Laying a foundation in liquid egg - Damion Crawford eyes export to CARICOM
As I entered Damion Crawford's liquid egg facility, I was startled by the presence of two bright-eyed students from a local high school. Upon questioning them, I realised that they were sixth-formers studying entrepreneurship and they were excited at the prospect of meeting the man himself. They appeared more thrilled to meet him than to peruse the egg factory, and once the tour began, they hung on to his every word and looked at him with pure admiration and intrigue.
It is easy to see why young people all over Jamaica have such a profound predilection for the former state minister of entertainment and tourism. Young ministers are rare, and even rarer are those ministers young people can truly look up to.
Upon meeting Crawford, I immediately understood the fascination. He was just like me: a regular person - with locks I might add - who projects eloquence and confidence minus the all-too-common arrogance. Moreover, his conviction about his egg venture alleviated my initial worries. Liquid eggs? I had thought. Who in their right mind, in this tumultuous economy, would invest in something like liquid eggs?
Crawford smiled at this question.
"I studied tourism management at the University of the West Indies and I now lecture the topic there. During my research, I recognised that every day, a hotel uses six eggs per room, on average, so there is clear demand for it. I also discovered that eggs are actually a threat to the tourism industry because it carries salmonella, the number one cause of food-borne illnesses. Therefore, I went into pasteurised liquid eggs to create not only efficiency, but the health benefits as well."
Convenience Foods Liquid Eggs trades under Crafton Holdings. Crawford established the holding company with a partner on his birthday, October 26, 2015, and operations at Convenience Foods really got going this month. The enterprise, with its 14 employees, supplies liquid eggs to hotels and businesses all over Jamaica.
According to Crawford, about 3,000 rooms are expected to be supplied over the next year and a half, as the company continues to grow. Additionally, they will be producing frozen French toast and persons will be able to buy omelette mixes, because dried tomato, dried onions and other things will be added to the products.
The growth potential is therefore enormous, but public figure or not, Crawford's venture is not without its challenges.
"When you have a new product, you compete with a system, not just with the old product, but the system that calls for the old product to be used. Our product must be refrigerated, but eggs don't have to be refrigerated for three or four days. So, therefore, if we go to a bakery, they might be without a fridge, and, therefore, they are unable to use our products. So as we facilitate them with things like daily deliveries, etc, eventually their system will change, and our market will increase."
He wants to reassure chicken farmers that his intention is not to put them out of business. On the contrary, he wants their businesses to grow.
"We have minimal waste at our facility because we sell the eggshells to farmers and to persons who make animal feed. I am hoping to have connections with communities so that I can recruit persons who do chicken farming. For those currently doing it, we would rather have them supply us with eggs than ruin their business, so I want to allay their fears. Plus I do not believe that the market for liquid eggs is more than about 33 per cent of total egg consumption because things such as eggs sunny side up and boiled eggs cannot be done with liquid eggs. It is more for scrambled eggs, omelettes and baking.
"Many people do not know how to use the product and this is another challenge, so we will be carrying in persons from the [United] States and Mexico to train chefs on how to use it."
Asked about exporting, Crawford insisted that this is something he must do as it is crucial to the prosperity of the business and to Jamaica's economic growth.
"We want to export to CARICOM countries and Cuba. Jamaica is a small country as it relates to population, so if you are to grow markets, you are likely going to have to go outside the small number of people. Exporting creates a very good growth potential because of the larger market size. Therefore, if I should look only at the rooms in Jamaica, my company would only be 1/10th of what it could be if I sought rooms in the Caribbean. Additionally, it reduces risk because if two hotels close or stop taking the product, you would have been diversified into many places so it will affect you less. Furthermore, as we grow and begin exporting, we will create even more opportunities for chicken farmers."
Crawford's advice to young entrepreneurs on business success Damion Crawford had some words of advice for young entrepreneurs on how to have longevity and success in business.
"Entrepreneurs should be persistent. This is my seventh business. It's all about trial and error. I have an investor and my contribution to the business is that I don't pay myself because until the business makes a good return for the investor, I do not believe it should make returns for me.
"That's another thing; young entrepreneurs must be willing to make personal sacrifices. Investors like to see that you are talented and a man cannot invest his millions of dollars and then I start paying myself millions of dollars.
"Also, believe in the business, you put in more effort when you are confident in it."