The Tourism Development Corporation of The Bahamas

Corporate Desk

Select a topic to read more

Congratulations! Starting a business is a sound life choice, providing you are committed to the work required to make and keep it successful. It requires careful planning, dedication, and attention to detail. Your own business becomes your personal asset and a step toward your own enterprise.

Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) play a significant role in a country’s economy, as they contribute to job creation and sustainability,
develop resources, and adds to their communities across the board, stimulating economic growth. Entrepreneurships in a society also lend to new ideas, new industries, and new markets.

Below are ten (10) key essential elements you need to start your business, and make your dream a reality:

 

  • STEP 1 – BUSINESS IDEA
    Businesses begin with an idea. Once you identify a viable idea which aligns with your knowledge, interests, skillset(s) and market demand, you have made the first step. It would be a great choice to create a business doing something you love but you need also to ensure it is one that can be profitable.

 

  • STEP 2 – DO YOUR RESEARCH
    Doing the research is your next step and will be a valuable exercise in determining the potential profitability for your business’s products and services.

    Many with an idea have ventured into business without conducting research and determining feasibility. This can create a scenario whereas you are operating in alignment with your passion, but not with potential profitability. It is for this reason this is an early step. It is crucial that you are aware of where your business idea stands regarding generating the revenues needed to make your business a success.

Market research is also required to help you to gain knowledge on demand and potential competition. You will want to determine where similar products and services are available to your market, pricing and accessibility. This will allow you to better create a product or service listing that can give you a competitive advantage and position you for greatest success. More importantly, it will help you to determine whether or not your business would be feasible for profitability.

 

  • STEP 3 – BUSINESS PLAN
    Your next step is to create a comprehensive business plan, outlining your business concept, objectives, target market, marketing plan, operational practices, financial projections, growth strategy, etc. It should also include your company’s vision, mission, and core values. A well-crafted business plan serves as a roadmap for your business, one which will guide you through the years in the direction that will assist you in realizing your goals. Your business plan will also be a vital tool when seeking out credit or potential investors for capital.

 

  • STEP 4 – BUSINESS STRUCTURE
    You will need to choose a legal composition suitable for your business, such as sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or limited liability company (LLC), etc. This will be needed as early as when applying for your business license.

You should also begin to create the organizational structure you will want for your business—and any contracts that may be needed for same.

 

  • STEP 5 – BUSINESS NAME AND LICENSE
    Names are sometimes selected at the Business Plan stage, but if this has not yet been determined, this would be your next step. Select a unique and memorable name for your business. Consider the length of your business name and remember that lengthy names are less catchy. You will then need to register the name of your new business with the Department of Inland Revenue.

 

  • STEP 6 – BUSINESS LOCATION
    It’s now time to decide upon a physical location for your business, whether it be a storefront, office space or home-based operation. Some businesses may operate from the outside—with a food truck or tent, for example; others may operate their business online. No matter the location, be sure to choose one that gives you the best access to your target market(s). Also consider factors like zoning regulations and how your audience will get to you, or alternate ways to get your product/service to them, i.e. delivery options, etc.

 

  • STEP 7 – FUNDING AND INSURANCE
    Determine how you will fund your business startup and its ongoing operations, whether through personal savings, loans, grants or from capital injected from partners or investors. Create a budget and a financial plan that will cover all the necessary costs, and plan to project and track expenses, revenue and cash flow. (You will also need to open a business bank account.)
    It will be important to make the necessary steps to protect your business’s assets by obtaining the appropriate insurance coverage. Your policy can
    cover general liability, property, workers’ compensation, professional liability, and much more. Visit a reputable insurance provider to discuss your options so you can select the policies that best suit your business model.

 

  • STEP 8 – CREATE A BRAND
    Building a brand is a vital step and it begins after you have selected a name. Your brand will become a concept of your product and/or service offerings and the qualities and personality of your business model which will distinguish you from other businesses in the market. In your brand’s identity you will need to create a logo, an image (including colours and styles), a digital presence (to include a website and social media platforms), and marketing collateral to communicate your brand message (to include print material, digital material, branded paraphernalia, etc.) Your brand should reflect your values, personality, and unique selling proposition to attract customers and differentiate your business from its competitors.

 

  • STEP 9 – RESOURCES
    Your business will require numerous resources in addition to finances in order to function—inventory, personnel, equipment and supplies, technology, etc.
    You will need to create job titles and descriptions for your staff, determine the ideal timing for bringing them into the operation and how you will manage their function.

