Fri | Jun 2, 2023

From 17 chickens to full-fledged business

Livestock farmer rebounds after losing 500 birds in drowning mishap

Published:Monday | April 10, 2023 | 1:02 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Othneil ‘Steve’ Morris won five awards for his thriving business, dubbed Steve’s Fresh Meat Shop, in the community 
of Salt Spring, St James, during the JSIF ICDP II Enterprise Development Grant Awards Ceremony last Thursday.
Othneil ‘Steve’ Morris won five awards for his thriving business, dubbed Steve’s Fresh Meat Shop, in the community of Salt Spring, St James, during the JSIF ICDP II Enterprise Development Grant Awards Ceremony last Thursday.

Othneil ‘Steve’ Morris was a picture of fulfilment last Thursday as he reflected on his entrepreneurial journey, which began with 17 chickens and has now flourished into a full-fledged business, Steve’s Fresh Meat Shop.

At 21, Morris made his first purchase of 17 chickens, which he raised in a small coop at home. When he sold them, he made a larger purchase of 25 chickens, then 50.

He increased his purchase gradually and expanded the coop until he was able to buy 1,000 chickens in one order.

“The Chinese man at the farm store told me to bring my ID, and he gave me 40 bags of chicken feed on credit and told me to come back in two weeks to pay him,” Morris explained, adding that access to credit was a lifeline for his business, and over time, the two developed a good relationship.

Years later, the businessman informed him that he would be closing down, but wanted to make an investment in Morris’ enterprise because he was a loyal customer.

“He gave me $60,000 and told me to keep it in the business and not let the business die out,” he told The Gleaner.

As the chicken business grew, Morris used the profits to purchase a pig and a goat.

“After that, I started buying cows, until I had 15 cows, 30 goats and lots of pigs,” he said.

The 50-year-old, who hails from Salt Spring in St James, is one of 368 beneficiaries of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund’s (JSIF) Integrated Community Development Project II (ICDP II).

Last Thursday, he won five awards in the categories of Community Service, Compliance with Business Regulations, Employment Creation, Resilience, and Entrepreneurship at the GOJ-ICDP II Enterprise Development Grant Awards Ceremony in New Kingston.

The event recognised outstanding microenterprises which benefited from grants from the communities of Denham Town, August Town and Greenwich Town in Kingston and St Andrew; Treadlight in Clarendon; and Mount Salem, Anchovy, Salt Spring, and Norwood in St James.

From July 2020 to March 2021, and between August 2021 and June 2022, some $71.7 million was spent on grants, equipment, tools and materials, business development training, assistance with company registration, as well as support for community outreach activities.

Beneficiaries were lauded for retaining assets, adding new equipment, building new infrastructure, reinvesting profits, and registering their businesses.

Was demotivated

Morris detailed an unfortunate incident which resulted in the biggest loss so far on his entrepreneurial journey.

“A tank drop in the fowl coop and drown off 500 chickens and mash up the tank, so mi seh, ‘Cho! Me nah bother wid this’,” he recounted.

Morris admitted that he was demotivated for a while; however, he did not throw in the towel.

He purchased more chickens and started to use drums to carry water for the farm.

Months later, JSIF representatives visited the community and enquired what assistance they could offer him to strengthen his business operations.

Morris requested a tank and a deep freezer, which were delivered in short order.

“When I got that fridge, I started going up to a licensed abattoir to kill, and then after that I got my butcher licence. So from there, I just take the business to another level. I operate a meat shop, a slaughterhouse, and a farm. I have four people working on the farm, and I have one in the meat shop,” he said glowingly.

He considers the items donated by JSIF among the best gifts he has received, and noted that they have allowed him to earn a bigger profit, which he has reinvested in the business with the purchase of a standing refrigerator and another deep freezer.

That additional storage has allowed him to separate the pork, beef and goat meat.

“I love what JSIF has done for me. I am now a better business owner and I can provide jobs for people,” he said.

Morris told The Gleaner that he had to drown out the voices of naysayers, who often expressed that he would not be successful in the animal farming business.

“Nuff a dem come back a di farm and seh, ‘Yow, wah gwaan? Weh yuh can do fi mi?’ More while mi give dem one half a hog if somebody dead inna the community. If there is a likkle party, I’ll give them meat. Some of the times, people come up to the meat shop and they don’t have any money, and I give them three pounds of chicken, but I don’t take it as a habit, because the business will break down,” he said.

Aside from the mechanical challenges he frequently experiences with the farm vehicle, business is progressing well and he hopes to expand even more to provide additional employment opportunities in Salt Spring.

“Sometimes when we are doing meat deliveries, the vehicle bruck down, but I will soon address that,” he said with a smile.