INBusiness STARTING OVER RALPH TAYLOR recalls the events that shaped his departure from Almond Resorts and looks forward to his new role of south coast hotel owner/developer.
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EBONNIE ROWE Honey Jam
Little Munchkins, Little Pleasures
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INBusiness Second Edition • November 2013 SPECIAL REPORT
RALPH TAYLOR recalls the events that shaped his departure from Almond Resorts and looks forward to his new role of south coast hotel owner/developer. Page 2 THE ARTS
From social activist to talent promoter
“Some people don’t understand the sacrifice that it takes to start a movement and create an ‘empire’ on your own,” says EBONNIE ROWE, “but you either want something or you don’t.” Page 6
Amanda Cummins profiles a cross-section of twenty- to thirty-somethings pursuing their dreams, reflected in a variety of careers. Pages 13-24
Jumping off at the deep end RANDY MARSHALL doesn’t consider himself a baby clothes fanatic or a coffee guru. “It’s the thrill of setting up a new business and making it successful that I like. I actually hate management, but I’m good at it, and I do what must be done,” he says. Page 8 FIRST PERSON
The Socratic Doctor
DR. ADRIAN CHARLES frequently posts articles on social media sites dealing with sensitive themes. “I’m very argumentative, but I believe in the Socratic method of debate (in order) to come closer to the truth of the matter.” Page 10 Editor: Patrick R. Hoyos Writers: Pat Hoyos, Amanda Cummins Magazine Consultant: Tony Cumberbatch Printers: Printweb Caribbean Ltd. Published by Hoyos Publishing Inc. Lot 1A, Boarded Hall, St. George M 230-5687 email@example.com
Copyright 2013. Hoyos Publishing Inc. All rights Reserved
INBusiness • November 2013 • Page 1
INBusiness COVER STORY
By Patrick Hoyos
IGHTEEN MONTHS after Almond Resort Inc.’s parent Neal & Massy Holdings Ltd. pulled the plug, the flagship Almond Beach Village remains closed. But Ralph Taylor’s new hotel, at the other end of the island, twenty miles and a world away from the “cruiseship-on-land” all-inclusive concept - is open for business and looking toward a bright future as a modern, sophisticated boutique hotel. After resigning from his job as Almond group CEO just before last summer, Ralph focussed his energies on creating a South Beach-style boutique hotel on the former Sierra Beach Hotel property, which he co-owned and had earmarked for a condominium project. Located opposite St. Matthias Gap on Hastings main Road, Christ Church, it is next to South Ocean Villas, a Spanish-style condominium tower also co-owned by Mr. Taylor. The experienced hotelier hired an American architect to bring to life his South Beach Miami concept for the new SoCo Hotel. The result is a 24-room resort of understated luxury in off-white, beige and brown, with hardly a pastel colour in sight. Just in front of the hotel is the Richard Haynes Boardwalk, a south coast attraction that provides a magnificent eastward walking experience for nearly two kilometres, all the way up to the edge of Accra Beach, linking SoCo to restaurants, nightlife and shopping. To the west the end of the boardwalk gives way to a long swathe of beach. “SoCo has done well so far,” says Mr. Taylor guardedly, noting that it ran almost full until August and has solid bookings for the remainder of the year. “There is a real consumer demand for boutique hotels.” We are sitting in the spacious, air-conditioned dining room of his hotel, where the only contrasting colour is found in the dark blue goblets on the brown rattan tables. White linen table cloths and
HOTELIER RALPH TAYLOR RECALLS THE EVENTS THAT SHAPED HIS DEPARTURE FROM ALMOND RESORTS AND LOOKS FORWARD TO HIS NEW ROLE OF SOUTH COAST HOTEL OWNER/DEVELOPER.
matching chairs with beige seat cushions complete the decor. A huge mirror on the street side makes the room seem even bigger, and large panels of glass on the beach side allow light to come pouring in from a pool terrace with white umbrellas and beige lounge chairs. The soothing atmosphere emboldens a reporter to ask about Almond, from how it began to how it ended.
INBusiness • November 2013 • Page 2
The home-grown brand that became Almond Resorts started as an idea in Ralph’s mind 22 years ago. The athletic Ralph, who had considered the pursuit of a career in professional cricket, had gotten into tourism when a fellow cricketer offered him the chief accountant position at the Rockley Resort in Christ Church. It was 1980. Within five years he had been promoted to CEO. Later, while
SoCo Hotel’s pool terrace offers panoramic view of Barbados’ south coast. with Almond, Ralph earned his MBA from Bradford University. Barbados Shipping & Trading Co. Ltd., the island’s largest publicly-traded company, had a minority stake in Rockley Resort, and Ralph saw its then CEO Douglas Lynch as something of a mentor. “Sir Douglas (who is now retired) was one of the best business brains this country has ever had,” Ralph recalls. “I used to find it refreshing to have business discussions with him and I learned a lot from him.” One day he called up Sir Douglas. He was on a mission. “I was leaving Rockley Resort and I told him I needed to introduce him to a business proposition. I told him I would like to show him something, and we arranged for me to pick him up at his house on a Saturday morning. We went to Cuz for a cheese cutter for lunch, and then I drove him down the west coast. I stopped at Divi St. James and said ‘This is a hotel you should buy.’ He continues: “Then I took him to Heywoods and I said, ‘The government has this and doesn’t know what they are doing with it. There’s a business deal to be done with government on Heywoods.’ I also drove him to the south coast to Welcome Inn hotel - I knew the guys who owned it. I said, ‘This is a hotel you should buy.”Sir Douglas seemed very interested, and he said ‘Put it together and come back to me with a document.” Sir Douglas presented Ralph’s business
plan to the BS&T board. “The board decided they liked the ideas but wanted to give them to other people to do, and pay me for my ideas only,” Ralph recalls, adding “This story has never been told.”
E PAUSES AS IF THAT memory makes him temporarily unable to continue. In the event, Sir Douglas stood up for him and the board finally agreed to purchase Divi St. James, which was renamed Pineapple Beach Resort as it was decided to enter into a marketing partnership with Rob Barrett, who owned the brand name, in order to reduce overhead. Recalls Ralph: “Rob used to operate a one-door reservations centre in New York. I knew him because we used to give him business from Rockley Resort. He also had a hotel in Antigua (using the Pineapple name) and an office in Boca Raton. But it wasn’t a marriage made in heaven and after 12 months we broke it off. “Then I got to do what I wanted to do and put my own name (on the hotel). And that’s how Almond was born.” Divi St. James had become Pineapple Beach Club, then Almond Beach Club. The main point, he says, is that on acquisition of Divi, he told Sir Douglas, “‘This only works if we fix it.’ There was no point taking the Divi Hotel, putting some paint on the outside of the building and trying to take it to what Almond Beach INBusiness • November 2013 • Page 3
Club was (to become). That would never have worked. I want you to take note of that. That’s an important point.” They then agreed to buy Heywoods for $35 million from the Barbados government “on the understanding that I would shut it and fix it, and make it something special.” He pauses in his chronology of events to state what appears to be his over-riding philosophy as a hotel entrepreneur, most recently reflected in his roll-out of the luxurious and trendy SoCo Hotel: “Tourism only works if you have the right product and the business to market the hell out of it. You must have a product that the consumer is going to be interested in, because people don’t buy junk.” So, as they had done with the Club, “we fixed Almond Beach Village, and it was very successful; good cash flow, profits went up and down over the years, but always profits, never losses, until 2009. We started the company in 1991, and it made profits between 1992 and 2009.” “Now, the shareholders of Almond, the directors and I wanted to expand, because Almond was set up to be a pan-Caribbean company. It was always that we were going to take the company, based on its performance, afar. Don’t forget that (before the recent expansion) we had had two attempts at opening hotels in Jamaica - one in Negril and one in Oracabessa (a small town ten miles east of
Ocho Rios).” The business venture in Negril “went wrong,” he says, “(but) we got our money back. Then we were in a business deal with Arthur Lok Jack and his company in Oracabessa that we lost to Butch Stewart.” Ralph seems to find solace in a proverb. “You see, the interesting thing with life is that ‘success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.’ Every time something goes wrong people want to (point a finger). The reality was that we were trying to expand, we were trying to find opportunities, we were being invited to the table but we couldn’t close the deals because there were people with bigger companies who were (doing so). When I got invited (to bid) on a management contract it was Butch and Hilton and Hyatt (that we were competing with) and even though we were good, we weren’t good enough against all that money and marketing power.” He came to the realisation that “the only way I was going to get this company expanded was if we mobilised a few private investors with Almond to do it. And that’s when the expansion started. “We did the expansion at a good time, 2005-06, buying hotels. The world was good, tourism was good. Nobody knew that there was going to a recession that would last for six years.”