It will also be worth your while to invest in the necessary technology, equipment and tools to operate your business efficiently and effectively. This may include computers, software, machinery, or specialized equipment specific to your industry—all necessary resources for your establishment.

 

  • STEP 10 – MARKETING AND SALES PLANNING
    Develop a comprehensive sales and marketing plan which include strategies to attract customers, generate leads and drive sales which bring revenue. The ideal plan will include a startup marketing campaign which will aim to build interest even before your business opens. It should include advertising plans, targeted promotions, networking, and sales strategies that will help you realise your business goals.

 

Businesses in The Bahamas require a license, as per the Business Licence Act 2010 of The Bahamas. Business Licenses have a lifespan of one year, therefore must be renewed annually to remain compliant. Applications must be made to The Bahamas’ Department of Inland Revenue.

 

In order to be eligible for licenses, you must be a Bahamian citizen or permanent resident with the right to work in The Bahamas.

 

If you are applying for the first time, you will need to know what category your business falls under. Please visit their link on Business types.

 

Now that you know the type of business you have, follow the four (4) easy steps below to obtain your license:

 

  • Step 1
    Determine the type of business you want to open, whether as a Sole trader or a Partnership.
  • (If you want to operate as a Limited Company, then you must visit the Registrar Generals’ official page and follow the listed instructions.)

 

  • Step 2
    Select a name for your business and apply for a “Trade Name.” Your “trade name” must first be approved by the Department of Inland Revenue. (All approved trade names will incur a fee of $25 during the business license application process. Approval typically takes 24 hours via your email.) To apply for your trade name, follow this link.

 

  • Step 3
    Some businesses require various agency approvals. For applicable businesses, this step must be taken. (For those not applicable, this step may be skipped.)
    For approvals from Physical Planning, Ministry of Works and Environmental Health Services, please follow this link. For the Royal Bahamas Police Force
    Licensing and Inspection Form, please follow this link. (You will need your approved trade name and assigned reference number for this step.)
    Your company should also be registered with the National Insurance Board (NIB) at this step. If it is not yet registered, please follow this link to register.

 

  • Step 4
    Once you receive all of your approvals via email, you are now ready to apply for your Business License!
    Access your application form via this here.
    You will then need to visit the link to Inland Revenue and “Create a New Account,” if you do not have one already. If you have an account, you will need to “Log in.” Here you will submit your application. (You will be required to make an online payment for your application; please note that payments made online may take up to three days to process.) This completes the process of your Business License application.

 

NOTE:
Annual Business Licenses must be renewed annually to remain current. For more information on guides you may need, please visit this link. (If you are a non-Bahamian applying for a business license, you should seek partnership with a Bahamian citizen, or alternately, you may request approval from the Bahamas Investment Authority.)

 

When setting up your business you will need the necessary utilities for its operation. Some require lead time to set up and make application for:

 

WATER & SEWERAGE

  • Running water is likely the most basic form of utilities and is the primary requirement for most businesses. This ensures health and basic hygiene. For businesses operating as tenants, water and sewerage facilities/services are often provided at no additional cost. For building owners, it can be obtained from the Bahamas Water & Sewerage Corporation. Please visit their website for details. Some businesses also create wells or other independent systems, which would need to be privately contracted.

 

  • ELECTRICITY
    Electricity is another essential utility and one of the first businesses secure. For most establishments leasing a space, this is a simple process which is applied for through the collaboration of your landlord and Bahamas Power & Light. Businesses using renewable energy may requires alternative infrastructure, i.e. solar, wind turbines, etc.

Business owners should ensure to give electric connections consideration early on to ensure enough lead time is provided to get power on in due time. (Some businesses also find it beneficial to secure a generator system to guarantee service during city power outages.)

 

  • GAS
    Some businesses require gas in order to operate, especially in food businesses. We recommend consulting with a trained professional for safest connections.

 

  • WASTE | TRASH
    Trash services are sometimes attached to lease agreements, in which case the service may be automatic with your space. When this is not the case it is important to contract a service which conducts a frequent removal of your waste and keep your atmosphere clean. In businesses which require the removal of hazardous materials, you will need to contract a service with this specific specialty.

 

  • TELECOMMUNICATION
    Telephone, internet, and television are all services which fall under the telecommunication grouping. Whereas there are businesses which offer all services, a business owner may also secure these services individually.

 

We recommend you secure services only which you know your business will need. Also, shop around and compare product offerings, service quality and pricing. Numerous types of systems are available, and it will be important to choose the right one for your specific needs.

