A two-week CETC Business Improvement Course for Micro-Entrepreneurs, which was held at the CETC Campus in Narere from 1-12 November, was attended by eighteen participants from SPC member countries.

Most of the participants are business trainers from business development service providers in Tonga, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Samoa who have been trained by CETC and are members of the CETC MSME business network. A few entrepreneurs who are beginning to see business growth also participated.

The business trainers, entrepreneurs and artisans benefited from a wide range of ideas on how to better equip themselves to promote their business. The course included a site trip to Organic Earth Fiji in Lami, which has been in business for twelve months and has already won its first award at the 2010 Le Monde International World Quality for Excellence in Belgium in April 2010.

The workshop, facilitated by Mr Ravi Chand of the National Centre for Small and Micro Enterprise Development, highlighted key components which could be used to improve the participants' businesses and at the same time equip them to pass on the knowledge efficiently and effectively in their home countries.

'We are delighted to see the initiative these Pacific Island business entrepreneurs have shown in taking part in this training to build their capacity for running small enterprises as individuals or as a group,' Mr. Ravi Chand said. 'This workshop is mainly about working together to promote the shared visions and goals of entrepreneurial activities and skills throughout the region.'

The objective of the workshop was to strengthen business management capacity for micro-entrepreneurs and increase awareness of business techniques.

One of the participants at the workshop, Mr 'Etimani Aho, a small arts and craft business entrepreneur from Tonga who has previously attended workshops organised by CETC, said that now he is able to assess ways to improve his advertising strategies and service delivery.

'What I have learned about is the importance of recording the financial aspects of my business.' He added, 'Many micro-businesses lack knowledge about these financial aspects. I believe this is the training to be in as I have learned a lot on how to price my product before production and delivery.'

Mrs. Mereisi Are Sikote Shem, a participant from the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce, said that the purpose of her participation was to help revive the Vanuatu Chamber's advisory function.
'We were not qualified to restore the advisory but now I am more confident and am grateful to CETC for showing us a way forward, not just for Vanuatu but other Pacific Islands countries, too,' said Shem.

Furthermore, the workshop aimed to strengthen business opportunities for participants who represented government ministries, non-government organisations and civil society groups by examining ways to support a business financially so that it grows smoothly.

Speaking at the closing ceremony, chief guest Deputy Director-General of the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat Mr Peter Forau complimented the regional representation of this training as a means of expanding business knowledge in the region that encourages the participants to be proactive and use the skills to their advantage to become leaders in community development.

'Over the years, CETC has supported the development of our people by providing training that has allowed them to be productive leaders in our communities, empowering them to be involved in decision-making and economic development. In that respect, it is not surprising that the Centre has gained what I regard as exceptional comparative advantage in an area of training that is very relevant to our context,' said Mr. Forau.

The training is part of the CETC's business advisory programme. The Pacific Island Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO) also sponsored members from their national private sector organisations to attend the workshop. This is the first stage of a partnership between PIPSO and CETC in terms of provision of training for micro and small entrepreneurs and business development service agencies.

PIPSO chief executive officer, Ms Mereia Volavola, in her comments during the closing ceremony said that, 'there are areas of interest that PIPSO would like to work in, such as collecting data on all micro-entrepreneurs in the participants' countries, ascertaining the type of assistance provided, the business they are involved in and the key priorities confronting micro-enterprise in their country.'

'Data are important and must be collected; the participants can help us by collecting data so that the assistance provided is well planned and targeted,' added Ms Volavola.
The training culminated with participants drawing up business plans to enhance the growth of their own businesses.