DBJ funding for entrepreneurs — how to write a winning IGNITE application

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

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Few entrepreneurs have a rich uncle who is willing to finance their start-up. Most have to take their business past its teething stages through their own sacrifice and hard work. Often, however, these businesses come to a point where they need capital to expand, improve or introduce a product or service.

But financing growth plans isn't so easy for start-ups. Established financial institutions require infrastructure and collateral few start-ups have. That's where the Development Bank of Jamaica's IGNITE programme offers a window of opportunity. Through its Innovation Grant from New Ideas to Entrepreneurship, DBJ gives entrepreneurs access to millions of dollars, and expert advice and guidance on how to build capacity and achieve success.

Now in its second round of funding, IGNITE will be offering even larger awards for its second cohort which comes open for applications in a few weeks.

Here are some tips as a how-to guide for those new start-ups that will be applying.


As the programme name suggests, your business has to be innovative. It has to push the envelope with a new product or service or, at least, a different approach to such. You have to make sure that you bring something new to the table.


IGNITE is looking for proposals that are SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. In other words, write a proposal that is sensible and answers all pertinent questions. It is not enough to have a great idea — you need to build a robust strategy around it to make sure it can actually work and show that to the DBJ.

Most of you who are applying for the IGNITE grant would already be putting your idea into action. If you have not created SMART objectives for your business, however, then do so now.


While you can apply directly to the DBJ for IGNITE funding, it is perhaps helpful to come through a business service intermediary (BSI). The IGNITE programme channels funds to beneficiaries through six business development partners and incubator programmes. These BSIs help entrepreneurs by preparing them for long-term success, serving as mentors and providing resources to help those businesses meet their goals and objectives. They tend to know which businesses are the best candidates for IGNITE.

The six current BSIs are: Jamaica Business Development Corporation, The Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, the Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship, Caribbean Climate Innovation Centre, Sisters Inc, and the Technology Innovation Centre. Some of them are focused on a specific area of business, while others welcome any start-up.


Analysts will tell you that your business decisions need to be informed with accurate, timely and relevant data; so make use of the BSIs in gathering data in your field of expertise and if there is no data available, then you need to go out and get it yourself. The effort will be worth it.


You may have a wonderful product to offer Jamaica or the world, but you have to be convincing. The quality of your proposal — how well it is written, its graphics and presentation — counts a great deal in whether you are awarded a grant or not.

Memorise and practise your presentation for maximum effect. Get coaching if you have to. Deliver your message as if you really want to win that grant, and you perhaps will.

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