In some cases, more complicated systems are necessary—often to interconnect with various segments of your telecommunications systems. A point-of-sale (POS) system is also needed for most businesses processing transactions. Finding the right one for your operation is key.

 

  • INFRASTRUCTURE
    Ensuring you have the right structures, facilities, equipment, and supplies is crucial to your operation, business processes and function. Be sure to include a plan to select the right foundational structures and assets for your operation. A viable business plan, an applicable budget, managerial structure are also important aspects of your business’s infrastructure.

 

Funding for business is one of the greatest focuses of a business owner and it is important to find the right resources by which to raise your capital.

 

  • SELF-FUNDING
    Many businesses begin with personal finances of the owner(s) which is an easy way to get your business started, if you have accumulated the needed funds.

 

  • PERSONAL PARTNERSHIPS
    Some businesses begin by looking to close relationships for support. You may want to consider an effort of raising money from friends and family members. Choose people who already believe in you and the business you intend to start. If this route is taken, it is important to guard personal relationships amidst the business, as this can get tricky. Funding from family and/or friends can be in the form of a loan to be repaid after a certain term, or it can buy them a portion of the profits in the company. In either instance, make sure to create official contracts ensure all guidelines are clear to all sides.

 

  • GRANTS

Make it your business to be aware of offerings provided by your government and private institutions in your community, as well as internationally. Numerous organisations offer grants that will assist in building industry and sustainability.

 

  • EQUITY FINANCING

If you are comfortable offering a percentage of your company to an investor, there are several types of equity financing to consider.
Angel investors typically prefer to remain behind the scenes and allow you as the entrepreneur to manage your operation, desirous of the business succeeding under your care. The success of your efforts is what will ensure their returns.
Venture capitalist investment is another option, however, they more likely are involved in larger business ventures. Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) also typically are applied to larger businesses.
Crowdfunding has become popular over recent years where entrepreneurs can visit reputable websites to seek funding. This entails a collection of investors buying into your business idea or model, or you the business owner, and putting their funds behind you. Popular websites for this are Indiegogo, Mightycause, StartEngine, GoFundMe and Patreon. But do your research to discover the right fit for your business, should you decide to go this route.

 

  • BUSINESS LOANS
    Business loans from a financial institutions is a viable option for many entrepreneurs. (Debt financing will be covered in the next section: “Getting Credit and opening a Bank Account.”)

 

  • GETTING CREDIT
    Financial institutions are the most common way to acquire credit for your startup. Most commercial banks require the entrepreneur to have a strong business plan and some operational experience in a similar business; requirements vary from institution to institution. You should also be mindful that you would need to be eligible by the institution’s standards in order to qualify and be approved for your loan.
    These organisations sometimes act as a partner and do their part in checking feasibility for the success of businesses they fund. Some also still require a portion of the capital to be self-funded by the owner, so it is important to secure some of your own cash.
    When selecting your ideal institution, pay attention to all terms—fees, insurance requirements, interest rates, etc. These institutions may include commercial banks, credit unions, or others.

 

  • OPENING A BANK ACCOUNT
    A business bank account in The Bahamas requires a valid and current business license. Along with the business license you will also need to present the necessary identification, which varies from bank to bank, and a small amount of funds to begin your business account—usually no more than B$200. Some banks require that you make an appointment, and others accept walk-ins.


When opening your account compare terms from bank to bank to find the right fit for your business. Learn about each institution to equip yourself with all pertinent features, services and offers.


If your business is incorporated, the process requires more, which you may discuss with your institution. Keep in mind also that information is widely shared on the websites of the banking institutions for your review.

 

Marketing is often misunderstood. It is the broad scope of bringing awareness to your business, its products and services. It requires the application of strategy, research and the identification of your desired market in order to successfully target those who would purchase your goods and/or services. It includes evaluating your efforts and following up to ensure you are getting your desired results…and responding to your evaluations sufficiently. You should first be clear on what your objective is in your marketing efforts.

 

Marketing includes advertising, which executes your set strategy. Advertising includes creation and distribution of messaging and is a vital part of Marketing and Promotions.

Marketing also includes creating and managing your brand, customer relations, the methods of selling your products and services, quality assurance and creating reward programmes or offers to incentivize your customer base. Marketing in essence is for the sole purpose of driving sales, customer loyalty and increasing revenue for your business.

 

When creating your marketing plan, determine a budget first. Once you know the amount of funds you will allocate to marketing, you can begin to determine how you will place those funds in your marketing mix. If you are not knowledgeable about Marketing, getting a professional to assist with creating your plan would be your best start. (Typically, an annual marketing budget is 1% to 5% of the projected sales for the year for smaller businesses. However, some businesses allocate 10% or more to Marketing.)

