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“I did not develop ideas for innovation because I had choices. I developed them because I had no choice,” said President of Bahamas Striping Group of Companies, Atario Mitchell in kicking off his speech to the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce Conclave held under the theme, “Ideas and Innovation: Making The Bahamas A More Competitive Region.”

With a $5,000 government grant Mr. Mitchell started a road striping company which in five shorts years has ballooned into a group encompassing four distinct lines of business: road striping, airport maintenance, pavement rejuvenation and the sale of environmentally friendly asphalt repair products.

The entrepreneur was invited to speak at yesterday’s conclave on how ideas and innovation powered the success of Bahamas Striping, Airport Maintenance Services Ltd. and Caribbean Pavement Solutions.

In 2010, the over-riding problem plaguing Mr. Mitchell’s small business was one faced by many entrepreneurs today – he had a big idea with no money.

“I applied for a Self-Starter grant and became a successful recipient qualifying for the grant of $5,000. While this appeared to be the beginning of my success (from outsiders looking in), it became the beginning of my challenges,” he said.

“You see, the first small striping machine that I needed cost $17,000 landed, so I came into the race $12,000 short.”

It was one of many engaging personal stories he shared which resonated with the audience.

“Coming out of the starting block with challenges taught me how to survive, I not only had to think outside the box, I had to get out of that the box entirely and stop looking at what I did not have and start looking at what I had,” he said.

It’s that sort of unconventional thinking which led him to land one of his first big jobs, partnering with a Florida-based company to provide striping services during Phase I of construction at the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA).

It was then the young entrepreneur received his ‘a-ha’ moment – a defining time when things change and the winds of fortune began to blow in his favour.

“I made a deal with them that in lieu of payment, all of the equipment and materials that they brought in would be exchanged for my labour,” Mr. Mitchell shared.

“That company agreed and as a result of the completion of Phase I of the LPIA, I not only ended up with over $100,000 in equipment and supplies, I and my staff received valuable training and experience.”

Creativity is not always about seeing what others see, said Mr. Mitchell, rather, it’s looking at things in a newer and different way.

Still, Mr. Mitchell said it’s patently obvious that The Bahamas needs to provide more funding to small and medium size enterprises (SMEs).
“We must stimulate the creativity of a new generation of Bahamian entrepreneurs,” he stressed. “We must create small business incubators and micro-loan programmes that will draw out creativity and allow opportunities for the next generation of Bahamian millionaires to emerge.”

Towards that end the company’s goal is to begin manufacturing its Bond-X Green in Grand Bahama for domestic use and export throughout the Caribbean by the end of this year. The product is an environmentally friendly cold patch used in asphalt repair.

“Once the manufacturing plant is in full gear, we will move away from installing the product thereby creating ownership opportunities for persons to become certified installers,” said Mr. Mitchell in outlining his corporate expansion plans.

“We will work with the Bahamas Venture Fund in helping young Bahamians [to] access funding and we will provide a turn-key start up package including training and technical support to bring about these new economic opportunities.”

He continued: “This initiative will no doubt expand manufacturing in the country, open up new ownership opportunities, save the government money while delivering an environmentally-friendly product. This ladies and gentlemen is innovation at work.”

To date, the company supplies the Nassau Airport Development Company, Water and Sewerage and many Family Islands with its asphalt repair product line.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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