says. However, he lauds then CEO Bernard Dulal-Whiteway for being very supportive of the hotel group. “Contrary to some of the comments made in the press, when Neal & Massy came in to Almond, I think there was some interest in the hotels.” After the untimely death of DulalWhiteway, the leadership of the Neal & Massy group changes. And so did the world. “The hotel group had made losses in 2009 and 2010, but I would argue that those losses were a direct result of the product quality.100% in my books.” There would probably not have been massive profits due to the recession, “but I don’t think we would have made losses. “I heard all the criticism about the hotel expansion, but it had nothing to do with it. Martin Pritchard, former CEO of Goddard Enterprises wrote an article saying they had invested and never made a profit, and that was true, but they invested in 2005, the hotel got opened in 2008 so we had three years of non-operating profits, losses, because the hotel did not get opened for over two years. We opened a few rooms in May and the hotel got properly opened in November 2008. “Now when you start talking and putting things in context the truth is that by 2009-10 the hotel hadn’t had a chance because the hotel group hadn’t done badly, quite frankly, considering the recession. Casuarina didn’t do badly. If you were one of the shareholders you would have said ‘five years of losses’, which is true but it’s not the full picture, because it conveys the suggestion that we operated the hotel group for five years and it made a whopping loss. No one can make
OREOVER, HE SAYS, “Almond Village, which was built in 1979-80, was 14 years old when we took it on in 1994. In 2007, just before Neal & Massy got involved in Almond, it was then 27 years old, and had done well, but the product had come to the end of its life cycle. It was getSoCo Hotel’s dining room ting tired. The signs were on the wall. Consumers were telling me the product needed a new regeneration.” In addition, the Almond Beach Club had been refurbished back in 1991 and by then was 17 years old, and likewise in need of upgrading, he notes. “The board took a decision, and this has not been said,” says Ralph, that to fund the expansion and to refurbish the two existing hotels, “we would do a rights issue.” Grenville Phillips was hired to put it in place and develop the documentation. “When Neal & Massy came in 2008, the decision was taken to postpone the rights issue to another day. So the capital to make the product right never came,” he
INBusiness • November 2013 • Page 4
a hotel profitable if it’s under construction and not open.” He adds: “There was a lot of negative (energy) floating around. There was no positive energy,” once the hotels started to make losses. “That doesn’t help anybody, it doesn’t help the marketplace, it doesn’t help the employees, management or shareholders.
OR ME THE ALMOND story culminates here: there is a company making money, every company has a life cycle. The life cycle of the cows that were giving milk on the Boston Matrix says they have all become dogs, you have to make them back cows again. And to do that calls for a regeneration of capital, but the investors weren’t looking to put the capital in. For whatever reason - they were not getting the returns that they wanted, they were not happy with tourism, they were not happy with Ralph Taylor and management - the principal investors were not interested in going down the road with it.” The closure of Almond in Barbados, he says, was the main reason for the biggest drop-off in the tourism arrival numbers last year. “I told the government that if that happened it would have a major effect on airlift, commercial business in Speightstown and around the island, the farmers, and so on. Don’t forget: Almond was the biggest player, by a long shot. It consumed a mountain of stuff. The consequences of Almond closing have been catastrophic for the economy.” How did the closure affect him personally? “I was disappointed and disillusioned.
TO PRETEND THAT I WASN’T AFFECTED, THAT THERE WERE NO EMOTIONS ON MY PART, WOULD BE STUPID, BUT HALF THE EMOTIONS WERE ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE. WE HAD A LOT OF STAFF (AT ALMOND) WHO HAD WORKED THERE FROM THE INCEPTION. Ralph and his wife Stephanie von Oppen I started to re-focus on how I was going he says, “as it evolved it was becoming to develop a new product, with different clear to me that it was a different envirules, aiming for a new audience.” ronment, and I was questioning it for myself. I had run Almond, I had done it with a board but I had led the way with the FEW WEEKS AFTER this direction and vision for the company. This interview, I went to see was certainly not that. There was a differRalph again to ask him to ence in style and desire between the two tell me more about how CEOs. Gervase Warner (Dulal-Whiteway’s he felt about the events successor) had his own vision of what he leading up to his deci- wanted to do.” There had been talk about the group sion to leave the hotel group in whose very emergence and success over two de- exiting Almond, he says. “Over a period cades he had played such a pivotal role. of six months and a million meetings I Ever the gentleman, he said his interest could see it leading there, but I didn’t now was in moving forward, not dwelling think it would be shut down.” Does he indeed feel like he is starting on the past. But as we spoke, glimpses of the deep emotional impact of parting over? He chooses his words carefully. “Whatever adjustment I had to make ways with the Almond group were seen, then quickly masked by Ralph’s self-ef- was a reformation, because Almond was the biggest product here in the Eastern facing professionalism. “When Neal & Massy came into the Al- Caribbean. It was a big company that mond picture I knew that the rules had I had built up with BS&T, public sharechanged, because I had obviously had holders and myself, but it was designed discussions with them,” he says. He was in my living room. Up to today I still don’t the chairman of Almond Resorts Inc., believe there was any necessity for Albut the policy of Neal & Massy Holdings mond to have been closed. “Government could have intervened was that its group chairman also chaired every subsidiary. “That’s what I was told, and I thought the country would have that although my financial package was been better off for it. As for the governnot changing, essentially I would run the ment’s belated decision to buy Almond company and the chairman would be Ar- after all, Ralph thinks it has been backed into a corner because it realises that the thur Lock Jack.” country needs the hotel. He continues: “In the end I went along “The company had been profitable, it with that change, quite comfortably just needed fixing,” he says. “Almond had working with Arthur as the chairman. At built up tremendous levels of guest satthat time I didn’t plan to exit.” isfaction and database. I had guests who There was no sense that events were had stayed there 60 times. It had a masgoing to unfold in the way they did. But, sive following. It was a big company in
INBusiness • November 2013 • Page 5
a small environment and therefore once you cut the string it isn’t easy to build the brand back. It’s hard.” When his efforts to interest the government in buying Almond didn’t work he submitted his own proposals to buy the Club and Casuarina, with or without the Almond brand name. He thought at one point he would get the Club, and then perhaps Casuarina, but, he says, “evidently they wanted to talk to other people.” When he decided to exit, still offering to buy one of the Almond properties, the metamorphosis of the Sierra into the SoCo was already on track. “Remember, I was trying to build back a company, but it’s not easy to go and buy a 400-room hotel. You need to start somewhere smaller.” How difficult was it, at the personal, emotional level? “It was traumatic, but it happened over time. I didn’t wake up one morning doing something and the next morning it was gone. To pretend that I wasn’t affected, that there were no emotions on my part, would be stupid, but half the emotions were about other people. We had a lot of staff (at Almond) who had worked there from the inception, who had put their own $10,000 into shares. The truth is, it was emotional, but it didn’t happen all in one day.” Concludes Ralph: “It was an emotional time because you were in a position where you watch the thing you built up being taken away and you really can’t stop it. When the majority shareholder speaks, the decision is carried.” •
INBusiness THE ARTS
S A YOUNG woman in Canada, Ebonnie Rowe was a spirited activist working with at-risk minority children and young adults in mentorship and empowerment programs. Wanting to provide opportunities for young women that she met who were musically talented, Ebonnie founded the “Honey Jam Showcase” in 1995.
