In a world that appreciates a rich variety of cuisine, small scale entrepreneur Mrs Ellen Grant of Nevis found out that persons originally from Guyana living on the island and a growing number of Nevisians had a palate for Guyanese cuisine.
Guyanese people living in Nevis, and St. Kitts as well, love their local cuisine and it is now commonplace to hear people talk of foods like roti and curry. Nevisians have gravitated quite a bit to the Guyanese cuisine and to satisfy that niche market, Mrs Grant started a small scale retail food business in 2014, importing ingredients from Guyana.
The business, aptly named Unique West Indian Store, started out very well but as in all small businesses she encountered some difficulties as it related to overhead expenses and she had to find finances for rental and all other operational expenses which were eating into her profit.
I used to bring in the ingredients to cook these kinds of food and also the appliances that are utilised to cook these types of food, explained Mrs Grant. What used to happen is that I used to encounter difficulties getting the things to come over here. I could not get them to come in bulk because there is no boat running from Guyana to here to bring that kind of stuff.
Having built up a clientele, she had to airfreight the stuff which was expensive and having paid all the duties at the airport she would have to put high mark-ups if she were to make any profit. She felt that her clients needed a better deal if she were to keep them faithful.
And so because of the high cost effect, I thought it best to move from where I was so that I do not have to pay rent and so I took my items back home where I live, said Mrs Grant. My stuff is in the basement of my home and I said let me see how I can carry the business forward and so hence my contact with the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis.
When she approached the Nevis branch of the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis, she knew what she wanted and on meeting with the Branch Manager Ms Hyacinth Pemberton, she explained that she had made up her mind to transform her business into a mobile one, where the items for sale would be at her basement and she would deliver it to her customers.
Not a stranger to the Development Bank having been its customer since her student days as she was a beneficiary of its Student Loan Programme, she knew that they would have packages that would suit her needs. She had also been informed that the Development Bank was rolling out its Fresh Start Programme for small scale businesses in the Federation.
Mrs Grants line of proposal was a simple one. Having closed the Unique West Indian Store where clients used to walk in to buy their favourite food items and having taken all the stock to her home in Jessups, her proposal was that she buys a vehicle to allow her to be taking the stuff to her clients. She needed to be funded to buy a station wagon type of vehicle.
Mrs Grant is one business person who had decided to put her clients interests first and we at the Development Bank felt that was a noble idea, said Development Banks Nevis Branch Manager Ms Hyacinth Pemberton. Through the Fresh Start Programme we elected to put her business back on an even keel by making it possible for her to acquire the station wagon vehicle she was buying from Japan.
Ms Pemberton noted: Taking the high cost of importing those items from Guyana and adding to it the cost of renting a business premises, we at Development Bank felt that Mrs Ellen Grants idea of making it a mobile business would afford her to sell the items at affordable prices. That would benefit the clients and the economy of Nevis, and that is the whole purpose of empowering small scale entrepreneurs through the Fresh Start Programme.
Last week Mrs Grant got word that the vehicle she had bought through the Fresh Start Programme loan from the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis, a Toyota Corolla Fielder station wagon, was at Long Point Port. She informed Ms Pemberton and when she took delivery of the vehicle she invited the Bank Manager to come to her home to view it.
In the 16 or twenty years I have associated with the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis, they have ever turned me down, said an elated Mrs Grant. So when I approached the bank and I told them that I was thinking of getting a vehicle, like a station wagon because I could use it to translate the business into a mobile industry, they supported the proposal.
Now that she has received the vehicle, she wants to go full throttle and let her customers know that they would not be coming to see her, but rather she would be going to them. She is advising other small scale business persons who want to grow their business to approach the bank as it not only gives out the loans, but also business tips on how to grow a business.
I do not want to be selfish, I know this is a helping bank, noted Mrs Grant. So I always recommend the bank to my friends. I then tell them that this is an indigenous bank where locals can come and feel secure here. They work with you; I know it is a bank where they work with people.
Mrs Grant Concluded: I have known Ms Pemberton for a number of years before she even became manager, but she has been helpful too and she is always willing to assist at any time and she is not a person who is up on the shelf where you cannot speak to her. She is very approachable, you can call her at any time and she will answer you.
1: Small scale entrepreneur Mrs Ellen Grant (left) shows Branch Bank Manager Ms Hyacinth Pemberton the basement of her house, where her business has relocated.
2: Business on wheels: Mrs Grant shows her new acquisition a Toyota Corolla Fielder station wagon to Development Banks Nevis Branch Manager Ms Hyacinth Pemberton.