For first-timers entering the business world, the chances of success are always 50-50. Lack of experience, coupled with a virtually non-existent reputation, makes it difficult to break into an industry with established names.
For Shanice Beckles, the idea of being a fresh face can only mean success as she seeks to distinguish herself as a young innovator in the shipping and logistics industry.
Despite being new to the shipping game, 25-year-old has amassed some modest success as one of the youngest and the most efficient shipping owner in TT.
The founder and CEO of Bawse Shipping Ltd, Beckles has a little over a year’s experience at the helm of her own company, with a growing clientele, she has her eyes set on building her own logistics empire.
Speaking with Business Day recently, Beckles said the journey from customs clerk to shipping manager has been a challenging one, but while entrepreneurship can be difficult, it is a fulfilling path.
She originally considered nursing as a career, but quickly changed her mind after a chance internship at a shipping and logistics firm when she was 19.
“I used to see how the shipping agents worked and operated and I was always intrigued at what they did.
“I used to always ask how certain aspects of the business worked and I was intrigued. It wasn’t a passion of mine at first but it was something I felt I could do.”
Eager to become part of this industry, Beckles began as an apprentice with a more established shipping company which showed her the ropes.
After working as a customs clerk for two years under her mentor and learning the law as it relates to shipping and logistics, she felt it was time to take the next step.
With the support of her family, Beckles started her company last June, taking the first steps as a businesswoman, learning valuable lessons along the way: “Simple things like being able to have patience and relate to your clients on a human level makes all the difference in this business.”
In the past year, she has gained five clients, whose products vary greatly, forcing her to sharpen her skills as an entrepreneur and a saleswoman for her company.
“I clear goods for companies whose products range from oilfield equipment to appliances, tyres and even vehicles, so there’s a certain level of trust that goes into line of work. Every transaction is a personal promise to my client that I can and will get the job done.”
This principle of trust is the cornerstone of her job as a shipping manager. Entrusted with hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of goods every day, she has to guarantee the safe arrival of the cargo from port to warehouse.
In some ways trust is a currency of its own as it takes years to earn and can make or break a business. With this in mind Beckles, a young woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry has had to distinguish herself through her strong work ethic and business savvy to secure her clients' interest.
Yet she says her gender and age have not been a challenge in being able to secure prospective clients as her ability to deliver is what matters most.
“I let my work do the talking for me. I use social media as my primary means of marketing, but the reputation I’ve developed from my clients also goes a long way in developing future ties.”
The onslaught of the covid19 pandemic has severely affected several industries with forced closures and job cuts, but shipping is one of the few sectors that has escaped the fallout relatively unscathed.
Even as borders remained closed for tourist and returning nationals, the passage of goods and materials still continued in and out of TT, a testament to the importance of shipping and supply chains even in the face of a global pandemic.
Beckles said she has seen almost no noticeable changes to the industry since the outbreak of the virus but understands that as reliance on online shopping platforms has increased during the pandemic, there is a need for supply-chain services now more than ever.
According to TradingEconomics.com imports in TT rose to US$1,611.60 million in the third quarter of 2019 compared to US$1,472.60 million in the second quarter, to show that there is still enough room for small businesses to come in and set up shop.
With the exception of the occasional visit to the port, Beckles operates and co-ordinates her business mostly from her own home, using a laptop and a phone, but is planning to open her own office Port of Spain to better market her company to prospective clients.
“People believe in what they can see and touch, that’s why brick-and-mortar establishments are still very popular to so many people.
“Online services offers a level of convenience, but sometimes people just need the added feature of being able to see who they’re trusting their goods and money to, and there is no substitute for that.”
Similar to the story of many other large shipping companies with humble beginnings, Bawse Shipping is the beginning of what Beckles believes is a long story in her journey as a businesswoman and shipping manager as she dreams of opening a Miami office one day.
For Beckles, and many others, the covid19 pandemic has had one benefit in that it showed entire populations the weaknesses in traditional business practices, prompting younger, more tech-savvy innovators like herself to enter and flourish in niches that would have otherwise been unwilling to adapt to the change.