Honey Jam is an all-female showcase that gives its artists the chance to develop and showcase their talents, learn about the music business, and make connections. The girls attend workshops with vocal coaches and industry professionals, and give back to the community by taking part in charity events and drives. Honey Jam counts among its alumni international recording artist Nelly Furtado, who was discovered at the annual show in Toronto in 1997. “When I started Honey Jam, I was working full-time as a legal assistant,” Ebonnie recalls. “I planned, produced and financed the show myself. And that was back in the days before social media! My phone number was on every flyer, I returned every phone call myself, sometimes up to a hundred calls, and usually in the evenings after a long day of work!” Ebonnie also designed all advertisements, mailed out all correspondence, personally met with everyone involved with Honey Jam and ran the auditions for the show herself. “I was literally a one-woman team,” she says. As the success of Honey Jam grew, Ebonnie dreamed of bringing the show to Barbados. “My parents are Barbadian, I went to school here when I was young, and I knew that Barbados had so much talent to offer.” However it wasn’t until 2010 that she finally felt able to put the wheels in motion. “I didn’t have many Honey Jam Founder Ebonie Rowe contacts. I was an event coordinator, but no one really knew me as a concert organizer, and in a small island you must have those connections to secure sponsorship,” Ebonnie explains. Having organized Auntie Olga’s Fun Run for a few years and making a few contacts, Ebonnie began to look for her audience. When she attended “Iron Sharpen Iron”, a spoINBusiness • November 2013 • Page 6
FROM SOCIAL ACTIVIST TO
ken word and open mic show produced by well-known poets Adrian Green and D.J. Simmons at local bar Pablo Donte’s, she recalls, “I loved the atmosphere of the venue, and the audience was so diverse and receptive that I knew I could bring Honey Jam to them.” Adrian and D.J. agreed to endorse Honey Jam, and in early 2011 they helped Ebonnie produce the ‘teaser’ show, “A Taste Of Honey Jam”. “Pablo’s could comfortably hold 150 people, but that night, nearly 500 people were there,” Ebonnie says, adding that though she knew she had a great product, she never dreamed that so many people would be so supportive. Ebonnie used the buzz created to approach those sponsors she had worked with through Fun Run. Past and current sponsors of Honey Jam include Purity Bakeries, Blue Print Creative, LIME, Scotiabank, Dacosta Mannings and United Insurance.
ince the teaser show, Ebonnie has staged two full Honey Jam shows in 2011-12, as well as the teaser “A Taste of Honey Jazz” in 2012 and “Honey Jazz” at Frank Collymore Hall in early 2013. “Each show has been so well attended and supported, and the feedback has been mostly positive,” Ebonnie says. “Auditions have been well-attended, and our branching out into the world of Jazz has given the girls the chance to experience a different type of show and audience.”
Honey Jam is set to have its third annual show in late 2013 and its second Honey Jazz in January 2014. Popular Bajan artists that are a part of the Honey Jam ‘sisterhood’ include Betty Payne, Rhesa Garnes, Nikki Nicole, Debbie Reifer, Malissa Alanna, Christal Austin, Gigi Ma’at, iNDRANi, Erika Alexi and Rochelle Griffith. “Many of these girls were already working musicians, but a few of them, like Malissa Alanna, did use Honey Jam as their official entry into the Bajan scene,” Ebonnie explains. “I think of them and my ‘honeys’ in Canada as my family. I’m insanely proud of these girls.” Organizing these shows has been in general “an incredibly challenging passion project” for Ebonnie, and the current economic climate has made things that much more difficult. But Ebonnie tells INBusiness that nearly two decades later, she has finally been able to realize her dream of making her ‘passion project’ a full-time job. “It’s gratifying,” she says, and maintains that her greatest reward is seeing how the people involved in the initiative are positively affected on many levels, and she gratefully acknowledges the help of volunteers and establishments that helped her make Honey Jam a success. “Some people don’t understand the sacrifice that it takes to start a movement and create an ‘empire’ on your own,” says Ebonnie, “but you either want something or you don’t. If you want it, you’ll move heaven and earth to make it happen. I don’t take no for an answer.” •
Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - Dylan Thomas, 1914-53 INBusiness • November 2013 • Page 7
The Garrison Savannah at sunset, after a heavy rain (late August 2013)
Randy Marshall with Little Pleasures’ staffers (from Left) Toniesha, Nicole, Tianna and Anita
HILE WORKING at Neal & Massy as a medical rep selling, among other things, baby products, Randy Marshall noticed that there was no store that specialized in baby products. At the time, he forgot about it.
Fast-forward several years to Randy as a new parent, frustrated at the lack of a comprehensive baby store. “One place sold pyjamas and ‘home clothes’ for newborns to 24 month-olds, another sold only toddler ‘Sunday clothes’, another sold only bottles. That made no sense to me.” He became increasingly frustrated at the lack of availability of many children’s items, and began to purchase things for his son on trips overseas. In so doing, he developed a hobby. “I was good at picking things for my friends’ kids. I enjoyed it,” He recalls. Randy eventually hit upon the idea of opening his own store. At the time he was working with Stansfeld Scott as regional portfolio manager for its health care division. He rolled the idea around for a while, and when the opportunity to
JUMPING OFF AT THE DEEP END
RANDY MARSHALL DOESN’T CONSIDER HIMSELF A BABY CLOTHES FANATIC OR A COFFEE GURU. “IT’S THE THRILL OF SET TING UP A NEW BUSINESS AND MAKING IT SUCCESSFUL THAT I LIKE. I ACTUALLY HATE MANAGEMENT, BUT I’M GOOD AT IT, AND I DO WHAT MUST BE DONE,” HE SAYS. rent a space at Sky Mall (then Mall Internationale) presented itself, he and his fiancée decided to take the plunge and open their own store. “We paid the deposit, and then began to research in earnest,” Randy remembers. They attended two trade shows, began to make contacts and build relationships with suppliers, setting up accounts. Little Munchkins Baby and Toddler Store opened for business on November 15th, 2011. INBusiness • November 2013 • Page 8
Randy explains that he wanted to “create a brand with a certain quality and standard. The shopping environment was very important to me.” They took time with in-house training of their staff, setting up and designing the store, and carefully choosing the merchandise. Even with all their preparations, Randy says that for him it was an “overnight, uphill learning experience. You go from working for someone to all of a sudden needing to register for VAT and NIS.”
cided to take another plunge, though I had no food experience. I had to learn on the job because the structure of a food business is completely different than a retail outfit. You don’t know what the market is and everything is perishable, so we ended up losing money at first due to under-ordering.” But Randy maintains that in today’s world, if you have access to a computer and the Internet, there’s nothing you can’t learn. “I asked lots of questions, and did lots of research,” he says.
