The covid19 pandemic has cast a long shadow. Companies big and small have struggled to cope with the slowdown in general activity, prompting established brands to rethink their business models and find new ways of adapting to the current climate.
At a time when global economies have been reeling, opening a business might not seem feasible for many.
But for 24-year-old David Hartman, the timing couldn’t be better, as he is determined to provide for himself, while giving back to his community during the pandemic.
A Morvant native, Hartman has always toyed with the idea of opening his own grocery but only took it seriously with the birth of his daughter, Shannon, seven years ago. He was further motivated to continue with his plans as a tribute to his mother, Audra Rochford, who died last January.
Speaking with Business Day at his store at Marie Road, Morvant, last week, Hartman, who also works as a funeral home assistant, said while the journey to owning and running his own business has not been easy, it is a necessary step towards becoming more self-sufficient.
“I wanted to have a separate stream of income that would supplement my salary. I wanted to be able to provide something for my daughter and my family after I was gone.
“This is something I was contemplating for a while and when I finally made up my mind to go through with it, it took me four years to finally complete it.”
Hartman opened his grocery, Head and Hart Mini Mart on August 7, the birthday of his late mother, the woman he credits for his work ethic, who encouraged him to go into business for himself.
To finance this dream, Hartman saved large portions of his salary and took on private jobs delivering food for eight months, sacrificing short-term luxuries like vacations and parties to build his store.
"It was something worth doing. It made more sense for me to invest this money into something that could actually benefit my family and me in the long run, rather than just waste it on liming or drinking.”
But financial constraints are just one of the hurdles Hartman would face trying to get his business up and running.
As a funeral-home worker, Hartman is often called away from home at unusual hours to remove bodies. He is also responsible for assisting the relatives of the deceased in planning funerals, a task that can be both physically and emotionally exhausting.
“It is tiring, but I see it as something I have to do. If I can find time to work for someone else, then on afternoons I have to come home and find time to work for myself. It can be a little hectic but it’s definitely worth it.
"I’m confident that I will eventually reach a stage where I can relax and enjoy what I’ve struggled to build.”
Throughout the planning and execution of all his ideas, Hartman’s wife of a year, Alanda, has supported his ambitions, acting as his adviser and offering a fresh perspective on his ideas and suggestions on how to maximise profitability.
She said, “Opening the mini mart was something he spoke about a lot and he was very determined to do just that, even though it took him a while before he could actually put it in motion.
“The journey was quite an exciting one and also had its ups and downs. It took a lot of sleepless nights, it even took a toll on our relationship, because of the extra hours he had to put in, which meant that we saw less of each other.
"But with God on our side, we made it and in the end it was all worth it,” she said.
Serving the community
Along Marie Road, where Hartman’s home and businessplace are located, businesses are few and far between. The nearest mini-mart is five minutes down the steep hill.
While it might be an easy trek for younger residents, it can be challenging for some of Hartman’s older neighbours. Seeing a need to fill the void in his community, he decided it would be best to open a mini-mart.
This focus on the needs of his customers has prompted Hartman to be even more accommodating now that more stringent public health regulations have been implemented. He now offers home delivery services to residents who are uncomfortable about leaving home.
“Customers can WhatsApp me their grocery list so I can pick it up in store and deliver it to their homes." He goes even further. "If their list has an item that I don’t carry in my store, I will get it from another store and the customer can reimburse me on delivery.
“Trying to facilitate my customers and make them as comfortable as possible is a top priority for me and I know it will pay off,” he said.
In this way Hartman’s mini-mart is more than just a means of making extra cash. It is a way of reminding his community that through the difficulties of the pandemic, he is still by their side, an example he hopes other young Morvant residents can follow.
“I want other young people to know they can be successful without doing anything illegal. No investment in yourself is a bad investment.
"If you want to open a business, don’t wait for the pandemic to finish, don’t wait for the perfect opportunity – because there will never be a perfect time to do anything.”