Nackeshia Tomlinson, Gleaner Writer
LONGWOOD, St. Elizabeth: WHAT BEGAN years ago as a part-time job to assist with school expenses has become a career for Roy Collins.
Collins, who operates a workshop close to the Longwood main road, is a 17-year veteran specialising in concrete products, including Ballister pins, concrete columns, and headstones of marble or granite. He makes the products by hand, mixing them and placing them into moulds for shaping and drying.
He told The Gleaner that at an early age, his affinity was for something else. His grandmother, who was his guardian, thought he would be an engineer because "mi mash up everything inna di house just fi find out how dem work".
However, after his introduction to making concrete products, he grew to love it and decided to make it into a career. His grandmother was very supportive, and this helped to motivate him. This, along with his specialisation in construction and technical drawing at the high school level, were perfect springboards for helping him to cement his decision to continue in the field.
Collins refers to his work as a total lifestyle. He told The Gleaner that he loves his occupation "so much, I go to bed dreaming about it".
He shared: "I dream of patterns; I can't wait for day to light to try out the patterns."
Collins believes that his calling and purpose is to work hard in his current field. He said the making of the products is an opportunity for him to explore his artistic side as he has the opportunity to make various designs. he added that he likes the challenge of creating a new design.
Collins recounted that the first time he made a customised Ballister pin for a customer who was adamant about a specific design, he had to experiment until he was able to perfect the design, much to the delight of the customer.
GOING IT ALONE
An astute businessman, he maintains that he has had to live with the decision to leave an established partnership to become a sole proprietor for the past seven years. With the assistance of two bank loans, he has tapped into a niche market. He said that the exclusivity of the occupation is one of the factors that helps to encourage his performance and production as not many persons in the area have the skills.
Collins disclosed that his current production capacity includes a maximum of 150 Ballister pins and 35 columns per week. He said what separates him from other practitioners is that he offers value and often negotiates with his customers.
Collins shared that at times, his business can be an expensive undertaking. He said a large portion of his expenses include raw materials of stone dust, cement, and sand. Power tools, electricity, water, and a lease agreement for the property are additional overheads with which he has to contend.
Despite the challenges, Collins is hoping to continue with his education by taking a few business courses that he did not acquire while in high school. In the distant future, he hopes to expand his business by adding another location.