O Little Munchins store at Sky Mall. Little Munchkins has been successful, Randy says. “We were lucky to get a fantastic spot in the mall. You can’t not see the store when you walk in.” The store runs like a well-oiled machine, and enjoys the patronage of many return customers. Because they cater to a wide demographic, ranging from newborn to four years old, Randy says “parents will be coming to us for at least 4 years!” Being successful tenants in the mall afforded them another opportunity. When management began to develop the food court and rebrand the mall, they gave current store holders first refusal on food court spaces. Randy jumped at the chance to open his own shop, paid the deposit, and then began to plan, as he had several months to perfect his business plan. Randy says he shopped around many fast-food, quick-service and coffee places to come up with a combination he liked. Little Pleasures Dessert Parlour opened for business within the new Sky Mall Food Court on January 17th, 2013. “I just de-
NCE LITTLE PLEASURES opened, Randy also listened to his customers and tweaked the menu as the weeks passed. “You have to know your clientele. I wanted to serve healthy fresh juices and salads, but that’s not the type of customer we were getting. The price point was too high, and most of the traffic was being driven to the mall by a big international fast-food player.” Randy says that he learned not to put his own personal preferences on his customers, but rather to let the market dictate their product. “Sweets didn’t pay the bills, so we added paninis and wraps in addition to coffee and ice cream,” he explains. Randy doesn’t consider himself a baby clothes fanatic or a coffee guru. “It’s the thrill of setting up a new business and making it successful that I like. I actually hate management, but I’m good at it, and I do what must be done,” he says. He maintains that he is successful in part because he is adamant about paying employees well, and focusing on keeping morale high. “We empower our employees, give them incentives, and help them to feel like they’re part of the process, like they are also invested in the business. We listen to them as to what is in demand for the stores because they’re the ones that work on the ground every day in direct contact with customers.” Plans for the future include a second Little Munchkins store by the end of 2013. Randy says that he takes “calculated risks” as an entrepreneur, and makes sure to set up solid systems for his businesses. But he says the most important step for him was to “just take the risk. Jump off the deep end. You have to be willing to spend money to make money.” •
COMING IN JANUARY 2014 BOOKING DEADLINE EXTENDED TO FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22 To place your listings or an ad, contact Pat Hoyos, publisher, M 230-5687 E firstname.lastname@example.org INBusiness • November 2013 • Page 9
INBusiness FIRST PERSON
DR. ADRIAN CHARLES FREQUENTLY POSTS ARTICLES ON SOCIAL MEDIA SITES DEALING WITH SENSITIVE THEMES. “I’M VERY ARGUMENTATIVE, BUT I BELIEVE IN THE SOCRATIC METHOD OF DEBATE ( IN ORDER ) TO COME CLOSER TO THE TRUTH OF THE MAT TER.”
Dr. Adrian Clarke (Photo credit: Risée Chaderton)
THE SOCRATIC DOCTOR
R. ADRIAN CHARLES is well known on FaceBook and Twitter as a very outspoken supporter of human rights causes. Ironically, he says that “social media is really of no consequence to me. It is a useful tool to connect with many people, but if I didn’t have it I would find a different way to bring awareness to the things I’m passionate about.” Adrian studied at The University of the West Indies at Mona, Jamaica before completing his undergraduate studies as well as his internship at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. He then worked in psychiatry for almost ten years—first at the Psychiatric Hospital in Black Rock, and then at the Psychiatric Depart-
ment of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Fascinated with healing, both in an esoteric and practical sense, from a very young age, Adrian says “I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was very young, but changed my mind to (human) doctor while still in primary school.” His love for psychiatry came later, while he was in medical school. “I found that I was much more comfortable than many of my peers when interviewing patients. Then I did an elective period in psychiatry, and loved it.” In addition to his fascination with healing, Adrian maintains that he loves the challenge of trying to understand people and to connect with them on a deep level. Five years ago Adrian decided to move to the Geriatric Hospital when the opportunity presented itself, and says that working with the elderly has a whole different set of challenges. “Patients at the Geri-
INBusiness •• November November 2013 2013 •• Page Page 10 10 INBusiness
atric Hospital are very dependent on the caregivers, because by the time they are admitted they need round the clock care,” he explains to INBusiness. By contrast, in psychiatry, “people are usually more active in their own care. In psychiatry you do also have to make sure that there isn’t a contribution of illness, but in geriatric care illness is the norm, and we adjust treatment to suit.” Adrian says that the greatest challenge is being able to communicate with older patients with advanced dementia, who much of the time do not understand what is happening to them, and don’t have the words to express themselves. Such patients can become frustrated and uncooperative, but Adrian says that the way he tackles this is to try to understand them, a skill he honed during his time at Black Rock. “I don’t see it as a challenge for me, rather as a challenge to the patient, and I navigate it that way. I also try to encourage our nurses to think of it that way. Looking for certain cues and being able to read body language is invaluable in this.” Adrian says that he has also learned, and tries to encourage nurses, not to personalize the actions of these elderly patients. “It easy to become offended or angry,” he says, but he also doesn’t believe that they should be viewed merely as a puzzle of diseases or problems to be solved. “They’re human, and so I try to work from my sense of humility and perspective, as opposed to just being removed from their humanity.” Within the public health system, Adrian says the main problems he sees are underfunding and understaffing. “I’ve been in the public service for years, and I see so many people who are horrendously under-appreciated,” he says, adding that there needs to be a reevaluation of resources because so much has to be done with so little. “There is a lot of frustration but there is reason for hope,” he says. “There are reform movements going on in the public service and I hope that we are able to follow through.” Adrian says that the root of these problems is that we as a society haven’t risen to the challenge of the social reorganization of the twentieth century. “We went from the extended family to nuclear family in a matter of a few decades, and that brings problems with caring for the elderly.” However, he stresses that ‘dumping’ or ‘abandonment’ are the wrong terms
to use, because “they assign blame and create shame, when these people we’re blaming have often not been equipped socially or economically to deal with caring for a dependent elderly person.”
drian’s fascination with healing and well-being began while he was a boy attending church. “I had a wonderful pastor who was learned and informed, and I was never subjected to the judgmental Christianity I now see all too often.” Adrian says
to shave away the excess and therefore come closer to the truth of the matter.” Adrian’s posts and writings have inspired many a lively debate, especially on FaceBook, which he says pleases him because he enjoys raising awareness of these issues, and educating himself and others in the process. “My posts come from my own readings,” he explains. “I was the kind of child that read dictionaries and encyclopedias. I still read voraciously. It is the core of my existence: to hunger for knowledge and to feed that hunger with books, essays and articles.” A fierce nationalist and selfconfessed hyper-intellectual, Adrian also maintains that the best approach to life is balance. As such he has had many widely varied interests over the years, from martial arts and sports to painting, calligraphy, and, most recently, photography. “I love capturing the interactions of people with others and with their surroundings. It’s fascinating to watch as a doctor, and equally so to capture in a photograph.” Both of Adrian’s parents are doctors, and he grew up surrounded by professionals in the field. “I saw, and still see, some doctors, many of them well-accomplished, who are dreadfully unhappy because they are starved of connection with other people and interests outside of the medical field. They can end up constrained in the way they deal with patients and with people.” Adrian is adamant that having many interests gives him a wide berth of experience with which to connect to his patients. “I’ve never been interested in being so ambitious that it would take me away from living life,” he maintains. Now forty-three years old, Adrian is happy with his career and his contribution to society as a doctor and a thinker. He says that ever striving to learn and grow will keep him both competitive and content. “Being a doctor has informed the way I approach people, being obsessed with healing, human rights and just helping people in general, wherever I can.” Being a doctor, Adrian has learned to “love people’s vessels, and to have respect for the human body, as well as to be passionate about well-being in all forms, which is something I try to pass on to others.”•
ADRIAN SAYS THAT THE ROOT OF THESE PROBLEMS IS THAT WE AS A SOCIETY HAVEN’T RISEN TO THE CHALLENGE OF THE SOCIAL REORGANIZATION OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. “WE WENT FROM THE EXTENDED FAMILY TO NUCLEAR FAMILY IN A MAT TER OF A FEW DECADES, AND THAT BRINGS PROBLEMS WITH CARING FOR THE ELDERLY.” that his experiences since leaving high school have made it difficult to reconcile his wonderful experience in Church as a child with what he was seeing around him from other Christians, and he has subsequently shifted his focus away from the religious viewpoint. Having been bullied as a child for various reasons, one of which is a large scar that spans the length of his forehead from a surgery when he was a boy, Adrian says that he vividly remembers the few people who stood up for him. “I haven’t lost my appreciation for religion, but I feel that standing up for what is right is more important than following any kind of doctrine,” he says. To this end, Adrian frequently posts articles and opinions on social media sites for discussion, many of them controversial, dealing with very sensitive themes such as religion versus secularism. He delves deeply into topics such as racism, homosexuality, misogyny and selfimage, as well as technology and medical health. “I’m very argumentative, but I believe in the Socratic method of debate: INBusiness • November 2013 • Page 11
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e are pleased to be proMany of the people we interviewed also vide this glimpse into the stated that they have been able to start world of Young Profes- their professional lives much earlier than sionals in Barbados. would have been possible before, since
This cross section of twenty- to thirty-somethings from various walks of life are often referred to as “millenials”, or “Generation Y”. They are identified among other things by their high motivation, and some of them left steady jobs or switched university majors in order to create their own business opportunities.
