Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Emerging Entrepreneurs | Bevon King: Charting a course in agrotech

Published:Monday | February 20, 2017 | 2:00 AMSyranno Baines

 

Today, The Gleaner continues its series on individuals, aged 20-29, who have successfully started business ventures and are experiencing steady growth. If you know someone who should be featured, email syranno.baines@gleanerjm.com.

In an era where the confines of an office are seen as the greatest pull factor for those endowed with youth, one 24-year-old has opted to advance the underrated field of agriculture through technological innovation.

A graduate of Willowdene High and Ardenne High's sixth-form programme, Bevon King's love affair with entrepre-neurship began while studying psychology at Northern Caribbean University (NCU).

"Similar to having solar panels installed to save on utilities, King and Company Foods installs soilless automated growing machines on rooftops or within yards and sells the produce (vegetables, fruits, herbs) to third parties like supermarkets, hotels, and restaurants. Growers then receive a passive income, and the third parties get a consistent supply of high-quality produce," said King.

He added: "I quit my formal studies at NCU, but my family encouraged me to resume, and I obliged under the condition that I change my programme to operations management. I founded King and Company Foods last July when I sold some lettuce to some eager and curious customers, and later in August when I sold a prototype for the system."

The young visionary, who thinks of his company as the "Jamaica Broilers of vegetables and herbs", is heavily inspired by United States business models such as Solar City.

He said: "I'm driven to make Jamaican produce world-class in quality and consistency, and key to achieving this is the utilisation of better technology in agriculture. I've interviewed the decision-making units within restaurants and hotels, and two words remain consistent - quality and reliability."

 

SUPPORT FOR INITIATIVE

 

King credits the Branson Center of Entrepreneurship, which encouraged field and marketing research and planning, in addition to providing access networks and connects to persons who aided his initiative.

"I also made use of the Caribbean Climate and Innovation Centre, which provides similar services, in addition to funding Greentech start-ups. Agrotech consulting is a very good business, with tremendous growth potential because it is socially responsible while being profitable and scalable. I operate from home, and often from Start-Up Jamaica."

Parents, siblings, and friends all earned the praises of the young business hopeful who labels them as a tower of support and reassurance, particularly when things don't pan out.

Admitting that he was fearful initially, King said that his reservations quickly subsided and were replaced by the thrill and anticipation of the next challenge.

"There's the continuous satisfaction of being in the flow that comes with developing anything, especially many things at once that all come together in a beautiful way - a product. Business ownership requires sacrifice. Whether you have a day job or you're a full-time entrepreneur, you'll need great work ethic and time management. Be prepared to do things outside your comfort zone."

 

Achievements

 

- Getting accepted into the Caribbean Climate and Innovate Center's Greentech Accelerator Programme.

- Signing 15 growers after demonstrating effectiveness prototypes and matched them with contract buyers.

- Semi-finalist in the Guinness 'Made of More' Challenge

 

MUST-DO LIST FOR YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS

 

- Have a positive attitude. Jamaica is a great country for entrepreneurs because there are so many problems to solve.

- Have your own agenda. Prepare a specific, measurable, agreed-upon, realistic and time-based business development plan, persevere and get things done.

- Inform yourself through reading, YouTube, or being mentored in your industry

 

NO-NOS FOR YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS

 

- Don't compare yourself to other people.

- Focus on one thing at a time. By spreading yourself thin, you become deflated and demotivated, and if you have a team, this negative energy is transferred to them.

- Don't be afraid of failure. Stumble through it and improve the next time around but never avoid it.