MANAGING director and co-founder of B’s Homemade Ice Cream, Katherine Bethel, has urged young business owners in the food and drink industry not to give up on their dreams despite the challenges they may face.
She was speaking at a conference held by the Supermarket Association and the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) in Chaguanas on Wednesday.
It was aimed at entrepreneurs to inform them of the supermarket requirements for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
She recalled the struggles she and her husband Andy endured when they just started making their business idea a reality.
She said they took a $3,000 loan from the Eastern Credit Union, made a cart and “formulated a product we thought was ice cream at that point in time…
“When we first took our product to Food and Drug, the feedback we got was ‘Aye, this is not ice cream you making, nah. There’s something called fat that is totally missing from this ice cream, so you have to go back and do your homework,'” she said laughingly.
Bethel said there are many challenges when it comes to being an entrepreneur in this field.
She recalled moving the cart around the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain to try getting sales but to no avail.
“So sometimes you might think, ‘Okay, this is a viable location,’ based on your perspective, and you might go to this location and set up and all of that.
“Hello? Three-dollar sales, one cone, two cones, sometimes nothing, rain falling, you packing up the cart, carrying it down and nothing.”
She recalled feeling like she was wasting her time with the idea especially as she was venturing from Barataria to Port of Spain daily.
“We said, ‘Wait, what about our community?'”
This, she said, led to her business becoming popular in East Trinidad.
“(Before this) we thought (maybe) the product wasn’t good.
“Sometimes when you pursue a product, you give someone a sample, somebody buys your product, they don’t buy it again, sometimes you get demotivated and demoralised on the product and you’re going to want to give up on it – don’t.”
She said it took about ten-15 years of rolling carts around communities for the business to really kick off and they began to distribute to supermarkets.
She said understating your product and the demographic you would like it to reach is very important.
“Don’t give up.
“It took some time but it also gives you a proud feeling…It’s a good feeling to overcome challenges and break glass ceilings.”
Supermarket Association president Rajiv Diptee said sessions such as these are crucial, as “food security is such a big issue across not just TT but the region.
“I get a lot of people who come to me and say, ‘Mr Diptee, how do I get my products on the shelves of supermarkets?'”
He said it varies, which is why he felt the session was a good idea, adding that the attendees would be hearing “good content” from the speakers.
It featured entrepreneurs and supermarket owners and officials.
CARIRI CEO Hans Erich Schulz said MSMEs play a “vital role in the economic growth of developing countries such as ours.
“In many studies, MSMEs, are seen as key actors in increasing the competitive and innovative capacity of countries and regions.
“At CARIRI, we have recognised this importance and our approach is holistic; combining advisory and technical solutions to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
He said the session would provide practical and valuable knowledge.
“As you sit in the audience, I ask that you listen, absorb, and react. I know you will have no trouble listening and absorbing but I want to speak on your reaction.
“When you leave here, create an action plan. Use the knowledge and advice gained here to chart your way from your current position to the supermarket shelf.”
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