Sacha Walters-Gregory, Staff Reporter
Manager, mother, grandmother. Lorna Myers chairman of Restaurants of Jamaica Limited has moved into another realm, becoming the first woman to be inducted in the prestigious Private Sector Organisation's (PSOJ) Hall of Fame.
It's an experience she described as "out-of-body".
Myers started out in business with her late husband, Anthony, after he could no longer work as a pilot. The opportunity to open the KFC franchise came up and they jumped at it.
"Our friends realised that we needed a new source of income since my late husband had lost his pilot's licence due to ill health, and, therefore, was unable to make a living," she explained in an email interview with Flair.
"We applied and were successful in obtaining the franchise. "The year was 1975 and the first KFC restaurant was opened on Hope road in St Andrew. Although she and her family would become best known for the company Restaurants of Jamaica, under which the KFC franchise falls, she was in the commercial world a decade before that company was conceptualised.
"I worked in the airlines industry with Pan American World Airways, both in Jamaica and abroad, and then in real estate for a few years." Prior to that, she worked with Jamaica's first fully cargo airline carrier with her husband and his two business partners. It was called Jamaica Air Freighters Limited.
But the woman who would later find success with fried chicken, at one point had ribs as the big-ticket business option.
"In 1973, we also started and operated a restaurant for Jamaican cuisine called Royal Rib. As the name suggests, we originally wanted to specialise in ribs, but realised that Jamaican cuisine was far more lucrative."
This gave way to the KFC franchise.
"From the very onset of planning the building and the actual start of operations on June 5, 1975, I was by my husband's side. I had always been aware of his health, and so on a daily basis I kept abreast of all the operational aspects of the company, and at the time of his death I was fully knowledgeable of all aspects of the operations," she said. So the challenge didn't lie in her knowledge of the rudiments of the business, but to get others to trust that she knew.
"The most daunting task was convincing the outside support arms, such as the banks, the suppliers, and our other business associates that our operations would continue under my guidance with me at the helm. Fortunately, it worked well and continued the growth and development, which was indeed a success," she said.
But did Myers believe the KFC franchise would become such a success in Jamaica?
"When faced with the management of a company, you do all that is necessary and continue to hope for success. We maintained a high standard, quality, service and tenderness, which our customers grew to appreciate very much," she said. Myers also believes that the franchise came at a time when Jamaicans were needing their services.
"The KFC brand came at a time when Jamaica was indeed adjusting to a trying period of growth and development. Our stores were conveniently located and in some cases equipped with a drive-through service. We offer the finest quality, quick and efficient order and pick-up service, which was most appreciated by the very busy homemakers of Jamaica," she stated.
From the get go, Restaurants of Jamaica was founded on family, and the support of sound business partners in her professional life. "My children entered our business at different times and they all responded very well to their various areas of the operations. I was indeed delighted that they chose to participate in the growth and development of the business and I am proud of their achievements," she said.
Her husband, she believes would be equally proud of her achievements.
"In his gracious and magnanimous style, Anthony would be proud of my induction into the PSOJ's Hall of Fame," she said, adding that she shares company with other equally astute business women in Jamaica.
"The PSOJ bestowed on me the greatest honour that I could have ever imagined, and I was indeed humbled to be the first woman to be installed into this prestigious hall. However, I feel there are many other female candidates worthy of this distinction. My success was not solely mine; there are several others who helped me on my way, including a wonderful staff, and many close friends and a supportive family."
So from one business woman to another, what advice does Myers have for fellow Jamaican women who are apprehensive about starting their own business? "I want to advise other women that with hard work you can get anywhere, particularly if it is a direction that you want to pursue," she explained.
But after three decades of working assiduously, the woman who loves the outdoors is finding little time to enjoy her hard work.
"I continue to consult with my managers and team members, and more and more I find it possible to travel frequently, and enjoy family and friends."