Robyn Miller, Gleaner Writer
Well into his 30s, Randall Clarke had never heard about the 'Ripple Effect' theory until he found himself in a heated exchange with a social worker in a Wisconsin prison.
As he sat through the berating of the female officer for his drug running and becoming a "drain" on "taxpayers" like her, he recalled the shame he felt as he was chased out of the room for not acknowledging the ripple effects of his actions.
Desperate to avoid triggers, Clarke, after serving a 10-year sentence, was deported to Jamaica where he settled on his grandparents' farm in Old Harbour, St Catherine, instead of the Luke Lane, downtown Kingston address he had left in the '80s as an 18-year-old.
He was intent on applying the theory to his life, but one final flirt with drugs - this time marijuana - which he planted with friends and sold at various locations throughout the island, was on the cards.
Then a near brush with the law in 2001 as he transported the marijuana to west Kingston brought about a sobering moment.
Clarke escaped on that occasion after throwing the weed under his car seat, but decided at that point, "No! That was too close for me to come back here and get into trouble again".
He tried his hand at the taxi business, but that folded after a stack of traffic tickets piled up on him.
Finally, in 2006, the 38-year landed a job with Captain's Bakery, but he soon grew tired of the meagre wages that and several other jobs offered him.
Deciding he'd had enough, he turned to the business idea he had been toying with since 2006 - to supply cerassee and other products from his family farm.
An idea that began with an intense search for cerassee to soothe an upset stomach, Clarke had noted the difficulty in acquiring the product in its authentic form.
With a US$1,000 loan from an aunt and a total of eight products, his Ripple Effect business slowly got off the ground in 2007.
Then, "people kept on asking me, 'Why you don't sell this? Why you don't sell that'?" said Clarke who lived in Arcadia before moving to Luke Lane to live with his mother at the age of 10.
Later, he made good on a loan of $30,000 from Jamaica National Building Society which he pumped into the business, positioning himself for a second to the tune of $300,000, this time from the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC).
By now his products had begun making it to supermarket shelves - MegaMart and Super Plus among the first to show interest.
Today, Ripple Effect generates over $300,000 worth of business within a two-month period between MegaMart's Waterloo Road and Portmore stores.
The company packages more than 50 herbal products including peppermint, busee, sesame seed, sarsaparilla, comfrey, fever grass, ginger powder, sorrel and its flagship product, chocolate, as well as sells more than 60 snack items. Its customers include The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, Courtleigh Hotel, supermarkets, gas stations, pharmacies and other outlets.
Located in the bustling Naggo Head Square in Portmore, St Catherine, the father of three said he has plans to move out of the current facilities as they are inadequate, pointing to a nearby vacant lot he has been eyeing for his factory space.
His tiny staff of three, which includes a merchandiser who ensures the products are kept on the shelves, doubles at Christmas and other peak seasons to meet increased demand from visitors and locals alike, especially for their chocolate.
The businessman who has been a member of the Jamaica Manu-facturers' Association since early this year, credited the body for providing vital information to improve his business as well as exposure.
He also sang the praises of JBDC for their "hands-on approach" in providing him with training in small business management, product packaging and other areas. "If it wasn't for [the] JBDC, I wouldn't make it. JBDC and JAMPRO have helped me," he said.
A grateful Clarke, who knows only too well the challenges in acquiring financial backing for a small business, is intent on earning his stripes by working hard and repaying his debts. "You have to build a reputation," he said, "I have no more opportunities, I'm 46 now."
The Ripple Effect brand was, reportedly, the fourth best seller among 100 Jamaican companies at London's O2 Arena, with nearly a quarter-million dollars worth of goods sent to that market, a move which was facilitated by JAMPRO as part of the Olympics/Jamaica 50 celebrations. Clarke says his success is largely due to perseverance.