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Zed-Makeyla merger marries tech and student accounting

Published:Friday | March 6, 2020 | 12:26 AMHuntley Medley - Senior Business Writer
Chairman and Managing Director of Zed-Makeyla, Carlton Grant.
Chairman and Managing Director of Zed-Makeyla, Carlton Grant.

T echnology company Zed Jamaica, in business since 2003, is now branded as Zed-Makeyla, following its merger with a Canadian affiliate.

Zed Jamaica has for the past 12 years been a dealer in Jamaica for the Renweb student information system, renamed Facts SIS International in 2018, which is owned by United States-based firm Nelnet. Zed Jamaica also distributes the product in Canada and some Caribbean countries, including The Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and St Maarten.

Makeyla Solutions Canada recently took over the distribution of the Epicor Enterprise Resource Platform accounting software in that country and is extending its market to Jamaica and the Caribbean.

An agreement with Facts SIS named Makeyla Solutions Canada as one of two entities that provides Renweb, or Facts, with the Epicor ERP software.

To roll out the integration of the Facts SIS and Epicor ERP systems in Jamaica, Zed Jamaica and Makeyla Solutions Canada, with shared principals Carlton and Jennifer Grant, have merged operationally to form Zed-Makeyla. Jennifer Grant, a systems analyst, is CEO. The partnership involves attorney Milton Samuda, technical director Paul Harris, film-maker and director Natalie Thompson, and Canadian businessman Donald Osbourne.

Zed-Makeyla has outfitted several large and small private Jamaican businesses with the Epicor software, but many of those arrangements are protected by confidentiality agreements. As such, Zed-Makeyla’s Managing Director and Chairman, Carlton Grant, declined to disclose the businesses involved.

Twelve municipal councils and at least one public agency in Jamaica are also clients utilising the accounting software, with ongoing technical support.

In Jamaica, Zed-Makeyla is also now implementing a payment system called HonorePay, a trademarked product that aims to simplify incoming and outgoing payments for individuals, companies, and other organisations.

HonorePay is being piloted in schools, which provide a big market for Zed-Makeyla in Jamaica and some other Caribbean countries. The agreement with Facts SIS allows Makeyla Solutions Canada to integrate Epicor into some 5,000 schools globally that run the Renweb or Facts SIS software.

Chairman Grant told the Financial Gleaner in an interview that the schools’ pilot is about 90 per cent complete and the product should be ready for a more expansive roll-out soon.

The offering to schools includes a new portal, Schoolview, a patented technology that allows school officials to access school records, especially students’ information, from anywhere in the world from a smartphone.

With the system, student performance information, academic reports and transcripts can be transmitted digitally without the requirement for printing. Teaching assignments and classwork can also be done online.

Grant acknowledges the challenge to schools posed by inadequate broadband coverage particularly in rural areas, and insufficient computer hardware.

Zed-Makeyla’s service is provided largely remotely and the company is served by a staff of 10 in Jamaica, in addition to a team of service partners in Jamaica and other countries. In addition to the Canadian office, the company has operations in Kingston and Mandeville.

“We are the only company with a web-based student information system …,” he said.

Zed Jamaica was initially set up to offer web-based rather than server-based integrated voice, data and video solutions. The company is now into web-based computer systems, software and applications, and is a provider of supporting hardware or computer equipment.

Grant is a Jamaican-Canadian who studied engineering in Canada and a ran a shipping logistics and truck rental business called Western Grant, fresh out of school in the early 1980s. He later worked in technology in Canada.

A visit to Jamaica to attend a wedding at the end of the 1990s evolved into a long-term stay that saw him starting Zed Jamaica out of business incubator Technology Innovation Centre, TIC, which is based at the University of Technology Jamaica. Grant recalls that it was one of the first companies in Jamaica doing web-based systems voice, data and video systems.

It was at the TIC that he met his wife, who ran an accounting software small business at the time.

Grant, who turns 63 in April, is looking to exit day-to-day management of the business. That will provide more time for him to spend with his son, who attends preparatory school in Jamaica. His wife oversees the day-to-day business of Makeyla Solutions Canada. In Canada, their daughter, after whom the business is named and who studies computer science and business, is pursuing her objective of establishing a catering venture.

“I am going to hand over this business to younger people soon. We are experimenting with different people managing aspects of the business,” he said, without giving a precise timeline.

Still, he continues to contemplate expansion opportunities as they arise.

“We are a dynamic company and can change path easily at any given point,” Grant said. “We have blurred the lines in terms of what a school-management system should be. It has evolved into automated systems that can basically do everything.”