online courses and information makes it possible for them to work while studying on their own time. While traditional careers are necessary to a thriving society, we believe that creativity is absolutely vital for the country to move forward. - Amanda Cummins, YP writer
INBusiness • November 2013 • Page 13
The Beyond Publishing Caribbean group (from left): Delvin Howell, Nigel Lynch, Tristan Roach, Matthew Clarke, Andrew “Rivenis” Blackman, and Julian Moseley. DIGITAL GRAPHICS
“Our goal is to be the premier brand for Caribbean-themed graphic novels”
HEN MAT THEW Clarke and some of his fellow comic book-loving friends graduated from Barbados Community College, they decided to print some of their own comic books and sell them during the BCC Portfolio Show. Then when the first Animekon Pop Culture Convention was announced as being set for the following year, they decided to band together.
“We were all working on different projects but we wanted a presence at the show, and we decided to come under one banner,” Matthew tells Young Professionals. They began tossing around ideas, and soon Beyond Publishing Caribbean was born.
“The objective of Beyond Publishing is to grow the animation industry in the Caribbean, and our aim is that this industry will be an earner of foreign exchange for the region,” and be a leading player in the broader arts industry, Matthew says. Their focus is creating comics that are relatable to a Caribbean audience but also that will eventually reach an international audience. “The beauty of comics is that they blend literature with visual art, so we can and do tap in to both audiences.” Matthew, a multiple NIFCA awardwinner, freelance illustrator and graphic artist, says that Beyond Publishing faced a few hurdles in starting up. The group pooled their resources in order to fund the printing of their comics and graphic novels, but Matthew says the biggest challenge was actually making the time to create the product. “Many of us were, and still are, working full time, and comINBusiness • November 2013 • Page 14
ics and animation are very time-consuming endeavours,” he explains.
nother challenge that Beyond Publishing faces is the fact that they are “not selling a necessity. People don’t have to buy art, it’s purchased based on pleasure and taste,” Matthew notes. “Having knowledge in marketing and advertising is a great asset to the group, and we use various traditional and non-traditional means to spread the word both locally and internationally.” Much of their marketing is done through social media by both the company and by the artists themselves, as well as maintaining a presence at cultural and trade shows, and Animekon, as well as product placement in local book stores and in international comic stores such as comixology.com and ka-blam.com. What keeps Beyond Publishing running is the fact that even if printing a book is not possible, the comics can be made available solely online. “That keeps our overheads low,” Matthew says. Their international distribution has begun to grow noticeably. “Our product is export-ready, and because the content and context of our comics is very different from others out there, we stand out,” he says. Beyond Comics’ major international markets are places such as the U.S.A., Britain, South Africa,
Story continues on page 24
THE RECORDING INDUSTRY
“Quitting my band to grow Crucial was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do”
T 21, A TENDER AGE at which most young men are still trying to decide on the course of their lives, Phil Archer opened his own recording studio. Already a seasoned professional musician and voice recording artist, Phil had worked in a commercial studio after gaining his degree in recording engineering.
During the season, the studio would be fully booked by artists, and Crucial’s commercial customers would take their business elsewhere. And when the season was over, the majority of clients remained with the competing commercial studios. Eventually, Phil decided to shift the focus of the studio to what he calls “more evenly sustainable” commercial recording and jingle-writing.
The original objective of Crucial Productions Inc., “a natural progression” born of Phil’s previous experience in music, was primarily to record and produce music for local artists. Crucial also offered jingle-writing and voiceover recording. “I think one of my greatest challenges was realizing that I had to grow up and put my all and focus on this business,” Phil recalls. “Having to make sacrifices by ‘putting away my toys’, like quitting my band, in order to grow Crucial was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do,” he tells Young Professionals. In the first few years, Crucial Productions’ CEO Phil Archer in the studio. Crucial mainly recorded loPhil balanced administration of his cal artists, especially around Crop Over time. Like any young business, Crucial business and engineering in the studio struggled with financing and “gaining a by himself for a long time. He says that foothold” in the local market, which Phil word-of-mouth advertising was invaludescribes as a “very closed niche market.” able to his company, and he focused on As the business grew, their original delivering the best possible product. As aim of being a music recording studio the studio grew, Crucial was able to add changed quite “organically,” Phil says. video recording and 2D and 3D anima“The first few years we produced quite tion services to its portfolio, as well as a a lot of music. However, I found that be- remote IP recording service, which allows cause Crop Over is such a seasonal thing the studio to link to international clients it was not a viable and sustainable focus over the internet and record anything they need. This, as well as “cloud”-based at that time.” INBusiness • November 2013 • Page 15
technology, allowed Phil to work with international clients in the United States and Canada, among other places, many of which remain with the studio to the present day. “A recent international job was working with Warner Brothers Studios in L.A., recording post-production ADR (automated dialogue replacement) and syncing picture via timecode with them there,” says Phil. This was to urgently record one of their actresses, Rachel Bilson, for their TV show Hart Of Dixie. Rachel was visiting Barbados on holiday and the recording was needed within hours, a service Crucial was able to provide. “Most of this type of international work is driven by search engine and social media marketing,” Phil says. These days, Phil tries to encourage companies not to cut advertising budgets, because although in a rough economy it is the first thing companies cut, they then face the challenge of regaining the ground they lose with their customers. Phil says also that a personal challenge he faces is remaining passionate about his business twelve years after launching it. “I think we can all fall into the trap of complacency and towing the line from time to time. It’s important to take a step back and realize your position objectively, and take the necessary steps to push yourself to continually grow yourself and your business.” Crucial has remained small, today comprising just two people: an engineer and an administrator. Their clients include GTECH Global, Producers Choice in Toronto, Voxgen from London, and agencies and recording studios in L.A., USVI and Miami. “I think what makes us unique is the fact that we work so much on an international level,” Phil maintains. “It helps us retain an edge in the quality of our work and maintain the standards of service required to compete in the global market.” •
mar Robertson, Executive Chef and Managing Director of In-fusion Catering Services Ltd, began his tertiary education in the field of Political Science. But after a year, he says, “I just couldn’t see myself doing that at 40.”
