The programme is making a welcome comeback after its funding from New Zealand Aid was withdrawn in November last year.
However, with the help of new funding from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), local business owners are set to again get invaluable guidance from mentors in New Zealand.
Programme co-ordinator Lynne Samuel says if anyone wants assistance with their business, they are able to sign up with the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce and are then assigned a mentor from New Zealand. “Sometimes all a business needs is confidence that what they’re doing is the right thing,” she says.
The mentors work hands on with business owners for one week, on a six monthly basis, but are still available 24/7 for guidance over the phone or through other communication outlets.
The programme is free to locals and they can sign up for a minimum of 12 months and then for as long as they want after men or retired businessmen who give their services on a volunteer basis. Samuels says this year they are extending the programme to start-up businesses to give individuals the basic tools and knowledge required to start a business here in the Cook Islands.
“We have had really great feedback on this programme in the past and have even had teenagers and young people return from study to work in their family business, as they can see the potential staying in the islands,” she says.
More than 30 businesses have signed up so far, with more expected before the programme starts on May 4.
The programme has been running since 2010 and has helped 150 businesses on Rarotonga and Aitutaki.