Growth & Jobs | Credit key to accelerating business growth
FOR MORE than two decades, 61-year-old Patsie Edwards, a resilient entrepreneur, has dedicated the latter part of her life to tend to the grocery needs of her fellow residents in the Lower Chocolate Hole community near Junction in St Elizabeth.
Laumon’s Grocery Store, the name she coined from the names of her two daughters, Laurel and Monique, has become a frequented place in the community. Edwards’ warm and friendly persona has endeared her to the residents, who consistently support her business. Beyond offering a wide variety of groceries, she expanded her offerings to include clothing and ice cream. Prior to her starting the grocery store, Edwards operated a clothing store in Junction.
“I’m used to working for myself. When I left school, I started a little business for myself. I decided to build my own because I used to rent.”
Like many small businesses, Edwards’ grocery store began as a modest endeavour. However, through her perseverance and resourcefulness, she has managed to establish a successful business.
Edwards shared that soon after she opened her business, a loans officer from JN Small Business Loans, now JN Bank Small Business Loans, approached her to introduce the company’s loan facility. Despite the opportunity, she initially had reservations about applying for a loan.
“When I started the business, things were rough. I didn’t have enough money to buy goods. I had just built the shop and the children were in school. I told him no, because I never used to borrow money,” she explained, adding that the loans officer left a business card with her nonetheless.
“I looked at the empty shelves and looked at the card. Not long after, I said I would borrow one time. I just needed some help to get some groceries,” she said.
She hesitantly proceeded with the loan application. Little did she know that this loan would become the source for the transformation of her grocery store. Witnessing the remarkable boost to her business, Edwards gained the confidence to take subsequent loans, using them to expand her stock each time. Today, she looks back with satisfaction, grateful that she made the decision to pursue the loan.
“When I take a loan, I don’t even buy a sweet for myself. I make sure everything goes into improving the business. Life has improved so much with this loan over the years. Because of the improvement of my shop, I did a lot of work to my house. It has helped so much,” she pointed out.
Today, Edwards’ grocery store is thriving. She credits the small business loan for helping her make the necessary improvements to her business.
Gillian Hyde, deputy managing director, JN Bank, affirmed that Edwards’ success story is a testament to the transformative power of small business loans.
“Being able to access a loan to enhance business operations is often a critical success factor for entrepreneurs. Generally, loans provide entrepreneurs with the necessary capital to invest in their businesses, purchase goods and raw material, expand their operations and invest in new equipment. The improved business sometimes provides employment for others, and this creates a ripple effect that benefits the community, thus creating opportunities for economic growth and, ultimately, taking the businesses to a new level,” Hyde explained.
Hyde’s perspective is underscored by a study the Tropical Medicine Research Institute at The University of the West Indies, Mona, undertook in 2008. Although now dated, its evidence still seems relevant, having found that individuals who received a loan from JN Small Business Loans experienced an improved quality of life and greater economic prosperity, compared to non-loan recipients in their community.
Edwards related that what she finds most fulfilling about her business is the opportunity she gets every day to interact with people.
“I love meeting people. Things that make me happy are people coming in and sitting down. Those are the things that keep me going. Sometimes we sit on the steps and laugh and talk. Hearing their problems, sometimes I think I’m a lawyer or doctor, because everybody will talk to me about whatever issue.”
Apart from the immense satisfaction she experiences being a business operator, Edwards is mindful of the effect of crime on her business. She related that six years ago, she survived an attack from a gunman.
“Just as I was closing up around 9 o’clock, I heard my daughter scream. I was around the back and by the time I came to the counter, it was the gun in my chest. I went under the counter,” she disclosed.
She ran back outside to search for her daughter when she heard two gunshots. The gunman left without taking anything. Despite the traumatic experience, Edwards never considered quitting.
“It’s a livelihood. You just have to pray for God’s protection, and that’s what I do before coming in in the morning,” she said, adding that since the shooting incident, she closes the grocery shop by 6 p.m. Prior to the incident, her grocery store sometimes opened until 10 p.m.
As a seasoned entrepreneur, Edwards gives guidance for others who are considering starting up a grocery store or any other small business.
“Make sure you know what you are going into. Find out what will work for you. You have to stick it out. Don’t give up the first minute the business goes down. There will be a lot of ups and downs, but you have to stay in it. You have to deny yourself to build your business.”
“Use the loan for what you take it out for; don’t use it for something else; and pay back your loan,” she advised.