Growth & Jobs | Business is good: Making money in a pandemic
THE JAMAICA Business Development Corporation (JBDC) has shouted to the tumultuous winds of the COVID-19 pandemic amid its strong gusts that “Business is good!” Seeking to inspire entrepreneurs, the agency invited two of its top-performing clients, Carl Sharpe, managing director of Chocollor Chocolate, and Joni-Dale Morgan, managing director of Morgan’s Creek Limited, to speak about their profits and triumphs throughout the pandemic. The occasion was the organisation’s annual convening event – Breakfast with the CEO – held in Kingston recently.
Sharpe of Chocollor Chocolate, a premier local chocolate brand and client of the JBDC, testified about his company’s marked increase during the early stages of the pandemic. He noted: “We had a turnover increase from 2019-2020 of about 100 per cent, and from 2020-2021, it has been about 300 per cent.” The small business has not settled with the successes of the previous years and desires to continue excelling.
Continuing, Sharpe said: “We made a promise to JBDC in 2019 to have a turnover of $15 million in profits in three years’ time, and despite the onset of the pandemic, we are hopeful and expectant that we will be able to do this.” With Chocollor having an increase of 210 per cent for the first four months of this year already, the family-owned business is on track to making their promise a reality.
The brand, Chocollor is deeply connected to the owners’ commitment to Jamaica, and Sharpe noted: “It was born out of the desire to produce a value-added product with indigenous materials from Jamaica. We decided to go into agro-processing and then further decided that the product would be chocolate. The import content of chocolate in Jamaica is about $2 billion, and there is a lot of opportunity for this market.”
In concluding, Sharpe said, “The pandemic has taught us many valuable lessons, one of which is that we should use our local market as a springboard for export.”
As a proud client of the JBDC, Sharpe noted: “The journey with JBDC has been a wonderful one, and I cannot speak any more highly of this amazing collaboration because they have truly been rock-solid.”
Morgan shared similar stories of being able to pursue success during the heights of a pandemic. The owner of the luxury skincare products brand Morgan’s Creek noted that during this difficult time, her company was able to expand from a small corner store at the Sovereign Centre to one that is now three times the previous space. She also noted that the company has not only physically expanded, but has also been able to exceed the target of $15 million per year.
Morgan recounted her fond and challenging experiences with the JBDC and said, “I remember when JBDC was pushing me to go for profits and move past simply buying and selling, they taught me about costing and the importance of understanding the value-chain. They started encouraging me to begin retailing in pharmacies, and though initially resistant, I can gladly say that Morgan’s Creek is now in Fontana, the airport, and Couples Resorts.”
Both Sharpe and Morgan are Cohort 3 graduates of the JBDC’s Accelerator Programme, which is a six-month intensive intervention targeting growth-stage entrepreneurs. The programme, now in Cohort 4, aims to produce results such as average annual sales growth rate of 10% or more, jobs created by early stage entrepreneurs, firms receiving early stage financing, as well as firms having links to strategic business partners (angel investors, institutional investors, and fund managers). Sixty entrepreneurs were recently inducted into Cohort 4, which is jointly funded by the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) and the JBDC at a cost of J$60 million.
The JBDC is invested in the growth of the Micro Small and Medium-sized Enterprise sector (MSME). Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the JBDC, Harold David, noted: “We recognise that the pandemic has disrupted the way business is done. We at JBDC still believe ‘business is good’, however, it cannot be business as usual. The JBDC will continue to support the sector and see to the significant growth of our local entrepreneurs.”