J Mac Industries Ltd is ready to take over the world. The small family-based business from Orange Hill in Tobago is poised to start exporting its range of eco-friendly detergents and dishwashing liquids to the region, hopefully within the next two months. It's also eager to expand its market in Trinidad. After 25 years in business, the company is about to go through an economic metamorphosis.
It's an ambitious task but one that managing director Edward "Ted" Jones feels confident of accomplishing.
In April, J Mac was the first Tobago-based company to access Government’s grant fund facility. The fund offers a maximum of $250,000 to producers of export-oriented commodities. Jones told Business Day the company received just over $230,000 from the fund to expand its operations.
The money covers the purchase of filling, capping and labelling equipment, plus all the working parts.
The company has already tapped into the national market, when, on May 13, it started distributing two fragrances of hand soaps – Rosette and Ocean Spring – to Trinidad. This, Jones said, was a major breakthrough in the company's operations.
“Based on the reports from our distributor, Oscar Francois, things are going excellent,” an upbeat Jones said. “We launched with 6,000 hand soaps and we have already been asked to do another order.”
Jones said within the next three weeks, J Mac Industries is hoping to distribute its entire line of products to Trinidad. “Very interesting and exciting developments are afoot.”
The company, which has just eight employees, manufactures and distributes eco-friendly detergents and dishwashing liquid under the brand SupporT.
Presenting the grant to the company last month, Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon said: “Now, more than ever, TT requires the innovative thinking and foresight of the business community to secure this country’s present and future economic success.”
J Mac Industries has also benefited from several government programmes, including the Tobago House of Assembly business development unit loan programme, funding from the Venture Capital Equity Fund Company Ltd and export training by ExporTT.
Jones said the grant will assist the company to enhance its output.
"This grant will certainly assist in increasing our capacity from the current 100 cases per day to maybe triple that output," he said.
It will also help the company become more efficient in meeting demand. "We expect that in two months we should be the little engine that could and start supplying our Caribbean neighbours with a line of products in which we can be all proud."
Jones acknowledged the covid19 pandemic has affected the company’s ability to meet the increased demand for their products.
“I cannot deny it. The covid19 pandemic has impacted everyone, including our clients and potential clients.”
On the other hand, the pandemic has provided an avenue to retool, revise, realign and recommit to the life that must exist post-covid19, he said.
“So, I am trying to look past the pandemic.”
Jones said the company has coped by “listening to the heart of the people, their desires at this time and how we can be relevant to their needs.”
He is optimistic the company would survive.
Living up to expectations
Jones said he is both amazed and grateful that J Mac Industries Ltd has been able to access the fund.
"There are several emotions. I feel proud to have belled the cat. I feel humbled because there are so many businesses on the island that I personally look up to and have received hours of counsel. I also feel a little bit afraid because I know many people are expecting me to do well."
Jones said he is also grateful to have won the approval of the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the staff at ExporTT.
J Mac Industries was established in 1995, but Jones has been mixing chemicals and detergents since the age of 12.
The company spent many years serving Tobago’s hospitality sector. "But because of the impact of the SupporT brand, which was developed for the retail sector, we have been forced to 'grow up.'" In 2019 it became a limited liability company.
Jones regards the detergent manufacturing business as one of the most important arms of the chemicals industry.
"The business of detergent manufacture is extremely exciting as now more than ever technology allows for so much to happen, both from an environmental perspective and a personal care angle."
The former Bishop’s High School student said while there is a market for his product, he believes how a business is operated opens up opportunities in the same market.
He recalled his Bishop's High geography teacher Noel Sosa once said: “Yes, it may be crowded where you are now but there is plenty of room at the top.”
Sosa’s words, he said, have stuck with him over the years.
“This has been my lifelong position…produce a product that is so good, so strong so wonderful and caring for your hands that they will always love you. They will always make room for you.”
Jones said the company’s success did not come easy but is the result of years of diligence, sacrifice and determination.
“Business is never easy. I have been through times of great loss, embarrassment coupled with trials of my faith. Notwithstanding all of this, I would never see myself doing anything else.”
Since its inception, the company has had challenges with cash flow and acquiring raw material; added to that, the problems on the inter-island seabridge over the years also caused major setbacks. He said dealing with commercial banks has also been extremely difficult.
“I don’t blame them now because they are simply not designed or willing to deal with fledgling businesses. They don’t have that appetite. I wish it were different but that’s the way it is.” On the flip side, he said getting the products out to the market continues to be his greatest joy in business.
Jones considers last year’s road show at Trincity Mall one of his crowning achievements.
The show, Jones said, put on by the THA’s Division of Community Development, Enterprise Development and Labour, allowed the company to attend the Expo Caribe Trade Show in Cuba.
“My eyes were opened to world demands for products with unique attributes.”
A month later, J Mac Industries was also part of a contingent of Tobago entrepreneurs who attended the 2019 Trade and Investment Convention.
Jones has never been afraid to dream.
“(Apple co-founder) Steve Jobs once said, ‘The persons crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are usually the people that do.' You can’t serve people properly if you don’t love them properly.” Staying connected with people is also important. He advised young entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams.
“Don’t ever give up, take advice wisely. People who do nothing have the best advice as to why nothing should be done.”