Teen entrepreneur tastes business success
Economic woes have permeated every level of the Jamaican society, weakening an already fragile business sector and crippling consumers by reducing spending power.
International Monetary Fund (IMF) initiatives and meagre economic growth projections have done little to inspire confidence and the feeling on the ground is one of insecurity and disempowerment.
Yet Jamaica's seemingly fallow economic landscape still shows signs of growth in the form of small businesses powered by youthful exuberance. One such small business is the aptly named MahGord's - brainchild of Mahalia Gordon, a 19-year-old entrepreneur who combined her love of cooking with a gap in the market and pursued a path in business.
"MahGord's started from a simple concept at home where I decided that I needed a quick and easy marinade for my meat at the time. I was cooking chicken at the time and I didn't want to use any other seasoning," Mahalia told The Gleaner.
"So I decided to do a quick blend of the seasonings that I had at home at the time and then I decided that 'hey, this really tastes great', so I know other persons would like this."
What Mahalia had produced was a well packaged, great tasting, all-purpose seasoning. A believer in supporting local businesses not dissimilar to her own, the former student of Glenmuir High School sources all her raw ingredients from farmers in St Elizabeth. Seeking the help of the Scientific Research Council, MahGord's was tested and given a shelf life allowing Mahalia to start sourcing bottles for her garlic-based product.
Despite receiving much support from her community and potential customers she meets on a daily basis, MahGord's seasoning is yet to find a spot in any Jamaican supermarket because of a stipulation by the Bureau of Standards that MahGord's must have a registered business place for product assessment purposes. Currently, MahGord's production line operates from Mahalia's familial home where her team produces approximately 200 bottles of the seasoning monthly.
"A lot of persons support me, I must say, thank God. I have my school family, family, close friends, and people that I meet on a daily basis - it's just amazing. I walk with my product everywhere I go so I'll be there introducing it to them and they'll say: 'Oh you're the young lady I saw on the television,' and I'm like, 'Yes', so they're encouraging me and they'll just buy the product."
Yet Mahalia's journey as an entrepreneur would have been less seamless if she had not received support from a non-governmental organisation that partnered with corporate Jamaica, whose mission it is to foster and develop the business acumen of youths.
"Junior Achievement Jamaica, in partnership with Citibank - they have done extremely well in my preparations for my business in that they hosted a series of seminars where I've been going every two weeks since April, so the tutoring, the different sessions, different persons would come in and speak about different aspects of the business. They come in and advise us and teach us and we learn a lot of stuff. The job that they're doing is excellent because I'm not a business student, I really am a science student so some of the stuff that I learnt is really amazing."
In a message to other young people who want to pursue entrepreneurship, Mahalia, who hopes that in the future a range of her products could be introduced into global markets, said market research is key.
"For young persons who are starting out in business, I would say to them do their research and find out their real market. Whatever comes to your mind and you know it's positive and once it's marketable, you do your research and you just have God as your guide and just go among the others and shine and just do your best."