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Small businesses will find it easier to raise equity when the newly formed First Heritage Co-Operative Credit Union (FHC) launches one of the island's first venture capital funds.

The fund, designed to help micro and small enterprises to get started and expand, is scheduled to open for business in 18 months.

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Credit Unions usually set a portion of their surpluses aside for charity and to assist with community development. FHC will be the first to invest in businesses instead.

FHC, formed by the merger of Churches Co-operative Credit Union and GSB Co-operative Credit Union, was officially launched yesterday in an effort to create a stronger, more financially powerful institution capable of offering its members greater benefits.

"We have two strong credit unions with common objectives," said Orville Hill, FHC's president. "This is a true merger in the classical sense."

The new entity will boast a combined membership of more than 160,000 and an asset portfolio of $9 billion.

Credit unions have often merged over the past 20 years because one was weak, said Basil Naar, the chief executive officer of FHC. "In this merger, both credit unions were doing very well," he said.

The credit union will provide training and coaching for the companies that its venture capital fund invests in, Naar said.

"It's not just about money. It also has to do with supporting these small enterprises," he said.

Venture capital is normally sought during a business's early stages, especially when it is too small to get money from the capital markets or has trouble securing bank loans.

Although FHC will consider investing in any micro or small business, it will lean more towards those in the productive sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing, he said.

Those sectors need to be better funded, said Naar, who believes the FHC initiative will contribute to nation building. "More local producers mean more exports for Jamaica."

The share of the credit union's surplus that will go to the fund has not yet been determined, he said.

It will hold its investments until the businesses are marketable, then cash in and look for new companies to help. "Our plan is not get in the way of the business or entrepreneur. We will assist and get out of the way."

The merged co-operative will have 14 branches, one in every parish, and there will be no job cuts, he said. It will offer broader access to loans, and more products, such as a foreign exchange service.

The only retail financial service it will not offer is a chequing account, because it is not a member of the Bank of Jamaica Clearing House.

The new First Heritage Co-operative Credit Union (FHC) launched Thursday with an announcement that it plans to establish a venture capital fund.

FHC, which was created out of the merger of Churches and GSB credit unions, boasts a membership base of more than 165,000 and total assets of J$8.04 billion.

"The two credit unions were growing and progressing, but we decided that if we synergise and share the symbiotic relationship that we have then we would build a much stronger institution," said Basil Naar, chief executive officer of FHC.

Venture capital

Naar said FHC will now be the forerunner of the credit union movement, paving the way for a venture capital fund.

"We will now lead the change to revolutionise the credit union sector as we challenge the normal historic expectations of the credit union movement and we dear to go into uncharted waters," said Naar, who was formerly the general manager of Churches. Courtney Lodge, who was the head of GSB, will be his deputy.

"We will be the first credit union to open a capital venture fund system to assist small and micro entrepreneurs in starting businesses, we plan to put in the construct to begin the venture capital fund where the credit union will be an investor in the business of the member and in time we can go through the normal mechanism of initial public offering; but we are going to take a permanent position and assist the member because nation building is something which is foremost in our mind," said Naar.

FHC will offer a comprehensive range of some 38 products, including fixed deposits, micro and small loans, salary advance loans, mortgages, pension, cambio services and other investments.

"CCCU and GSB have sought to provide benefits for all involved in the merger and will seek to maximise the productivity of the new entity, while limiting the impact on staff and customers," said Naar.

Original Source

“Don’t sit down and talk about want a job. Government say job, job, job, it’s not there. You have to create your own. Find something and do something and you can achieve,” Rodney ‘Ruddy’ Bent recently declared.  “Ruddy”, as he is commonly called, operates a small business on Red Hills Road, serving his mouth-watering pan chicken. 

Recognizing that more jobs are created at the micro and small enterprise level, in comparison to large enterprise throughout the Caribbean, prompted First Heritage Co-operative Credit Union (FHC), Caribbean Broilers Group (CBG) and the Social Development Commission (SDC), to collaborate to host free business development workshops across the island. The workshops focused on teaching community residents how to fund, market and efficiently manage their small businesses. Included in each workshop were small business owners like Ruddy and Mark Stennett, who served as motivational speakers to share testimonials of their journey to business ownership.

