Fri | Apr 20, 2018

Building an Empire with Yhordanka

Published:Monday | March 5, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Contributed Photo Ryan Gentles
Contributed Photo Gervan
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Yhordanka Akwanza loves life and has a passion to continuously grow and develop as an entrepreneur. The co-owner and COO of Eyeland Eyewear, came to Jamaica from Cuba in 2003, not knowing the language. "At first, I worked voluntarily at Mona Preparatory as an assistant dance teacher to learn English. Back then, I couldn't even say hi," she told Flair.

Akwanza was introduced to the eyewear world which was her husband's family business . In 2004, she decided to focus entirely on the optical work which was her husband Ketao's passion. "In that same year, we started Eyeland Eyewear with my husband as the brains behind it all and me at the front at customer service," she explained. When the company started, they had three locations among the family. Today, Eyeland Eyewear has 16 locations and is no longer a shared family business.

"When you have limited formal education, and you are a self-proclaimed entrepreneur, all you do day in and day out is think about solutions to problems that can also turn in a profit," said Akwanza who had pursued a degree in Afro-Cuban dance in Havana.

According to Akwanza, the main challenge with creating and building a brand is human resources. "When you don't have qualified people to achieve all tasks, then everything else will fail. We find it very challenging to find highly motivated individuals who look at working at Eyeland Eyewear as a carrier and not a trampoline in to other employments or school," she explained.

She has immense pride in the transparency and growth of her company. "I think it's safe to say we were the first ones to advertise our prices and place prescription lenses laboratories out in the open inside the store. Before it was all a secret in a back room, but for us, having the customers understand the process is a priority," she said, explaining what makes Eyeland Eyewear different from its competitors.

MOMOFTWO

The mother of two young boys admits that running a business and balancing a family is very messy, and sometimes one will overpower the other. "I may have to live with a dirty house for a week, so I can focus on team building and training," said Akwanza. "The important thing is to understand that when you consider your business your baby, you can't expect not treat it as a member of the family. When you are a business owner business is a big part of your life," she added.

To keep motivated and de-stress, Akwanza loves to dance her worries away and indulge in international cuisine. "I love bands like Bat for Lashes and Bjork - those are my favourites. For fun, I love paddle boarding even though it has been replaced with nature walks lately," she admits.

Her advice to all young entrepreneurs is to do what you love, with passion and listen to your gut, the money will follow. "When I fall off the motivation wagon, I remind myself of where I am coming from, and I look at all we have done, and I thank the universe for everything I have," said Akwanza.

latara.boodie@gleanerjm.com