EXECUTIVE Director and Co-Founder of B’s Homemade Ice Cream, Katherine Bethel, has urged young business owners in the food and beverage 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 about the supermarket requirements for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
She recalled the struggles she and her husband Andy went through just starting to make their business idea a reality.
She said they took out a $3,000 loan from Eastern Credit Union, built a cart, and “formulated a product that at the time we thought was ice cream …
“When we first took our product to Food and Drug, the feedback we got was, ‘Yeah, that’s not ice cream you’re making, no. There’s something called fat that this ice cream is totally lacking in, so you have to go back and do your homework,'” she said, laughing.
Bethel said there are many challenges when it comes to being an entrepreneur in this space.
She recalled driving the car through Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain to try to get sales, but to no avail.
“Sometimes you might think, ‘Okay, that’s a viable place,’ based on your perspective, and you might go to that place and set everything up.
“Hello? Three dollar sale, one bag, two bags, sometimes nothing, rain falls, you pack up the cart, carry it downstairs and nothing.”
She recalled feeling like she was wasting her time with the idea, especially as she ventured daily from Barataria to Port of Spain.
“We said, ‘Wait, what about our community?'”
This, she said, led to her business becoming popular in eastern Trinidad.
“(Before) we thought (maybe) the product wasn’t good.
“Sometimes when you follow a product, you give someone a sample, someone buys your product, they don’t buy it again, sometimes you get demotivated and demoralized by the product and you’ll want to give it up — don’t.”
She said it took about 10 to 15 years for the business to really take off rolling carts through communities and they had started supplying to supermarkets.
She said it’s very important to underestimate your product and the audience you’re trying to reach.
“Do not give up.
“It took a while, but it also gives you a sense of pride… It feels good to meet challenges and break through glass ceilings.”
Supermarket Association President Rajiv Diptee said meetings like this are crucial as “food security is such a big issue not just in TT but in the region.
“I get a lot of people coming up to me and saying, ‘Mr Diptee, how do I get my products on the supermarket shelves?'”
He said it varied, which is why he thought the session was a good idea, adding that attendees would hear “good content” from the speakers.
It included entrepreneurs, supermarket owners and civil servants.
Hans Erich Schulz, CEO of CARIRI, said that MSMEs play a “vital role in the economic growth of developing countries like ours.
“In many studies, MSMEs are seen as key players in increasing the competitiveness and innovative capacity of countries and regions.
“At CARIRI, we recognize this importance and our approach is holistic; we combine consultative 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 you to listen, record and respond. I know you will have no problem listening and recording, but I want to talk about your reaction.
“When you leave here, create an action plan. Use the insights and advice here to find your way from where you are to the supermarket shelf.”