Woman Power – Maureen Williams dominates with ‘Chocolate Expression’
No longer is the thinking that a woman's 'rightful place' is in the kitchen or undertaking other domestic tasks. Instead, women are seen as a force to be reckoned with whose accomplishments are worthy of being acknowledged.
Maureen Williams is the epitome of a woman who has de-mystify those beliefs singlehandedly created her own businesses, 'Chocolate Expression' and 'Real Ja Foods', continuing a legacy left by her father.
The 'born and bred' Manchesterian explained that it was through the many journeys to the farm with her father, and the hours spent in the kitchen with her mother and her siblings, that helped to solidify her love for the preparation of tasty treats and healthy foods.
"We were on the farm mostly during the summers, but it wasn't fun, it wasn't like work. Along with my three sisters and two brothers, we learned to cook from an early age and that followed us right through."
One would think that Williams' love for food preparation would see her entering the field without a second thought, but that didn't happen initially.
"I wanted to be a nurse, actually. While in high school I did work experience at the hospital, but I cried for every patient there and I couldn't stand the sight of blood, so I knew this was not my thing. I later decided I wanted to be an air hostess and I studied for a while. But then I went overseas and started working in a chocolate factory and there was where my love grew even more."
Being in the environment getting cocoa beans and processing them into chocolate gave the visionary an idea and she ran with it.
She continued, "I worked at the factory for 10 years and while there I said to myself, we have some of the best cocoa beans so why not start my own thing back home...?"
So Williams started a small home factory and produced chocolate bars per order. But today her market is far reaching and she has since employed two part-time workers.
"I had a lot of challenges when I just started out. It took real hard work, but I figured how to get it done. I gradually acquired and added equipment; and my clients increased from just one pharmacy and a book store to pharmacy and hotel locations in Ocho Rios, Kingston, Montego including, Jewels and Sandals hotels. I also do parties, weddings and
With four main flavoured chocolate bars offered, Williams told Family & Religion that it doesn't limit what she is able to offer.
"We have rum and raisin, fruit and nut, coconut and coffee flavoured chocolate bars, but we have done ginger, pimento and a host of other custom orders. Anything that is wanted we can make it - chocolate powder, the works," stated Williams.
Spending a minimum of 15 hours a day in her home-based factory, Williams says it is her yearning for success that keeps her going.
NEED TO HAVE
"In high school I always envisioned myself being a business owner, but I didn't know when it would happen. I have since started my second line - Real Ja Foods - which came out of a need to have people eat that which is organically grown or made with fresh ingredients and no preservatives."
She continued, "I still do my farming and everything from the farm helps to make these items. I had a lot of potato and pumpkin at one point and it gave me the idea to use them after researching the health benefits."
Today, from the farm produce, Williams makes breadfruit flat bread/wraps, breadfruit flour, plantain flour, sweet potato flour and cookies
"Eventually, we will have a line of items from each ingredient because we are in the business of promoting health and with so many persons into weight loss and being on gluten free diet, I thought it a great idea to make these value-added products. It is high time we stop relying on imports and start producing more locally."
Williams reveals that even though her dreams may be difficult to execute as a female, she is optimistic and motivated to work even harder.
"When I think about being my own boss and contributing to the nation's growth and development, it gives me such joy. Anything you put your mind to can be attained. Once you have a plan, there's no stopping you."
With a passion for playing tennis during her free period, Williams hopes to make Chocolate Expression the number one chocolate company in Jamaica.
"I want Real Ja Foods to become a household name also, employing scores of young people and providing people with a healthier option."