He dropped out of school and took some time to decide what he wanted to do. Then he started to think about cooking. “My parents were great cooks, and I grew up around great food. So I thought, ‘why not?’” Omar says he had “massive support from family and friends,” most notably family friend Shireene Mathlin, an executive with Mango Bay Hotel, who gave him his first opportunity to cook for a living. “After two days of cooking for 12 hours straight, my mind was made up,” he recalls. In terms of formal training, Omar reached the senior level at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa in classical French cuisine and pastry, and graduated with Le Grand Diplome in 2005. On his return from Canada, he took a position at Café Luna on the South Coast as the Garde Manger, responsible for all appetizers and desserts. Canvassing the island for various culinary experiences, he says that he saw what he calls “glaring deficiencies in the culinary arts in Barbados” that for a time made him think of returning to Canada. Then came the opportunity to offer consultation and management solutions for The Round House Restaurant, where he was able to apply the kitchen management skills he had learned at Cordon in helping to get the restaurant, managed by Bob Manley, back on track. After a few other engagements with other restaurants and small catering jobs, Omar took his first large catering engagement for the first Bliss fete in 2007. “Bliss went from a small house party to being a huge ticketed event. The first one I catered was 300 people,” he recalls. Being given freedom to create dishes on such a large scale started the ball rolling, and in 2007 Omar officially opened Infusion Catering Services, serving as both executive chef and managing director. Shireene and another family friend, the late Lesley Barrow, “encouraged me to apply the classical French techniques to West Indian food,” he said. In-fusion has subsequently expanded to offering all types of fusion food, which Omar says is simply “mixing the techniques of one type of cuisine with the ingredients and flavour profiles of another.” Omar says that Shireene also encouraged him to do further studies in the management of a culinary business: “Too many chefs in Barbados don’t understand that they need to have kitchen and food management skills as well,” he tells Young Profesional. He took her advice, and in 2010, Omar received a diploma in professional cookery from Stratford Chef School in Ontario. The world of culinary arts, Omar explains, has undergone a massive evolution over the past decade, and his aim for Infusion is to keep pace with this trend. “People have become deeply involved with the science of food, exploring the relationship between techniques and flavour profiles,” says Omar. “The world has started to make a move towards cooking with organic ingredients that are in season, which creates sustainability.” This, Omar says, gave birth to chefs and culinary busi-
Executive Chef Omar Robinson (Photo credit: Mark King) CATERING
“You can taste it when a chef puts his soul into his food.” nesses supporting locals farms and producers, something he feels is not common enough in Barbados. Omar also realized that there was a need for general catering services, and In-fusion offers these as well. If a client doesn’t need food, but needs wait staff and a chef, for example, In-fusion provides this out of a special group of people Omar has handpicked and, where necessary, trained himself. “We offer anything from the whole shebang - food, chefs, wait and bar staff, and cleaning services - to just one or any combination of services a client requires, including management solutions and event management.” Story continues on page24
INBusiness • November 2013 • Page 16
teaching needs love for the subject and lots of patience
GREAT LOVE FOR SHAKESPEARE is one reason that Dexter Johnson decided he wanted to become a teacher. While in his twenties and working various jobs, Dexter received his BA in English Literature and MA in Post Colonial Studies in Literature from the University of the West Indies. “I originally thought I would amass enough experience to eventually go into lecturing at UWI,” he tells the Young Professionals.
Now 35, Dexter has been teaching English Language and Literature, and also at times Communications Studies, for the better part of six years, for the most part at Harrison College and currently at Deighton Griffith. “It was rough at first moving from school to school, and adapting to the different environments,” he says. An avid practitioner of martial arts, actor and writer, Dexter says that he feels so many teachers are misunderstood. “It’s not about having summers off. It sounds cliche, but it really is about passing on knowledge and a love for learning to the next generation, for me at least.” Dexter feels that one of the greatest challenges in teaching is that today’s student has “so many more distractions than even I did at their age. Teachers today struggle with finding new and innovative ways of teaching, of gaining and retaining the children’s attention and interest. It’s not insurmountable, though.” He further explains that these distractions have led to a “declining interest in reading that makes it hard to get a student to pick up a physical book and turn the pages, as opposed to going on Facebook.”
e also feels there is a lack of understanding of just what a teacher has to do, and what he or she needs to be effective in today’s classrooms. He says that the various materials and resources that are required to engage today’s type of students is beyond the grasp of people who are not physically there and who don’t understand what goes into teaching. “As such,” he maintains, “a lot of schools that desperately need particular resources are not provided with them, to the detriment of the kids.” He says that many teachers will provide a lot of their own materials, out of their own pockets. “I believe more emphasis should be placed on providing funding for schools especially at this tricky transition phase
Teacher Dexter Johnson from child to young adult that is secondary education.” The recent decision that tertiary students will have to pay tuition fees is something Dexter believes we “will have to wait to see the affects of on Barbados in the long run.” Indeed free education has been something that has defined Barbadian society for decades. Dexter feels that “it’s unfortunate, in that many low income families may not be able to afford the University education which can help elevate them.” But, he says that “those who are currently at UWI not taking it seriously will have to buckle down now.” He also says that he would like to see “more parents become involved in their children’s academic progress. “Too many, I have found, believe it’s up to the teacher to teach and that’s the end of it.” In his experience at several different secondary schools, he says that he has seen many parents who need to take a more active role in their children’s education, and supplement what the teachers provide in the classroom with positive re-enforcement and encouragement at home. Dexter says that the key to effective teaching is a love for the subject and a lot of patience. “I love seeing the lightbulb go off in kids’ heads,” he says. After half a decade, he is reevaluating his long term goal of lecturing at university, though his plan is still to pursue a PhD. “I feel a need to see these young students evolve to a point where they can have a broader image of the world, to understand that they can each contribute so much, and that each of them has the potential for greatness.” Teaching has made him that much more cognizant of the impact that one person can have in the life of another. “I do my best to keep that effect positive,” Dexter says.•
INBusiness • November 2013 • Page 17
THE STOCK MARKET
working to develop Barbados’ “infant” capital market financing, trading and raising debt for companies. “Being a trader is exciting,” Kofi says. “I enjoy the process of negotiating between customers in the effort to satisfy all parties involved. I love closing deals.” Kofi says that one of his major challenges stems from the fact that the Barbados capital market is still in its infancy. With the decline in equity trading, he explains that “trading in fixed income requires us to overcome the ‘cultural mind-
ute,” Kofi says, explaining that “business startup is bank-based, but small business is deemed risky. We really don’t have the structure in place to deal with these small businesses.” He says that he sees a very real need to develop venture capital financing in the Barbados economy. Aside from work, Kofi is married, and is a doting father to a 19-month old daughter. “Being a new dad has a whole set of different challenges but it comes with a whole lot of rewards. You think you know until you actually have a baby!” Kofi is also a football fan, saying that he and his brother support two rival English premier league teams, “so watching matches are always fun.”
Kofi says he had always been interesting in trying to understand “what makes business work, the value of a company versus the price of the company, and the economic links that make things happen.” He stresses that he found stock markets interesting, and liked the idea of being about to trade. To that end, Kofi quickly realized that auditing wasn’t his calling. “I couldn’t use financial information to make business decisions,” he says. Kofi then moved to Signia Finance, and working there for three years as a research analyst and trader. “That gave me experience in analyzing companies, and compiling and making sense of their financial information. It also gave me Senior Securities Trader Kofi Farmer the grounding in the inner workings of the Barbadian set’ that buying a 20-year bond means stock market,” which is what truly piqued you have to hold on to it for 20 years.” Kofi’s interest. Kofi says that many people don’t realize When the opportunity to run a trading that they can trade those bonds, and he desk at Royal Fidelity Bank and Trust pre- encourages clients to increase trading in sented itself, Kofi didn’t hesitate. “I was such securities. “Bonds can play a huge excited to expand, and to learn from peo- role in the wider economy,” he maintains. ple with a slightly different skill set to “There is a real need to channel fime,” he says. Now 29, Kofi works at Royal nance toward small and medium enterFidelity as a senior securities trader in prises to allow them to grow and contrib-
Kofi says that one of his personal challenges is finding the balance between work and family. “Anyone who can manage to work and pursue further studies are exceptional managers of time,” he says. “Throw a child into the mix and they must be exceptionally high-functioning! I struggle to balance, sometimes tipping one way or another. But I like a good challenge. It keeps me sharp.” •
traight out of UWI, Kofi Farmer began working at a small Auditing Firm. Studying Finance had been his original plan, but at the time it wasn’t offered at UWI, and he opted instead for the joint Economics and Accounting Bachelor’s Degree. “That joint degree gave me the background I need to have options,” Kofi tells Young Professionals.
