Sat | Apr 29, 2017

From Vision to Reality

Published:Friday | September 25, 2015 | 9:00 AM
Marcia Kitson Walters (left), shares her vision with Scotiabanker’s Donna Maxwell (centre) and Debra Lopez Spence, vice president Small and Medium Enterprises.

 

When the phone rang at work late one evening, Marcia Kitson Walters knew she didn't have to take the call, but she did anyway. That call led her to fulfilling her purpose in life - giving back to others and pursuing her dream of business ownership.

Walters, owner/operator of Marje Manufacturing, in Kingston, produces a line of Jamaican sweets and delicacies including gizzadas, peanut brittle and jackass corn. She bought both brand and formulation in 2008. It has grown from one product into a range of goodies craved by Jamaicans both home and abroad.

"That late-evening call was from a man who was about to migrate and who wanted to sell equipment from his peanut brittle business. I offered to buy them and made arrangements to view them. After the meeting, I called my father and told him that I had found what I wanted to do - this was the business I wanted to operate."

"We started with a loan from Scotiabank in 2009, injected some of my own capital and initially did the distribution and marketing by ourselves. Armed with a list of former clients, I used my cell phone during my lunch breaks to call and try to re-establish the links. Sometimes, my son took the orders, and by then, we had hired a customer service representative to do deliveries. Not much money was coming in, so there were months when I had to use my salary cheque to pay staff and buy raw and packaging material," said Walters, who also had a full-time job.

To boost distribution, she reached out to Glen Christian, head of CariMed Limited, and by July 2013, made a deal for her products to be distributed through that company. That led to paying off one loan with Scotiabank and securing another.

Following a redundancy exercise last year, Walters was offered another position, but opted to work full-time in her business.

Recently, Walters participated in Scotiabank's Vision Day of activities, including displays from the bank's small business customers, who offered products at discounted prices. Participants were invited to share their goals for their companies, writing them down as statements on vision boards set up in the branches.

The events are part of the broader Scotiabank Vision Achiever programme, which will give 24 SMEs an opportunity to be part of a 17-week capacity-building training course.

Walters was full of praise for the event, which she said was a godsend from which benefits are still flooding in. The company received technical vouchers from the Development Bank of Jamaica, with Scotiabank's assistance to prepare a business plan and get the financials updated.

Today, her own vision for her company's growth is much clearer.

"We want to provide pieces of Jamaica that the diaspora wants, and if locals are going overseas, we will be providing a one-stop shop.We want to be listed on the Junior Stock Exchange," she said.

In spite of the challenges Walters completed a master's degree in business adminstration from Nova Southeast.