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Marcia Bent leading customs brokers by example

Published:Monday | July 28, 2014 | 7:00 AM
Marcia Bent, president of the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association of Jamaica. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

Keisha Hill, Staff Reporter

Giving back and serving are passions for Marcia Bent, so it is not surprising that having moved through the ranks of the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association of Jamaica (CBFFAJ), she recently became its president.

Bent's willingness to serve was instilled in her from an early age during the summer holidays that she spent with her grandmother in St Ann. Bent told The Gleaner, in a recent interview, that her grandmother's values had a great impact on her and have helped to mould her into the person she is today.

"My grandmother was always sharing everything she had with the less fortunate. She had eight children, but also cared for those who were not related to her. If she found children straying in the market, she would take them home and try to contact their parents. So children were always coming in and out of our lives," Bent said.

The years spent with her grandmother and other siblings also taught Bent to be independent. She was nurtured in an environment in which, as children, they were not only ambitious but also learnt survival skills.

"Because of that structure, we learned to cook; after completing our chores and eating breakfast, no one prepared lunch, so we had to cook our own. We learned to make many dishes - an exercise that also taught us the value of teamwork," Bent said.

These valuable attributes proved useful when Bent was attending The Queen's School. She told The Gleaner that she had wonderful experiences at the institution, and while not being one of the bright sparks was not deterred, and when she started to work, attended evening classes.

Her first job was at Evroy H. Chin and Company. Chin was a customs broker, and with her determined attitude she caught on early. "After three months on the job, the person who was teaching me resigned, putting the entire section under my leadership," Bent said.

That job marked Bent's foray in the customs brokerage business and after just over one year, she moved on to Davon Corporation where she worked in the shipping department. "I worked on exports there as well, but my main focus was imports; I prepared the clearances for the cargo," she said.

Own company

She was so keen on having a career in customs brokering that Bent got her licence and started her own business, Ferguson's Customs Broker and Freight Forwarders.

During this time, she juggled business, marriage and two children, something she describes as a rocky road. According to the new president, the important thing is to get the customers goods delivered on time, a process made easier by her capable team.

"This is still is a male-dominated industry; I have held my own and it has brought out the fighting spirit in me. But I was determined to survive as a female in a man's world," Bent said.

Goals for her tenure

She started serving in the CBFFAJ in 2003 and during her first year was the assistant honorary secretary, a position she remained in until 2006. She also held the position of vice-president until she became president earlier this year. Her goals for tenure include: looking out for the benefits of the more than 200 members; moving towards becoming a full agency; and establishing an electronic reference library.

"I have a very supportive and strong team. Even though I am president, my team does the work," Bent said. Plans are also in the pipeline to host the association's 50th anniversary celebrations.

Bent is also president-designate of the Kiwanis Club of Meadowvale, and has held various positions, including secretary, and received many awards. She is also a board member of Vision Learning and Remedial Centre in Spanish Town.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com