Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 18th 2015 Contents BG4 COVER STORY
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt JUNE 2015 • WEEK THREE
Businesses in T&T need
to develop a more risk-
taking culture and also
there needs to be more
funding from financial
institutions for business-
es that take risks and
make investments, says
Kristine Thompson, director of the local fran-
chise of Chuck E Cheese s and former chair
"Innovation in the research and develop-
ment (R&D) sense is difficult without critical
mass and the economies of scale. If people
know their prize is a lot bigger, it is easier to
take the risk. In T&T, we are not, culturally,
a risk-taking society. We also do not have the
funding mechanisms in place. R&D and infant
industries require government s support in
the early stages to get off the ground; then
it can be self-sustaining. T&T could have
more of that," she told the Business Guardian
Thompson, who previously was vice pres-
ident of business development of the CariSal
chemical plant project, said the transition
from that project to setting up a US franchise
in T&T was an easy one.
CariSal Unlimited was founded in 2005 for
the construction of a chemical complex that
was expected to produce caustic soda, calcium
chloride, hydrochloric acid and sodium
hypochlorite. It never got off the ground
because of lack of financing.
"The CariSal project was a US$400 million
project that we were negotiating with the
Inter-American Development Bank and other
banks. It was a complex and difficult process.
Moving away from that to Chuck E Cheese s
was much easier as the project was smaller
and accessing financing was much easier. The
CariSal project, in a way, prepared me for
Chuck E Cheese s as I developed contacts,
some of whom I used in setting up this present
franchise," she said.
She added that traditional forms of financing
for innovators are not readily available in T&T
as in other countries.
"There are the angel capitalists, venture
capitalism, other sources of equity funding
that are not readily available in T&T. Getting
bank funding for a new and proven idea is
"In fairness, bank financing is not an appro-
priate source of funding for SMEs. Bank fund-
ing is not risk funding. You need risk funding
supported by bank funding. I think young
business owners need to be plugged into the
right networks of people to help them develop
their ideas. I believe bright minds do exist.
There are lots of innovative, creative young
minds in T&T but are not finding their path
to success with their ideas."
Thompson said getting a business off the
ground in T&T is difficult.
"We have lots of opportunities but, unfor-
tunately, getting business plans executed takes
a lot of stamina and persistence. We have a
culture of autocratic governance where power
is centralised at the top.
"The Cabinet of the Government of T&T
is a perfect example of centralised decision-
making where many different types of deci-
sions need to go to Cabinet for approval. We
have intelligent people in the Cabinet but
they cannot get through the action items in
an efficient manner. This causes delays for
projects and investments. It is difficult."
She said one possible answer is accessing
financing from liquidity from credit unions
and other non-bank institutions.
"There is a lot of liquidity in non-bank
financial institutions like insurance companies,
credit unions and other places. I keep lobbying
some of my finance colleagues. If we could
get our legislation to allow even up to five
per cent to back capital to be invested in proj-
ects outside of an admissible asset, something
that does not have a three-year track record.
You cannot play Russian roulette with people s
retirement funds but perhaps you can take a
small portion and collectively put it towards
developing good ideas in a structured way."
She said T&T is not the only country in
the world where corrupt practices have hurt
"You can find the example of business dis-
asters caused by ethical failings all over the
world. You can look at Wall Street, look at
Lehman Brothers, look at Enron. I do not
think lack of business ethics in business is a
T&T thing. However, we need to be able to
manage those judicial and regulatory systems
swiftly and correct them so they do not hap-
pen again. We cannot have white-collar crime
She said T&T needs business leaders who
are persistent and have the ability to cut
through the bureaucracy that exists.
"Persistence is important. Also, there needs
to be commitment. Never give up, follow up
and, eventually, it will get done."
Thompson s business partner and co-owner
of Chuck E Cheese s, Joanna Rostant, argues
that T&T is more innovative than many people
"Firstly, innovation is not just about a prod-
uct but about a service. Look at how maxi
taxis evolved in this country. It was the answer
to poor services in the public transportation
system. Look at mas bands like Tribe and
Bliss and how they have revolutionised that
Carnival industry and taken it around the
world. They have taken the partying experience
to a different level."
Thompson and Rostant spoke to the Busi-
ness Guardian at its Chaguanas office.
Next month makes it one year since they
opened the first restaurant in Brentwood,
Chaguanas, on July 17, 2014.
Bank financing is not
an appropriate source
of funding for SMEs.
Bank funding is not
risk funding. You need
risk funding supported
by bank funding.
Continued on Page 5
PHOTO: ADRIAN BOODAN
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