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While the times may be tough, Tracy says she understands the importance of building strong business relationships with her clients and understanding their needs. “I am primarily involved in External Audit,” which is a sub-service line of Assurance, she notes. Her duties include meeting and managing clients, and managing teams, both locally and regionally, which identify major audit issues and aim to solve them. Tracy is also responsible for completing detailed file reviews, ensuring that quality documentation is obtained and reviewing financial statements for compliance with reporting standards. “I’m also involved in recruiting for the firm, looking for new hires, from entry to senior level,” Tracy adds.
T Senior Manager - Assurance Tracy Marshall. ACCOUNTING
Attracted to accounting at secondary school, Tracy finds her niche in auditing
aving heard good things about Ernst & Young while at university, Tracy Marshall did her own research on the company and liked what she read. Just before graduating from the UWI Cave Hill campus with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, Tracy sent only one job application, to EY, and was recruited in June 2003.
Now 31, Tracy achieved her ACCA designation while working her way up the company as an auditor, being promoted to the senior level in her fourth year,
management in her sixth, and senior management in her eighth. Now a senior manager in assurance, Tracy says she doesn’t regret her decision to stay. “From all I’ve heard, speaking to my peers from different companies, staying with EY was the right decision for me,” she affirms. Having been introduced to accounting while at The Alexandra School, Tracy says it was something that was natural and exciting to her. “I loved learning how to follow a number trail, and using that knowledge to learn about companies and the way they function,” she explains. And after a decade in auditing, Tracy’s passion for her career hasn’t dimmed. INBusiness • November 2013 • Page 19
racy is a counseling manager to several junior members of the firm, and is also a certified training instructor. Training recruits takes place during the summer, and is one of the things that drew her to Ernst & Young in the first place. “I love that EY does a lot of training and mentoring of their employees,” she explains. “It’s good for morale because we know we are important to the company, and it keeps us up to date with procedures and trends, which makes us competitive.” The next step in Tracy’s career path is to reach the level of Partner. It is still a few years away, but it presents a whole new set of challenges. “There is a lot more pressure on Partners. They’re the ones in the public eye, they’re the ones who deal with scrutiny from outside, because they essentially represent the firm,” Tracy explains. In addition to her career, Tracy spends much of her free time with her friends and family. “That family support has been my rock in tough times,” She says. She also loves to read, has just enrolled in a beginner’s makeup course, and loves to travel, visiting a different country each year. “The next big trip I’m planning is to South Africa with my family,” she explains. “I think having balance is extremely important to being fulfilled in life, not just in your career.” •
THE MUSIC INDUSTRY
sets her sights on the American Country Music charts
alissa Alanna always wanted to be a singer. “Not just a person who sings sometimes or as a break from her day job. I want to make my living through music. I’ll do whatever it takes,” she tells Young Professionals.
What it takes is massive dedication. She always had a passion for Country music, but after having a bad experience with a vocal coach in her early teens, Malissa quit music for a year. “I couldn’t stay away forever though,” she says. She met singer/songwriter/vocal coach Indra Rudder, better known as iNDRANi, who helped Malissa to restore her confidence. Through Indra, Malissa was asked to perform at the show “A Taste of Honey Jam” in 2011, organized by Ebonnie Rowe. She recalls not even being in the island when she received the offer. “We sat down as a family and talked about it. My dad said ‘Do really you want to do this?’ When I said yes, he said, Country Artist Malissa Alanna (Photo credit: Alyson ‘if we do it, let’s do it big.’” Holder)
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Malissa Alanna used the Honey Jam performance as a spring board, saying that she had decided she would be the best she could be, though it was a small show. Her father, Mario Williams, became her manager, and they planned for this performance to be the launch of her career. “It was in the middle of my CXC year at school,” She recalls. “I would leave school and go straight home and rehearse till 10 and then study. I’d be going to bed at 3 a.m.” Meanwhile Mario and Malissa, along with her mum Vanda, spent every spare moment researching the industry, the people they needed to know, and making contacts. They discovered Brian Poe, an American entertainment attorney, with whom Malissa and Mario became friendly and who served as their legal counsel for a while. In his research, Mario also learnt of Sound Kitchen Studio in Nashville. “Sound Kitchen is the only studio Don Henley (founding member of The Eagles) will record in. Dolly Parton and Rascall Flatts record there too. It’s a big deal,” Malissa explains. “Usually they don’t allow anyone to record who isn’t already
famous.” But Mario was persistent. Finally, they convinced owner Ira Blonder to just listen to Malissa’s cover recordings that she had done locally with Anthony Lohar. “That was an amazing experience,” Malissa says. “They took me on as their special project.” Having made four trips there to date, she says she has “an open invitation to return whenever I want. And I met Dolly (Parton)! That was huge for me!” Since then, Brian Poe has helped Malissa make many connections, most notably Daniel Fowler, who is now an important part of her team. He is one of a select few approved presidential photographers, and he and his company American Technologies, along with Ronny Brookshire, have become integral to Malissa. “Their advice to me is invaluable,” She says. “They’ve invested time and money in me. Daniel provides me with somewhere to stay, a private studio, film and photography. He and Ronny get me into all the shows I need to be at in order to make connections.” Early in 2013, at the tender age of 17, Malissa moved to North Carolina, and has
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been working on her brand, merchandising and building her fan base with many appearances at schools, and performances at various shows, most notably the 2013 Legendary Awards. “There were so many important industry pros at that event. It was a once in a lifetime chance.” Daniel and Malissa are also working on a reality TV series called TDSL - The Grind (TDSL stands for Time, Dedication, Sacrifice and Love), a show that follows people in the business. It’s being done in collaboration with Teddy Riley, a legend in his own right after his work as producer of Michael Jackson’s Bad album and all of his concerts. “It was an honour just to be in Teddy’s presence, in his house, in his private studio, learning from him, picking his brain. He made me want it even more,” Malissa says. The next step for Malissa is searching out that one song that will put her on the U.S. charts. “A lot rides on this. If it doesn’t hit by a certain time then we really don’t have the money to go further,” she says. If it hasn’t happened within another year, the plan is to “step back, regroup, save up some more money, and rethink my stratStory continues on page 24
practicing law and leading Old Harrisonian Society
fter graduating sixth form at Harrison College, Tammi Pilgrim was one of only a handful of students accepted into the law faculty of the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill. While studying, she represented the region at the prestigious Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court competition, and was judged one of the top oral advocates.
