Carnival is big business. While research into contribution of carnivals to national economies and how to maximize this impact is still in its nascent stages, those involved in the local carnival sector certainly see the immense potential that exist.
The National Carnival Development Foundation’s 2009 Strategic plan for the Transformation of the Masquerade Industry of Trinidad and Tobago revealed that in 2007 there were 40,000 visitors who spend approximately US$ 28 million during the Carnival season. More recent studies done by the Central Statistical Office and the University of the West Indies (UWI) research show that three weeks of revenue from Trinidad and Tobago’s carnival now exceeds US$ 100 million. Our festival is growing and we need to ensure that we put the measures in place to support it.
But who exactly makes up this Carnival industry? When the average person thinks of the business people of Carnival they tend to think of bandleaders and fete promoters. However there are thousands of small entrepreneurs such as makeup artist, costume enhancers, janitorial service providers, caterers, vendors, stage construction companies, decorators, event planners and sound engineers that provide critical services that go into making up the product is Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. How do we ensure that they get the support they need to allow the industry to continue to achieve steady growth? The National Entrepreneurship Development Company Limited see itself as being ideally poised to meet this need, NEDCO was formed to create people-cantered economic diversification by empowering micro and small entrepreneurs. It provides loan facilities to allow them to enter marketplace with confidence. In keeping with mandate, NEDCO looked to the NCDF to find ways to empower carnival business and maximize growth in the sector. As a result, in 2012 NEDCO entered into a strategic partnership with the National Carnival Development Foundation to provide specially crafted loan products to meet the unique needs of carnival entrepreneurs.
The Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries identifies over 450 micro and small enterprises in the Carnival industry. These businesses face several challenges. In the early stages, their work is often seasonal unless are able to break into the markets and provide their services to Carnivals in the Diaspora. Many do not meet the requirements of traditional lending agencies and, as a result are challenged by their inability to attract much-needed financing. Additionally, many may be hampered by the long loan terms of traditional lending agencies but would be greatly helped by quick approval time and shorter terms that are in sync with the seasonal nature of their business.
The NCDF and NEDCO Carnival Loan Facility is crafted to meet these challenges. The NCDF has identified two categories of Carnival entrepreneurs: Band producers (including section leaders) and non-band producers. Non-band producers include event planners, fete promoters, caterers, craftspeople, costume makers, vendors, janitorial service providers, etc. Non-band producers can access up to $50,000 and Band producers can access up to $500,000. The loan term begins in the months leading up the Carnival celebrations, commencing from as early as May. In 2012 we launched the loan facility but after some consultation we realized that we needed to make some changes in order to enhance the product. One such change will be the repayment period which will be extended to two weeks after the close of the Carnival season when much of the returns from the season are realized. This financing product has the potential to improve the success rate and longevity of Carnival business by giving them the cushion they need. It also allows them to grow from year to year to take advantage of Diaspora Carnivals to expand their business. As Trinidad and Tobago Carnival continues to grow and develop, institutions like NEDCO and the NCDF continue to play a valuable role in the development of the industry. Investing in our human resources and our local culture by empowering small business takes us one step further to goal of diversifying our economy from the ground up.