At age 17, Bent found his way to Kingston from Clarendon in search of a man who promised him a job at his sawmill. But there was no job when he arrived. Too embarrassed to return home, which also lacked opportunities, Ruddy stayed in Kingston.

“I don’t have a father. A when me a 40-year-old mi know my mother. The way how mi grow me sleep unda tree. The insect dem a night time dem no bodda trouble me again because me just say dem nah bite me, because me no have nowhere to live,” an emotional Ruddy told the Kingston & St. Andrew South community residents. He identified the mango tree near the Grants Pen clinic as the place he used to call home. “Night top a night mi sleep under it. Me house that, mango tree,” he said shaking his head as he reminisced. “And mi never get miself in a wrong doing.” The room was silent.

From there Ruddy worked in construction before becoming a bus conductor. “Me go training school, boasy, have on me conductor ID pin pon mi shirt but the money couldn’t stretch. It never really a work out,” he said. In 1982, still struggling, Ruddy decided to try the pan chicken business having seen the success of others. “Mi start wid two chickens. Mi get a drum and get a welder build it for mi. I never even have money to pay him. I paid him in chicken,” Ruddy said. “All the work mi a do, it never pay off til mi start jerk chicken.”

Fast forward some 30 years and a CB Pan Chicken Championship later and Ruddy is one of the most famous pan chicken vendors in Kingston. “Mi now can cook over 100 quarters per night, school my kids dem from high school, to college to New York. Then I extend my business to another one, mi start to sell ground provision, yam and banana and all those things.” Ruddy told the audience he has purchased a car to operate a taxi, built his own home and is now assisting a niece in medical school, as well as other family members, all with the proceeds from his pan chicken business. He said the popularity he gained from entering the CB Pan Chicken Championships in which he placed second in 2012’s Eastern Regional, led to a listing in Redbook and numerous catering opportunities. 

“It hasn’t all been easy. You know business is up and down, you have to look out for that. You go out, rain fall and you don’t sell. Don’t give up, keep the fight. You have to fight for what you want in life. Never stop fight,” Ruddy encouraged. The community residents, obviously moved by Ruddy’s presentation gave a standing ovation as he exited the stage while persons close to him commended him with a handshake.  

“This is what it’s all about,” Alicia Bogues, CB Pan Chicken and Bad Dawg Sausages brand manager said. The workshops are not simply to empower the residents with the necessary tools to develop businesses, but to inspire them as well.  You can make it; you can succeed if you work hard at it. Neither myself nor Mrs. Richardson from FHC, could have touched or inspired these persons to dream as Rodney did.”

Speaking at the Kingston & St. Andrew North workshop, Mark Stennett told community residents he has been shot, robbed and cheated. “Police all make mi haffi run from mi jerk pan inna middle road. It rough but mi can send mi yutes go a school, give them lunch money an no haffi beg nobody. Gi dem a buss me never get,” he said.

Operating his business in Half Way Tree for more than 20 years, the soft-spoken Stennett said he became his own boss after the person who hired him to jerk paid him a counterfeit note he had collected while selling. Then, Stennett said, payment ranged from $1,000 - $1,500. Now, he hires persons to work for him. Also a winner in the 2010 and 2012 CB Pan Chicken Championship Eastern Regionals, Stennett described the business journey as rough but good. “Mi a come from nuttin inna de ghetto, ghetto. Nuff a mi fren dem dead off. Mi used to sell bottle. To see what mi come from, til somebody can see mi on the street and say see the number 1 pan chicken man inna town and recommend mi, it feel good.” 

Stennett encouraged the community residents: “Do something for yourself more than work for people. Try something.” 

Original Source

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A LEGACY OF TRANSFORMATION

On August 1, 2012, Churches Co-operative Credit Union and GSB Co-operative Credit Union merged to form the new entity First Heritage Co-operative Credit Union Limited (FHC). This decision culminated the process of discussions that began in October 2010 when the idea of the amalgamation of the two Credit Unions was born.

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