Once you capture your audience’s attention and they visit your physical location, or purchase your product, you should ensure their experience is one that will keep them coming back. A positive and impactful experience is a brilliant tool to boost customer loyalty.

 

In your point-of-sales (POS) system, you may also want to request each customer’s contacts—be it email and/or cellular telephone number. Also consider engaging popular faces and personalities to become influencers for your brand and/or products. You can do this through testimonials, by capturing them in photos using your products or services (with their consent), and or creating videos specifically to promote your business.

 

Remember, marketing is not simply creating a flyer, a website, or even boosting a post on a social media page. It must include strategies behind your efforts which will usher in your desired results.

The four Ps of Marketing are PRODUCT, PRICE, PLACE and PROMOTION. These are the focal points when creating your marketing plan:

 

  • PRODUCT: Before you begin your plan, you must intricately know all the products and/or services you are offering to your target market(s) at startup. This will provide the basis upon which you will communicate them to your audiences. (That said, your product line and/or your list of services must first be created and developed.) Studying your market is also important in order to determine if your products and services would likely meet their needs, as the primary goal of all of your marketing efforts is to sell your products and services.

 

  • PRICE: You must consider the cost of your offerings to the market and estimate whether the price would encourage or deter sales. Your goal is to establish a balance by attaching a price that 1) will return a profit and 2) will entice sales. Other businesses in your area which offer same or similar offerings must often be considered and studied during this process in order for you to ensure you remain competitive.

 

  • PLACE: Location, location, location. Where you sell your products and how accessible they are to your market is gravely important. Choose a fixed location that exposes you best to your market(s) and find other ways to distribute your offerings—whether it is online, or through delivery services. In the business of Tourism in The Bahamas, getting your product, service or experience to tour companies and cruise lines is also a valuable step to take to ensure visitors have access to purchasing your offerings. “Place” can also include your digital presence—your company’s website and its other digital platforms. (See the section on E-commerce for more information.)

 

PROMOTIONS

Your final step in the Marketing mix is Promotion. Your goal is that through your promotions you convert your target audience into buyers. This may happen through advertisements or direct sales efforts.

 

In your advertising efforts your creatives must remain consistent to align with your company’s branding but must simultaneously be clearly distinct and unique to the specific promotion. Today especially, opportunities for promotions are endless—traditional media (print, radio, TV), online presence via a website, blogging (to drive users to your spaces), or social media which has endless ways to target, attract, and reach your markets.

 

For social media, the key is content, content, content. Create interesting content, keep it short and succinct, and ensure there is a call to action. Your “call-to-action” ensures that there is a way for your viewers to immediately reach out to you and your company—via a link, a telephone number, an email or an address. (A link to your website or an e-commerce platform that can facilitate an immediate transaction would be ideal.) Keep in mind, you create content to entice your viewers to purchase. (If you secure paid campaigns, you may target the audiences you want to reach based on location, demographic, age, gender and much more; these are recommended options for your businesses.)

In some instances, content may be created to align with branding efforts, rather than immediate sales. These campaigns are important as well. For startups, it is best to build and promote your brand awareness ahead of opening your business. Campaigns to announce your business, a launch event or a grand opening are typically quite effective. You ideally want your audiences to know you are coming before you open your doors.

 

Public Relations is a part of your promotional mix. This is generally maintaining awareness to the public through the media and staying on top of how your business is perceived. You should take every opportunity to utilize the media to maintain a positive outlook on your brand, its image and your offerings. A media plan should cover this effort only. It includes building relationships with affiliates, stakeholders, your staff compliment and your community. (Affiliate relationships can also assist you in promoting your business.)

 

Implementing an e-commerce component to your business will open up your establishment for markets and sales across the globe. Buying online is one of the largest and most successful business models in these times; worldwide, it is a trillion-dollar business. Many may also find that it is a most cost-effective way to sell your products and services—and its doors never close.

 

As Tourism is our industry, we will always want to see our visitors face-to-face, so our products and services will continue to keep the interest of visiting The Bahamas fresh and present.

 

Implementing e-commerce does require secure processes, therefore all safety measures should be taken, and https websites are recommended (over http) which provide a greater level of security for online platforms accepting credit card payments. (An https requires obtaining an SSL/TLS certificate for better security. Speak to a website professional for more information.)

