Five local entrepreneurs recently shared their stories on their respective journeys toward starting their business, the challenges they faced and offered advice to budding and aspiring entrepreneurs. They were all a part of the Rotoract Club of East Nassau’s 5th annual Entrepreneurship Panel entitled: “Entrepreneurship: The Leap of Faith”.
Alexandra Maillis-Lynch, managing partner and caterer at Events By Alexandra, the Nassau-based full-service event planning and catering company noted that a tremendous amount of hard work and an enormous amount of passion went into launching her business. Maillis-Lynch, one of the visionaries behind the highly successful annual Rum Bahamas festival, noted: “Cooking was my passion, a ferocious passion. I was was supposed to be a lawyer but cooking is my passion. As a mother I couldn’t see myself going into a courtroom and leaving little boys behind. I know that that may sound a bit provocative at this point in history but 25 years ago that was a choice. I started cooking to keep myself going and keep my children and husband fed. It just took off because of so much hard work. I can’t even say how much hard work went into beginning a catering company as well as an enormous amount of passion.”
Despite the success of the business Maillis-Lynch said that if she could do it all over again she would pay more attention to the business side of her operation. “I wish I had understood the business side of crunching the numbers and making sure I actually made money in the end. One accountant had said to me, ‘close your business you’re a walking charity’. I was very ashamed of myself. I have made progress on that end but not to the point where I need it to be.”
Looking back, Jarell Hall, the founder of the Bahamian-themed sock company Relish says that if he were to do it all over again, he would probably launch the business earlier than he did. Hall says that he started the company in his dorm while studying in China. “I had this idea maybe about a year before I even went to China. It was at the time I was working at Baha Mar. I had a pretty good job but as everyone knows things went south. It was during that time I came up with the idea. I ran it by a few close friends and co-workers and they said it was a great idea. After getting a scholarship to go to China to study I just pretty much kind of dropped it and focused on my studies. Maybe three weeks before I was scheduled to return home I just decided to go with it. So far we have been doing pretty well,” said Hall. Hall noted that established and budding entrepreneurs should understand that their personal effort is all they can truly control. “Effort is the only thing you can control. You can’t control time. What you put in is what you get out.”
Jason Kinsale, the president of Aristo Development, the developer of One Cable Beach, Balmoral and Thirty Six on Paradise Island also urged Bahamian entrepreneurs to be more consistent and understand the business that they are in. Bahamian born Kinsale who moved back to the Bahamas from Canada nearly two decades ago after becoming a victim of the ‘dot.com melt down’ argued that with so little competition in so many arenas, The Bahamas is ripe with entrepreneurial opportunities. “One of the things we really underestimate here is to be successful in the Bahamas all your have to do to get a start is to be on time, return phone calls and be proactive. If you can do that you’re well on your way. You would be amazed how many people shut can’t return a phone call or can’t answer an within eight hours. Some of the wealthiest people in the world that I deal with, billionaires answer within 10 minutes. If they can find the time you can as well.”
Lincoln Deal, CEO and founder of JetLink Adventures, the pioneer of hydro-jet products in the Bahamas urged aspiring entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams. “A lot of people are afraid to take the leap of faith, leaving a secure job for something they’re not to sure about. If you truly want something you a re going to purse it and work towards it, just like a degree or weight loss goals.”
Deal recounted his own journey to entrepreneurship, beginning with the ‘Dealzone’ an e-commerce/daily deal site. “The market wasn’t ready for it. Even though it didn’t work out the lessons I learned helped me to become a better entrepreneur when I pursued other businesses.
Even if the first idea doesn’t succeed it doesn’t mean that you are a bad entrepreneur.”
Deal noted that he had a passion for tourism from a young age. “I started to pursue Jetlink Adventures in 2012/2013. It took about three years to get it off the ground. I approached 17 investors, was rejected by two financial institutions and was rejected by the regulatory board on seven occasions. Deal ultimately had to take the issue to court to finally obtain a license to operate. “The reason I got into the business is because persons complain about the lack of adventures in the Bahamas and they are looking for things to do.”
“Interestingly 50 per cent of our employees came from Baha Mar, which had JetLink not come around might still be unemployed. Small businesses help our economy and take the burden off the government,” Deal noted.
Charles Johnson, owner of Crossfit Potcake urged aspiring and budding entrepreneurs to find themselves a mentor. “Find a mentor, you can save yourself a lot of time and sleepless nights. Sometimes it;s good to drop the ego and just ask questions. Learn from other peoples mistakes and see where they were successful.”
Johnson said that the fitness business ‘fell into his lap’, having worked for over 15 years as a TV producer. “The opportunity arose when they down sized the public service and they offered the package. I was one of those who never saw a years salary land in my lap. It was an opportunity to start a business. That was a bout eight years ago.”
“I’m into fitness. I used to be a body builder. I did personal training in the gym. In my spare time I used to train a lot. The government at the time started the Get Well Bahamas program. I was the head trainer of that program. I didn’t like the direction the program was going so I decided to branch out because I thought I could do it better. I saw that we had major issues in four country when it comes to our health. I started G-Fit boot camp. It was the first all female boot camp because I believe that If your a the life of a female you change the life of the family. The business really grew and I had absolutely no idea what business was all about. I got into cross-fit which is probably the biggest fitness industry in the world.”