Thu | May 28, 2020

Growth & Jobs | Small entrepreneur gets his break

Published:Tuesday | September 17, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Chief Executive Officer of Wood Land Roots Natural Drinks, Oliver Welsh, and one of his assistants, Kathleen Brown, display some of his products at the recent Jamaica Business Development Corporation Expo 2019, held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.
Oliver Welsh, chief executive officer of Wood Land Roots Natural Drinks, tests the sugar content of one of his many natural products at his company in Portmore, St Catherine.

Starting his small business, Wood Land Roots Natural Drinks, in 2012 was not easy for Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Oliver Welsh.

He had to face many challenges, such as having to walk from Portmore in St Catherine to Kingston, enticing persons along the journey to patronise his natural juices.

“It wasn’t an easy road…rain wet me, and all kinds of challenges taking public transport,” the CEO said.

Welsh noted that his break came in 2018 when he participated in the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association (JMEA) Expo Jamaica 2018 at the National Arena, where he established a booth to showcase his natural drinks.

“A lot of people crowded me at ‘Expo’. They tasted the drinks and felt good about the natural ingredients. Expo worked for me, and I can’t wait for the next one. It was a real blessing for me,” he said.

Such was the impact that he now supplies several local outlets as well as some customers overseas.

Welsh said sales from the expo have assisted with the purchase of a motor vehicle and he is now in discussion with the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) to expand the venture, and to provide additional employment.

He is also planning to contribute packages of one of his products, Guava Sorrel, to schools in his community.

Before going on the market, Welsh says he sought and received help from the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) in the certification of his natural drinks.

He describe the certification process as not very difficult and “very “important”, as the confidence consumers have in the products is worth much more than the annual fee that is paid to have the products approved by a reputable body.

Welsh says he is also very thankful for the help provided by the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) in the areas of training, labelling and marketing.

Source of help

He emphasises that the entity is his “right hand”, providing support when he is in need. “It is my home; whatever help I need, it comes through the JBDC,” Welsh noted.

The CEO said he participated in the JBDC’s Small Business Expo 2019, held in May at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, and “people were very interested in the healthy aspects of the business”.

He noted the presence of Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, and Fisheries Audley Shaw was significant, as he “tasted” samples of the juices, and gave personal support and encouragement.

“I was very thrilled with the time he spent with small manufacturers. It was really good. I would go whenever they have it again,” the CEO said.

Before venturing into his small business, Welsh worked for several years at hotels in New Kingston, North America and the Caribbean.

He asserts that the natural drinks venture has been a good source of income for him as “a lot of people gravitate after these products”.

“I love this business with all of my heart. I had an aim and a plan that I must make it. And where I am now, it is God who took me there, and He is going to take me to the highest heights,” the CEO said.

“It is not all about money. This business is to see persons’ health improve … where they eat right, exercise, drink a lot of water and natural drinks, and get lots of sunlight,” Welsh added.