 

For those ready to create a space online you may want to consider platforms with easy website building for e-commerce. There are also websites which can get you started without your own website. We recommend taking a look at Wix, Squarespace and Spotify for these features.

 

Because e-commerce requires a strong support engine behind a platform, that means many resources—equipment, staffing, supplies, etc.—must be in place to ensure your markets get good and timely responses, and to ensure orders are captured and processed quickly and efficiently. There must also be strong shipping protocols and partnerships if necessary to provide delivery of your products to your clients. Be sure to educate yourself on digital currencies as a payment option on your platorm.

 

In the interim, keep in mind that The Bahamas welcomes approximately ten (10) million visitors annually, which means there are endless opportunities to get your products and services in the hands of our visitors face-to-face.

 

In business, it is important to protect your designs and creations, where applicable. This can refer to names, symbols, images, literary and/or artistic work. This protection is done primarily through obtaining copyrights, trademarks and patents legally.

 

You may register for protection with the Bahamas’ Registrar General’s Office. Please follow this link for more information, issued by the government of The Bahamas.

Intellectual Property also includes trade secrets, franchises and digital assets. Please consult with a reputable and licensed attorney to discuss best ways to secure protections for these.

In business, your staff compliment can make or break your establishment. It is important to make wise selections of personnel who will buy in to your goals and help you to bring them to fruition.

 

HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
Managing your most valuable resource should be a major focus in your business. In this area of Human Resources, you will begin identifying the roles needed for your operation and an organizational chart or format created, along with job descriptions for each role, determining salary scales and benefits. You will then begin the process of recruiting, screening, and selecting job applicants based on your identified needs. (In some cases a business may hire in phases, as per the projected growth rate of the organisation.) You should also create a company culture by which you would like your organisation to function.

 

Once your staffing selections are made, it is best you officially onboard your team(s) by creating a process that integrates your staff into your organisation. During this process you will want to communicate the overall objectives, share company policies, etc.

 

Management of Human Resources also requires you to oversee and monitor your staff’s performance to ensure their output consistently aligns with your business’s objectives. This may require implementing policies for reviewing, rating, rewarding and reprimanding your employees. A reprimand in some cases may lead to termination, therefore, policies and methods for same should be created in advance to ready yourself for these types of scenarios.

 

HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT
Once employees join your organisation, you should place important focus on continuous development of your staff compliment, which will provide growth to the individuals as well as to your business as a whole.

 

In developing your employees, you should create programmes, policies and processes that will increase their knowledge, skillset and capacity in their roles. Providing opportunities for ongoing training will enrich the human capital in your organisation as well as assist them in career planning.

 

You will also need to focus on staff retention by providing benefits and creating an environment that will keep your staff comfortable, satisfied and motivated. Benefits may include insurances, a bonus programme, wellness programmes, retirement plans, flexibility in schedules, you name it. Sometimes little counts for a lot. These are important elements to consider to prevent or minimize high turnover of staffing.

 

Succession planning is also a part of Human Resource development and will require planning ahead to identify and prepare personnel for future vacancies or gaps foreseen in the organisation.

In business, obtaining the right insurance coverage will help to make your business, its assets, and its operation more secure. There are numerous types of insurances that are available; some common coverages include general liability, inventory and/or building content, medical, cyber, travel, and many more. Discuss with a business advisor and/or a professional insurance provider to determine what works best for your business.

 

Through the National Insurance Act of The Bahamas, national insurance is mandatory for all businesses. This insurance covers health, retirement, death, industrial injury, disablement, etc. To learn more about this and required contributions, please visit the National Insurance Board’s website.

There is no income tax in The Bahamas; however, there is a consumption tax, Value Added Tax (VAT) applied at the point of sale for business products and services—introduced in 2015. To learn more about VAT, its rates and application, please visit the website of Inland Revenue. (Business tax returns should also be filed annually; visit this website for this process.)

 

There is also Bahamas Customs Duty, which is charged for imported goods, as outlined in the Bahamas Tariff Act, with rates ranging from 0% to 220%. (The average rate is 30% to 35%.) You may visit the Bahamas Customs website for more information on related taxes.

 

The government of The Bahamas has also announced a plan to possibly introduce a corporate tax (ref: Press Statement). Stay tuned with the Bahamas Ministry of Finance and Department of Inland Revenue to remain updated on taxes and rates.

Business licenses are issued for a one-year term and require renewal at the start of the calendar year. Please visit the Department of Inland Revenue’s website for steps for this process.

Should you need further information or assistance, please feel free to reach out to the
Corporate Desk at our office or to call us at (242) 603-4854.