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Invest Turks and Caicos boosts economy with MSME Program

By Ruthea Robinson

Ruthea Robinson displays items of merchandise

Ms. Robinson is currently participating in the TCI National Internship and Apprenticeship Program, which is being conducted by Career Services under the Ministry of Education.

She is a student journalist, podcaster, and documentarian studying at Leeds Trinity University, Leeds, United Kingdom.

Lead: Kacy Higgs became one of the first awardees of Invest TCI ’s MSME program and now her products can be found on shelves in IGA.

The entrepreneurial spirit has long existed in the Turks and Caicos Islands, from the straw markets to boat tours. Carrying on that spirit, Kacy Higgs managed to revitalize an outdated industry with the support of Invest Turks and Caicos' MSME program.

Caicos Traditions, the brand, started with Kacy Higgs leaving her corporate job to tend crops in her backyard. She initially gave away the produce to friends and family or sell it at pop-up markets. Now her products are sold alongside international brands in IGA.

Higgs modernized the traditional way of farming by adding her own "Caicos touch" to every level of the business, from purchasing seeds from neighbouring countries and experimenting with local seeds, to producing her signature corn flour and grits to integrating modern machinery and packaging.

Farming in Turks and Caicos Islands today has proven to be quite the challenge compared to modern consumption practices that rely heavily on importing food; back then, staple foods like corn, beans, cassava, and pumpkins were readily accessible in these islands.

Climate change, lack of affordable irrigation systems, sparse rainfall, and increasing frequency of hurricanes are all factors that have discouraged many local farmers. Higgs experienced this firsthand after Hurricane Fiona destroyed her bean supply in 2022.

Outside of the challenges she's faced, Higgs shared that she has had many opportunities granted over the years, kicking off with Invest TC's approval of her courageous business plan. Caicos Traditions was among the first businesses accepted into the Micro Small and Medium Enterprise program.

The MSME Program serves as a collaboration between Invest Turks and Caicos and the government in the form of financial assistance. The program provides small businesses financial support, technical assistance, and duty concessions.

Caicos Traditions was awarded a $25,000 package, including a $10,000 cash grant, $10,000 duties concessions, and $5,000 digital/marketing assistance.

When speaking about the impact of the cash grants, Vice President of Small and Medium Enterprise Development at Invest Turks and Caicos, Alexa Cooper, directly referenced Invest Turks and Caicos' past use of the term 'free money,' saying: "It's not a loan -- it is more like free money but not really -- you have certain obligations that you need to meet within the program."

These obligations include being monitored for the five years that the business is a part of the program and complying with rigorous checks and inspections, all while meeting agreed-upon milestones.

Kacy Higgs admitted that she needed help understanding how to take advantage of the award initially. However, the team behind the MSME program was understanding and lenient enough to accommodate her.

She said: "I had a choice, start with the little that I have and hit the road running or wait for more, and I'm happy that I started with their push,"

Kacy Higgs hopes to refresh the way we think about produce in the TCI by showcasing the vitality of the agriculture industry in North Caicos.

Her collaboration with the MSME program contributed to the growth and development of the program, making it more widely accessible to other local businesses.

She encourages local entrepreneurs to chase their dreams, saying: “There is no stupid dream. If you look around Turks and Caicos, there are so many niche markets that are waiting to be tapped into.”



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