Pay up, man! - Late payments hurting small business owner; still wants to employ more people
When Richard Stewart began making craft items 20 years ago, he could not have anticipated the level of popularity that was to come. After a feature on JAMPRO's 'Christmas in July' programme in 2015, he welcomed the increased interest and business opportunities he received from the exposure.
About 20 years ago, he received a request to design items for a store in Ocho Rios, St Ann. Two days per week, he would supply the gift shop at the renowned Taj Mahal complex with handmade folding baskets and candle stands, which would then be sold to tourists.
Stewart said, "The owner loved how distinctive and complex my items were. Clearly, not everyone can make what I do. They sold quickly because of this."
He now supplies five stores in the Corporate Area and Ocho Rios, without ever putting out an advertisement. Some of his items can be purchased at Casa de Xaymaca which is a souvenir store located inside the Norman Manley International Airport. Speaking on the running of his business, Stewart indicated that he currently employs two persons to assist in his workshop.
"I am the only crafts maker, so I can barely keep up because the demand for the products are very high. I plan to employ persons to assist me with the crafting. That is what I am trying to do right now."
He admitted that owning a small business in Jamaica is incredibly challenging. The evident financial challenge is exacerbated by personal matters he is forced to deal with every day.
"Apart from the need to hire more staff, I face issues with landlords every time I rent a workshop. As soon as they see how good the crafts are, they either try to raise the rent or make things difficult for me financially, so I have to move around a lot. I can only overcome this when I am able to afford a piece of land in order to build a factory for myself."
Passion keeps him going
He admits, however, that his love and passion for crafts are what keep him going. He understands that his talent is unique and that the potential for profit is endless.
When asked for his opinion on the biggest threat to small businesses in Jamaica, Stewart did not hold back.
"I think the biggest challenge small business owners face in Jamaica is collecting money owed. For example, sometimes you deliver to these stores, and even after they sell the items, it is very difficult for you to get your money."
This late-payment issue is an epidemic for small businesses in Jamaica, and entrepreneurs spend many hours chasing debt, but this is not the only complaint from Stewart.
"It would be nice to have assistance from other entities, such as the Jamaica Tourist Board, or even the Government, so I can afford to employ more people. With the demands for my crafts, I would need to employ about 10 people in order to get the products out there."
Fortunately, this lack of support is not a deterrent, his passion keeps him motivated.
"I love what I do, I won't stop, and I will continue to grow my business."