Tammi went on to the Hugh Wooding Law School where she won the Peterson Lambert Peterson & Co. prize for the Best Performance in Evidence and Forensic Medicine and graduated on the principal’s roll of honour.After excelling academically, Tammi began her legal career. “My initial introduction to practice was in the area of civil litigation, followed by quite a bit of succession law, conveyancing and residential mortgages and corporate finance work. Commercial litigation is my main focus now.” Now 30 years old and an Associate at Lex Caribbean Attorneys-at-Law, Tammi tells Young Professionals that “there is never a dull moment. The work is varied and sometimes requires intense research into complex questions of law. I like challenges and I can be meticulous, so having to be alert and on my toes really appeals to that part of my personality.” Being at Lex Caribbean has exposed her, she says, “to a variety of complex and high quality legal matters,” and she has had the experience of interacting with clients from many parts of the globe: from Canada to Hong Kong to the UK. Tammi acknowledges that she has been “blessed” to have been hired by a reputable law firm “fresh out of law school.” But after being given advice by a female colleague that, in the colleague’s experience, her gender could put her at a disadvantage, Tammi says she took that advice to heart. “I would have to work harder and just be better at what I do.” As a young woman of Vincentian and Bajan heritage, and having gone to school and worked with people from widely varied backgrounds, Tammi feels she can make a measurable contribution as a lawyer at the regional level. “The legal focus of my career might also evolve. It’s a very exciting time for me,” she muses. The effects of the current economic climate haven’t gone unnoticed by Tammi, even as a person in a profession that is in high demand by government, businesses and private clients alike. “The recession, I think, gives professionals a real opportunity to take a serious look at how they deliver services and manage expectations and clients,” she explains. “Effective cli-
Attorney-at-law Tammi Pilgrim ent management and delivering a timely response to clients’ needs” are paramount to remaining competitive. She says that while we all recognize the significance of the state of the economy, “the difference will be reflected in how we all handle it or approach it.” She suggests that a creative approach is best, exploring and taking advantage of the subtle opportunities for expansion afforded when the economic landscape undergoes such a transformation.In addition to her career, Tammi heads the Old Harrisonian Society, a small registered charity that raises funds for her alma mater. She tells us that over the last two years the charity has made significant contributions, such as the complete renovation of the stone bench in the school’s Quadrangle,and donations to the Armstrong Fund, which helps students in need, and the charity has slowly been building its alumni network. 2013 marks the 280th anniversary of the school’s founding, and this has been the focus of the charity’s work. In April, they dedicated a plaque in honour of former student Albert “Tank” Williams, who went on to become master and headmaster of the school. “The administration block at the school was also renamed the Albert G. Williams Building at our insistence, with the approval of the board of management,” Tammi says. Tammi finds her job exciting and fulfilling, and says it has helped her grow immeasurably as a person. “It definitely opens your eyes to all manner of human behaviour. It has also absolutely honed my analytical skills. You learn to trust your instincts. Her advice to would-be lawyers is “enjoy doing it and you will never work a day in your life. It is still a noble profession and our behaviour should reflect that, whether you are fresh out of law school or have 40 years of post-qualification experience under your belt.” •
INBusiness • November 2013 • Page 22
building a social media consultancy
ocial media is fast becoming established as a vital part of the outreach and marketing of most consumer-driven businesses and Marisse Downie is basing her new business venture on helping clients get the most out of it.
a person-to-person basis.” Marisse describes “traditional” marketing as being a distant secondary focus of her company. Opened in 2010, MND Marketing has seen an increase in business over the last year. Social media, Marisse
“Social media is becoming increasingly important to any company’s marketing strategy. The crux of social media, whether most people realize it or not, is to make it more personal, and therefore it feels accessible,” says Marisse, CEO and social media director of MND Marketing. “It is not only a PR or marketing tool. It is increasingly valuable to customer service by allowing companies to address complaints, suggestions and compliments on
Social Media Consultant Marisse Downie (Photo credit: Gavin Hinkson) INBusiness • November 2013 • Page 23
explains, has a reach that is, in many cases, much greater than most traditional marketing schemes, and it is highly cost effective. She also employs tools such as Facebook pages and groups, online magazines and blogs, Twitter accounts and the like in developing strategies for her clients. Story continues on page 24
BEYOND PUBLISHING from p.14 France, Korea, Japan, Brazil, India and Argentina, the largest comic consumers in the world. Aspiring artists are welcome to sign a branding agreement and join the group, and therefore have access to the group’s contacts, printing and/or distribution. Currently, aside from Matthew, the group consists of co-managers and artists Nigel Lynch, Delvin Howell and Tristan Roach, and artists Julien Moseley, Jason Haynes, Andrew Blackman, Aguinaldo Belgrave, Andrew “Rivenis”
Blackman and Keil Hinds. One major difficulty that Beyond Publishing faces is the lack of a digital printing facility in Barbados that is affordable and can produce to international standard. For now this is outsourced, but Matthew says the artists themselves face the difficulty of a “lack of availability of quality art materials, including technology. We end up importing most, if not all, of our materials, which can be very expensive.” However, Matthew maintains that they have benefitted from the challenging
MARISSE DOWNIE from p.23 Marisse earned a B.Sc. in management from UWI, and has a total of over 10 years’ experience in the industry. Of those years, six and half were spent as a marketing manager for an offshore company in Barbados. “The most valuable lesson I learned from that experience is to know your worth. Never settle for less. And to seize opportunities.” When the recession hit the U.S. and companies were cutting employees “left, right and centre,” she recalls, she was laid off from her position at the offshore company. Marisse says she had difficulty finding a job she could be happy with, and so decided to open her own business. When she did her studies at UWI, she noted, email was the only form of social media there was, and when she was looking for way to make her business viable and cutting-edge, she realized that social media was an avenue that was worth exploring. “I took several webinars on social media marketing, because I really liked it. It was that simple.” She liked it so much that it became the main focus of her business. She faced difficulty at first sourcing clients in the face of the declining economic climate. “While most of people that I approached knew the value of marketing, initially they were skeptical of spending the dollars while their own business was slow,” she says. But having weathered the last few years of reOMAR ROBINSON from page 16 In-fusion’s past and current clients include CIBC First Caribbean Bank, Bliss, First Citizens Bank, the NCF, Prime Minister Freundel Stewart, and the Duke of Edinburgh Awards dinner, where they served Prince Edward and Princess Sophie.
Omar develops his own menus out of all original recipes and adapted dishes. He makes his own confit, bacon, pasta dough, and pastry dough among other things, and is adamant that “anything and everything I can make from scratch I absolutely will, any time.” He supports local farmers and producers, buying whatever he can from them. “I put myself into everything I serve. I absolutely believe you can taste it when a chef puts his soul into his food. It’s a language, an art, an expression of who you are. I’m a young business man, I’m passionate about my craft, and I’ve made mistakes. But from those experiences I’ve learned how to better run my business.” •
economy in that “it has forced us not to become complacent. We all work hard to realize this dream.” He says that the long term goal is to become the premier brand for Caribbean-themed comics, graphic novels and animation in the region. The response and growth of sales over the last few years has been encouraging. “Our motto has always been to make our business grow, and we are confident that we will become successful in the industry. In my experience in the Caribbean you sometimes have to show it can be done for people to believe you.” •
cession, Marisse has seen her enterprise steadily getting busier. “You can’t give up, you’ve got to keep pressing on,” she says. “This is a tough market to be competitive in since the use of social media and online marketing is becoming so widespread. But I believe my background gives me an edge as the majority of my experience has been marketing in the U.S., a much more competitive market than Barbados.” Aside from MND, Marisse is a luxury editor, focusing on Barbadian content, for Jamaque, a luxury lifestyle magazine based in Miami. “Social media brings your clients and customers into your personal space, which gives a sense of intimacy,” Marisse points out. “It is ironic that marketing done over the web creates a much more personal connection between business and consumer.” Marisse says she is very much aware of this fact as being the core of social media marketing, and she emulates it and encourages the same in her clients. “I let my personality shine through my business, whether it be a newsletter, blog post or creating content for my Facebook page. Your personality is unique to you and no one can copy that.” • MALISSA ALANA from page 21 egy. I can see and understand the very real struggle that those who don’t have a team behind them can go through. With the recession, not a lot of people want to take the chance to invest in an unknown. After the song is recorded we wait. We will launch it, and then shop it around, and pray for the best. We’ve all put in really good work, and, at the end of it all, at the very least, we can say we did all we could.” If things do take off for Malissa Alanna, she intends to give back. “I want to make Bajan musicians, a make-up artist, a photographer, a hair stylist, part of my team. I already have these people lined up! As much as I can, I want to give back to Bajans. They will get to experience things up there and make connections themselves.” She is also a spokesperson in Barbados for HIV Awareness, Diabetes, and victims of domestic abuse. “I believe I have a responsibility to give back, to empower as much as I can.” “Really good management” is needed to make connections, Malissa maintains. “I’ve been really lucky. But money is tight, things are becoming more and more difficult. Those investors on my team have been so instrumental, and I can only imagine those artists that don’t have that or the family support. My family has been behind me 110%, and I know I couldn’t have got this far without them.” •
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