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Husband and wife complete Streetwise MBA

Armed with new skills: Husband-and-wife team Jahnika and Herbie Alves, front, Gina Cardell-Naranjo, centre left, and Elaine Butterfield are among the first Streetwise MBA graduates at the Bermuda College (Photo by Blaire Simmons)

A husband-and-wife team are among the first graduates of a seven-month Bermuda College course aimed at boosting business skills.

Jahnika and Herbie Alves, who run Clear Choice, a doors, windows and glazing firm, were two of 18 graduates of the Streetwise MBA course, first started by Boston University.

Ms Alves said: “The biggest thing, which we knew a bit and which the course made clear to us, is it’s so easy for a small owner to get caught up in the business.

“The main resource is yourself and you make yourself the main resource to go to.

“But it’s important for you to get away to be the owner and the manager and make the decisions to grow the business.

“When you’re in the daily grind, it’s really hard to step away, figure out where you’re going, how you’re getting there and if what you’re doing is working.”

Mr Alves added: “We both had a kind of ah-hah moment. You have to work on your business, not in your business. The accountancy side is very important, other than just concentrating what you have in your account, which is what I think a lot of small businesses do.”

The students were speaking after finishing the part-time evening course, aimed at improving entrepreneurs’ business skills and boosting the economy.

Students also have to prepare a three-year growth programme, which is vetted by fellow students and business experts.

And, even after the end of the course, they will have continued access to experts and mentors.

A total of 95 per cent of the $20,000 per head course was funded by donations from big business, including HSBC, the Bank of Bermuda Foundation, the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation and Atlantic Philanthropies, which meant the students had to pay only $1,000 out of their own pockets.

The course attracted students from a range of businesses and charities, including Centre on Philanthropy chief executive officer Elaine Butterfield.

She said: “It was an excellent opportunity for me having to strategically develop best practices and standards to develop myself and the organisation.

“As a non-profit organisation, it was a challenge for me to translate a lot of the terms, particularly during the financial model and the terms relating to inventory and inventory turnover as it pertains to cash flow. That was a challenge, but it helped me to learn how to run a non-profit as a business.

“The greatest takeaway for me was having an understanding of financial analysis, not just being able to read a financial statement and a budget, but being able to analyse budget statements to contribute to the overall financial stability of the organisation.”

Ms Butterfield added: “I’d heartily recommend Streetwise MBA to other organisations and smaller businesses. I’ve had the opportunity to have quite a bit of education, a lifelong learner, but I can honestly say this is one of the best courses I have ever undertaken in terms of achieving the aims of the course.

“It was just a very well run course and I definitely benefited from it greatly, personally and professionally.”

Gina Cardell-Naranjo, who runs cleaning company Personal Effects, as well as a landscaping business, said: “One of the biggest things I took away was a reignited motivation, passion and focus.

“Business can kick you down a little bit and you get into a rut, go in and do the same old. It’s a kick in the pants to have a plan for the future and exciting to think of things in that way.”

Ms Cardell-Naranjo added that the course had also make her take a fresh look at her cleaning company accounts.

She said: “We discovered that it was taking us longer to get paid and that length of time was increasing — we didn’t have any idea that was happening.”

And she added: “I’m going to liaise with customers more often to get their feedback and the human resource side of things, the employee manual and employee evaluations is something we’re taking away as well.”

Bermuda College director of Professional and Career Education (PACE) Tawana Flood said the first course had been a success, with only one drop-out due to personal circumstances.

She added: “That’s rare with working adults who run a business and have to go to class at night. We’re very pleased with that.”

Ms Flood added: “Quite a few of the students were able to apply what they learnt in the class immediately.”

And she said one student had changed her payments system to set up payment plans including a 50 per cent deposit up front.

Ms Flood added: “We also talked about social media, its importance and how to use that. Before coming into the classroom, a lot of the students had minimal knowledge of social media for business use — that’s very different from personal use.”