and simultaneously produces molasses and white grains of sugar that are then separated with a centrifuge.

Raw sugar is typically a light brown color and quite sticky, as it still has some molasses in it. In order to remove the molasses, the sugar is dissolved into warm water and filtered, which also helps to remove any lingering impurities. Then, the filtered fluid is recrystallized in vacuum pans that help to wash and dry the sugar. The final step involves granulating the final product into white crystals that are sold commercially.