STARTING a business is no easy accomplishment, but hard works pays off, said Michelle Batson, owner and manager of Miche’s Signature Flavours.
The company specialises in and produces bottled local fruit wines and liqueurs, as well as pepper sauce.
Speaking to Newsday on Monday at the Shirvan Road, Tobago office, Batson said her food exploration business began two years ago and she is a sole trader. The 30-year-old mother of two lives in Mt St George and also works as a direct sale agent with Digicel.
The business name, Miche’s Signature Flavours, she said, came about with the help of a co-worker.
“We were brainstorming through different business names and finally came up with a name that was original but catchy.”
Batson, the holder of an associate degree in culinary arts from the Tobago Hospitality and Tourism Institute (THTI), said it was in culinary school her talents blossomed, and her business aspirations were realised.
“I would often make unique wines and have my classmates do taste-testing with and for me. Some would often buy products, lighting that entrepreneurial fire that led me to start my business."
Yearning to be always creative, a simple request to make a normal bottle of pepper sauce for a friend would often times turn into making a bottle of fruit-based pepper sauce and having that friend become a product critique.
"It was from those humble beginnings the business idea took off, and with time the range of flavours have grown to include, but is certainly not limited to, mango, guava and jack fruit.”
Her intent is to offer a wide variety of products to the TT food market, as she said her dream was always to become a chef. One of her biggest inspirations was TV chef and host Bobby Flay and chef Wolfgang Puck.
“After my internships I decided, while I love cooking, I would do better creating and selling my own products.
“I started my business because of the sheer love of creating unique flavours with wines and pepper sauces.”
Having registered the business in December 2017, Batson said at first the venture was self-funded then she quickly saw the need for more commercial equipment that would make her wine-making and pepper sauce-making process more efficient.
“With the assistant of a co-worker, I was able to apply for a grant with the THA BDU (Business Development Unit) which I was successful in receiving.”
She noted that some of the challenges she faces is balancing her 8-5 job and her family life, along with her business.
“Having just started up, my business is not yet self-sufficient, and as a result I have to keep my current job.
“Other challenges are marketing and making customers aware of the product to create more traction and bring in more revenue. But when a delivery is made, or a customer collects the requested product and its visible that I have met or surpassed their expectations, that is true joy.”
The benefit of being an entrepreneur, according to the mother of two, is being able to set her own work times, “and of course you enjoy 100 per cent of the revenue created by your business minus expenses.”
She operates out of her home, but also makes deliveries at some central locations.
Describing herself as creative, jovial and innovative, Batson said her goal is to get her products in supermarkets across TT, at the airports and to other countries.
Questioned as to her advice to young people who want to become entrepreneurs, Batson said: "Try that idea, as crazy it may seem to you and everyone around you, and don’t give up. Perceive having and owning a business.
Her greatest fear is making poor business decisions, not being able to be as creative and adapting to the times, as well as not being able to grow her business beyond this country.
The most satisfying moment in business for Batson, thus far, was her recent stint at the THA-hosted Tobago Road Show at Trinity Mall.
“The response from the Trinidad community towards our products was phenomenal and served as a great motivation to me to continue on the path that I have started.” Batson has given herself 15 years to see her business become a household name locally and in the region, while working to capture the international market.