Digital Impact Advisory Fund Fuels Innovation for Caribbean MSMEs

March 08, 2024

The Digital Impact Advisory Fund (DIAF) has concluded its second round of grant funding designed to support the digitalization of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the Caribbean region. Part of IDB Lab’s EcoMicro portfolio of projects, funded by Global Affairs Canada, the fund assists businesses with a financial product or service to introduce digital solutions to their clients. As the fund’s executing agency, DAI provides technical support to the grantees and leads project impact reporting.

DAI adopted several tactics to ensure that the grantees—Techlify, Planting Seeds, and Figozo—were able to access technical support, gain new customers, and build business partnerships. To be eligible for the grant, businesses had to demonstrate that they had been in operation for at least a year and had a sound plan for using the grant. Larger grant awards allowed the grantees to make significant advances in technology, marketing, and strategy. DAI encouraged entrepreneur support organizations to publicize the funding opportunity in their networks.

Meet the Grantees

Techlify, originally a software consulting firm, determined that there was a need in Guyana for improved HR software. The firm developed a software-as-a-service solution to address the needs of Guyanese MSMEs. The DIAF financed additions to the solution, specifically payroll calculation customizations. With the enhanced software, Techlify was able to attract eight new MSME customers.

“The grant allowed us to build a host of features in our product pipeline well ahead of time. Some of the features we were planning to build in 2024 and 2025, were built in 2023; these include mobile app upgrades,” said Techlify CEO Joshua Kisson. “Overall, I’d say the grant pushed TechlifyHR six to 12 months into the future; we currently process payroll for 20,000-plus Guyanese employees and are aiming to get that number up to 50,000-plus by the end of 2024.”

DSC06695.png The team at Techlify. Photo: Techlify.

Planting Seeds was founded by a Trinidadian woman, Stephanie Pemberton. Originally a TV show inspired by Shark Tank, Planting Seeds pivoted during the pandemic to develop an e-commerce site and offer support services to MSMEs. The software development funded by DIAF accommodated Spanish speakers and unlocked a new market in Barbados. Before the grant, Planting Seeds required assistance with onboarding MSMEs; the grant helped the company to hire staff to onboard new MSMEs and allowed the team to visit rural regions of Trinidad that are not as digitally savvy and require more face-to-face support. The grant allowed for improvements in wholesale purchases and sales, which unlocked even more new customers.

“Thanks to this fund we were able to fully digitize our marketplace delivery service and were able to develop a custom API that has allowed us to service and digitize 500 SME subscribers. We were also able to set up operations in another Caribbean Island, namely the Bahamas, and have been able to digitize our account procedures to efficiently manage incoming and outgoing payments,” said Pemberton.

Figozo was created by two young entrepreneurs whose parents owned a small business in Jamaica. Witnessing how challenging it was for their parents to collect payments and manage cash flow, they created Figozo, a mobile application, to automate the process. The grant improved Figozo’s availability through software development and the rollout of a new marketing campaign targeting Caribbean MSMEs, allowing for 2,273 MSMEs to be onboarded.

DIAF fund photo.png (L to R) Planting Seeds Founder, Stephanie Pemberton. Figozo Founders, Shani Bennett and Kevonne Martin. Photos: Figozo & Planting Seeds

“Thanks to the support from the IDB, Figozo has experienced significant growth, with 2,084 Caribbean businesses being onboarded as subscribers to the platform since June. The team was patient with us when getting started and was always responsive to our questions. The support has helped move our business closer to our goal of being the number one platform for solopreneurs,” said Kevonne Martin, Figozo’s co-founder.

Techlify, Planting Seeds, and Figozo have collectively attracted more than 2,600 MSME clients across the Caribbean, who now have access to new tools to improve their operations and contribute to the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Learn more about DAI’s Sustainable Business Group.

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