Ever since becoming the first beneficiary of the SLHTA TEF’s Enterprise Development Fund (EDF) in December 2019, local business Funky Fungi has mushroomed into an even better success story. It turns out that the company’s very existence is also deeply connected to the Fund.
Unveiled at the SLHTA’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in August 2019, the EDF focuses on supporting existing enterprises which have already been in operation but are seeking financial injection to better penetrate the tourism and hospitality sector. By acting as a loan guarantee facility the EDF enables qualifying small businesses to access the capital critical to enhancing their competitiveness and profitability.
In December 2019, the TEF presented a check for EC$25,000 to Funky Fungi, a local commercially-capable supplier of mushrooms owned and operated by entrepreneur Alexis William. The company has been able to reliably and consistently provide a product to the hospitality sector that is fresher and more affordable than those imported.
Funky Fungi, located in Fond Assau, Babonneau, currently grows and packages four varieties of oyster mushrooms, namely Pink, Phoenix, Bone White and Pearl. Mushrooms are edible fungi that can provide several important nutrients, minerals and antioxidants which can have various health benefits.
For nearly ten years now, Alexis and his wife Shonell have been carving their niche in the local mushroom market after Alexis found out from a chef at a hotel where he previously worked as a landscaper, how lucrative the rewards were.
“Those funds from the TEF actually helped us in many ways, including reshaping our workspace,” Alexis said during a June 2021 interview. “We also ordered a few items from overseas to help improve our spawn capacity by nearly 300%. We were also able to train our staff. ”
Alexis said things were picking up nicely for the company for the first quarter of 2020 until the COVID-19 outbreak here resulted in lockdowns, which essentially halted operations. However, the loan from the TEF had enabled him to put some measures in place that ensured the business remained above water.
“Basically, that loan safeguarded our business because we’re currently bouncing back,” he admitted. “Presently, we actually have spawn that we created since 2019 which have helped cushion our productivity.”
The businessman said the company is also currently trying to re-establish its supply of mushrooms to the hotels as the local tourism sector slowly returns to normal. The hotels are Funky Fungi’s main markets; however, the company also has its regular customers who buy directly from the farm and local supermarkets.
According to SLHTA CEO Noorani Azeez, the success and regional recognition of the SLHTA’s Virtual Agricultural Clearing House (VACH) inspired the creation of the Enterprise Development Fund. “Supporting local agricultural diversification is key to fostering sustainable food production and culinary excellence in our destination. It provides the tourism industry with a comparative advantage to compete globally on the strengths of our local entrepreneurs like Funky Fungi,” Azeez said.
Today, it seems that the funding and the well wishes have held Funky Fungi in good stead. To that end, Alexis advises other beneficiaries of the Fund to make the most out of it.
“Be appreciative if you do get approved for this assistance,” Alexis advised. “Put your systems in place for smooth operation of the business and study the market. Be hopeful, be mindful, and be strong. Never give up.”