Javette Nixon eyes the future of online marketing
Avia Collinder, Business Writer
Javette Nixon has walked away from a full-time job to manage his own business - Point Global Marketing (PGM), exchanging an annual salary, he says, of J$4.5 million for a monthly pool of J$400,000 shared with four other hardy souls.
Prior to this, he juggled full-time roles in sales and marketing with running personal projects.
In April 2012, he gave up his job as special projects manager at EdgeChem in Kingston, where he had responsibility for marketing strategy, to spend full workdays with four associates at the Technology Innovation Centre (TIC) at the University of Technology (UTech) who have been plodding away at his almost two-year-old start-up.
TIC is an incubator for start-ups and innovators.
The PGM team is betting big on a niche for small businesses, which need to market their products and services effectively on an online and international platforms; and who also want to master social marketing and search engine optimisation.
PGM designs and implements marketing plans and also conducts market research; providing pricing advice; new business development; also sourcing and analysing marketing and advertising opportunities.
The PGM team has been much encouraged by sales of J$10 million to date in 2012, this compared to J$560,000 which was earned primarily from two contracts in 2011 when the business went live.
They have also left behind the days of bartering in which they exchanged their services for other services needed.
Their client list now numbers 35, with Nixon predicting that with the expected addition of at least one international partner in 2013, revenue will double.
The marketer was inspired, he said, by his parents who have never had interest in working for others and have passed on the same life view to their children.
"My mother, Esther Rhone, and stepdad Benjamin Rhone ran micro businesses. My mother started as a higgler - going to Panama to buy and sell - out of which she opened a shop. My parents wanted to create wealth on their own and it inspired me. They did not even have high school education," Nixon told Sunday Business.
"Me, with my high-school education and first degree should be able to do even more," he said.
With a first degree in political science and economics from the University of the West Indies (UWI) and certification in investments from the Jamaica Stock Exchange, Nixon is now pursuing a master's in sustainable development with the University of London.
He says his best lessons about business have come from experience in running his own projects and from the school of hard knocks.
As a student at Seaforth High School in St Thomas, his first project was a school magazine with circulation of 2,000.
"I never did it for business purposes and I did not work out how to capitalise it. It failed. But, it taught me certain lessons," he said.
On leaving UWI in 2007, he went to work with Capital & Credit Merchant Bank (CCMB), but he also launched an e-commerce business - YaadSale.com - selling Jamaican products through this website and also on Ebay.
"We sold everything from coffee to craft items, T-shirts and beads - everything Jamaican through Ebay," Nixon recalls.
The effort which lasted for five years was again a rich source of lessons, not least of which was how to differentiate between personal income tax and returns for the company.
Although the investment of J$600,000 was recovered by the time of the business' closure in 2011, margins were thin and operations stressful.
"I was not getting rich but the business sustained itself. What was a challenge was packaging and shipping which for one man time consuming; and margins were very small. I was also working at the same time. With nobody else to supervise, the level of responsibility was the highest."
Nixon said the primary lessons gleaned from the first venture were around payment of taxes and dealing with the banks. His savings were eventually absorbed by hefty fees and tax assessments.
He now advises other small business to "get feedback from tax professionals and authorities before you start your businesses. Make a tax plan for your business in anticipation of what kind of tax liabilities you will have arising."
All this was done while he switched full-time roles, moving from CCMB to Lutec Group Limited in Kingston where he was an account executive with overall responsibility for increasing sales for the Kyocera Mite, Konica Minolta-Bishop and Samsung products lines.
Yaadsale became dormant when Nixon left Jamaica in 2008 to pursue employment opportunities in New York for a short period and where he learnt new methods of marketing, including reputation management, and became adept at applying search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques.
"I could not think of a business in Jamaica using these techniques. I noticed as well really small businesses were the ones benefiting most from social media," he said.
Laid off in 2008 just at the start of the recession, he was ready to begin a business providing non-traditional marketing services. But, first he secured a job with Manufacturers Credit & Info Services Limited (MCIS) managing the marketing and sales processes for the company's Advance Card service; monitoring and analysing market trends related to fuel pricing and buying behaviour of consumers and providing comprehensive analysis on competitors' products and services, among other duties.
It was in February 2011 that he finally decided to be his own boss and launched a platform for the management of marketing services for small businesses.
"I finally decided to take the plunge - and Point Global was born. Since I was implementing effective programmes for larger companies, I said why not do it for businesses like my mother and even small community lawyers?"
PGM's first client was event and entertainment company URU Multimedia with which it bartered services. This company, Nixon says, now has a strong online presence.
The next was a referral, Assamba & Company law firm. Today, 75 per cent of clients come from referrals. PGM's client base now includes firms in Florida and New York, including Island Style Magazine and Book Me.
PGM has also been making use of the same promotional strategies used for clients for promoting its services.
"It began with a really good website. We also have strong marketing material which is clear in its proposals," said Nixon.
"Additionally, we took out Google ads online and sent information to micro-business associations. There were also referrals."
Nixon says he has invested J$500,000 of his own money in what is now a full-time engagement and also took a bank loan of J$1.5 million during 2012 to cover overheads.
Employees benefit from an incentive scheme under which 10 per cent of profit is shared equally among them.
"We expect expenses to be 60 per cent to 70 per cent of revenue," Nixon states, noting that heavy investments are made in staff training on an ongoing basis.
PGM's location at TIC offers several advantages, including low rental and maintenance costs, business advice, linkages and even additional training.
In the future, Nixon expects that UTech graduates will also be a recruitment source for new employees. In 2013, he is hoping to add another designer and programmer.
PGM is in expansion mode with talks well advanced, he states, with large marketing companies - including "a major sports name" - both in the United States and Canada, for outsourcing of website construction and marketing programmes. One of these jobs promises annual revenue of J$12 million.
"We are seeking alliances with large companies of a similar nature," said Nixon, who is the CEO of PGM. "We are pushing the envelope in term of doing business at lower costs when it comes to building a website, mobile applications, marketing plans and structures. It's all here in Jamaica and can be executed at a cheaper rate."
PGM will also be launching in 2013 the Point Global Marketplace which is a similar concept to Yaadsale.com.
"It will be a place for small businesses to have access to a global market," Nixon said.
The CEO is concerned about the survival rate of the small businesses, which he said is adversely impacted by dense regulations relating to starting a business, taxation and ecommerce in Jamaica.
"Processes are too slow and they are crippling micro-businesses," he notes, also pointing to "ridiculous" fees charged by local banks to process online transactions.
Jamaica should look to the United States, he says, for ways of facilitating ecommerce at a much faster space, and promoting crowd financing, whereby small operators can invite individual investments as small as US$10 as a source of capital to execute their ideas.