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Success stories

The path of the entrepreneur is never smooth and is certainly not for the feint hearted.   Andrew Gray, of Gray’s Pepper Products Ltd, based in Westmoreland, will be the first to tell you that this path is rocky, steep, and that when at times it appears to be level; it can quickly turn into rugged terrain.    For this reason, he is very careful to identify and address the opportunities and risks of the immediate, medium and long term.  This foresight has kept the company on sure footing by capitalizing on services and products offered by the EXIM Bank. “EXIM provided working capital which allowed us to purchase excess pepper to carry us through the “famine” periods when local pepper supply was low,” Mr. Gray said. 
           
The factory is able to process one million pounds of pepper per annum and is the second largest agri-business of its kind in Jamaica. “We have a first world operation in Jamaica and our processing plant is fully automated.   By upgrading our operations, we were able to become a more reliable and consistent supplier of finished products,” Mr. Gray shared.  To get to this remarkable point Mr. Gray accessed working capital loans under the Bank’s Co-Pack facility, used largely to purchase raw material. Today, agro-processors like Gray’s Pepper Products, can access similar Jamaica Dollar loans, both short and medium term, at rates as low as 10% p.a. 
    
In over 43 years of operations, the company has developed premium and world famous sauces including: Gray’s Spicy Sauce; Grays’s Habanero Pepper Sauce and Gray’s Hot Pepper Sauce.  The brand has won local and international awards, including the Mande Selection Competition in 1982. The factory’s lab is also approved by the Bureau of Standards to test its own products.
           
Although, there is much to be proud of, Mr. Gray cautions, “We still have our challenges but with the continued help from EXIM we expect to overcome. We are aware that we cannot afford to become complacent so are at all times looking to further modernize our plant to become more competitive globally.”   He encourages entrepreneurs to talk with EXIM Bank even when they do not think their balance sheet is attractive.
            “I qualified for an EXIM loan during a period when we were operating at a loss.  Yet they were willing to work with us. I appreciate the fact that they are not carte blanche about how they analyze clients’ situations but deal with each on a case by case basis.  This is important because entrepreneurs need that kind of flexibility.”

Designs by Marc Limited plans to expand its Kingston facility to suit the demand which has been directed to the 21-year old Jamaican company in the manufacturing sector. The investment intended will employ up to 30 more persons to its current complement of 100.

While that investment is important to the company they also have plans to secure new equipment and set up a state-of-the-art cutting facility to enhance the business to be able to stay on the cutting edge.

The company’s clientele is largely local but supplies heavily to the Tourism linkage industry, qualifying them as an exporter, thus eligible for loan facilities from the EXIM Bank of Jamaica. They have been a client for just over ten years.

Securing of raw material is critical to a company in the manufacturing industry, specifically the textile industry. That is what Designs by Marc is suggesting; and to be able to afford financing to secure this raw material for business to turn over at a fast rate makes life much easier.

"The equipment at the Kingston facility is among the most current, but there is always room for newer models. We hope within the next year to expand this facility not just for newer equipment, but also to provide storage of raw material," added Frankson.

"Coming back to EXIM Bank was easy, because the loan process was fairly simple," said Marc-Maurice Frankson. He added that "the Bank has been very helpful over the years and we feel secure with them as partners."

The company supplies top of the line uniform to small, medium and large companies across the island and would always be willing to secure more companies to its already loyal list. The manufacturing company employs approximately 100 people, with more than 80 per cent in Kingston, while a small plant exists in St. Mary.

A senior employee at the company suggests "our delivery is on par, our quality is top-of-the-line and we avoid the risks as much as possible, to satisfy the needs of our customers. What has helped our ability to deliver is the loan facility provided by the EXIM Bank to ensure we get material way before time to meet the demands of the market."

Designs by Marc underscores the value of attending trade shows and has gotten great leads from local shows like Expo Jamaica; but attends shows overseas to focus on new ideas, look at new equipment and machinery to "stay ahead of the game."

New and Improved Technology

Some improvements the company will make in the near future include acquisition of new and improved technology to build the capacity to cater to more customers locally and to reach out in a more serious way to Caribbean and even international customers. "So far we have been able to fulfill the demand we have and we are proud to be able to deliver on or before time and taking a serious look at diversifying its services to customers," says Marc Frankson.

"We are thankful for the service from the EXIM Bank and we look forward to doing even more business with the Bank," says Frankson.

Designs by Marc as part of its mass production does its own cutting, sewing, embroidery, packing and sophisticated packaging.

Growth

"We have experienced steady growth over the last ten years, and it has been largely facilitated by the loyalty of our customers. We are sure with our record of performance; we will grow consistently for the next five to ten years. With efficient financing with partners like EXIM Bank, we anticipate we will be able to improve."

Charles Lewis, Chief Officer, Credit indicated that "in a declining local garment industry where companies are faced with several challenges the credit facilities which Designs by Marc has accessed, helps them to remain competitive and relevant."

Flexpak – Flexing Plastic Muscles
When we go to the supermarket, the wholesales, the marts and other stores, as we cash out and collect out things, they are usually placed in a plastic bag.  Not many of us think about this necessary product, it is just a plastic bag afterall.  However, like any other product we consume, it has to be manufactured. Similarly are the wrappings on our favourite foods. Flexpak Limited is one of Jamaica’s leading manufacturers of plastic materials in Jamaica.

Flexpak Limited has been in business since May 10, 1999 and is now one of Jamaica's largest manufacturers of plain and printed polyethylene and polypropylene film and bags.  At that time operations was housed at the Garmex Free Zone location on Marcus Garvey Drive.  Flexpak moved to its current address in Twickenham Park, Spanish Town approximately seven years ago.

This move meant more space, higher demands for production and more job creation.  The owners and operators of Flexpak could not make this happen on their own, so they turned to the most natural partner The EXIM Bank.  The EXIM Bank provided them with US dollar loans which assisted in buying new machinery that would make them more efficient hence giving them the ability to compete on a higher level in the local market place.

Flexpak services only local companies directly which include; Reggae Jammin, Best Dressed Chicken, Chippies Banana Chips and COK to name a few. David Hoyow, Managing Director, believes that they are a success because of the quality of the products they offer, the fact that no job is too small, they have carefully chosen the right staff members and they were smart enough to partner with the EXIM Bank.  Hoyow believes that of all the other financial institutions they could have approached he is pleased that they choose The EXIM Bank because they have that extra finesse and the bank has contributed significantly to the growth of the company and assisted them in coming close to getting their dream machine, this is he says with a light chuckle.

“They (EXIM Bank) always found a way to make it work, while other institutions make the process seem difficult the EXIM Bank seemed to remove stumbling blocks and they actually appeared to want to help rather than just provide a loan from which they would collect interest.” This according to Hoyow.  “The bank has given us the confidence we need to plan for the future in that, even during this time of recession we are able to, after some restructuring, offer our present staff some amount of job security, as we continue to make our mark in our area of business.’ ‘oh, by the way,’ Hoyow continues, ‘we are presently in the process of getting another machine with the help of the EXIM Bank.’

Flexpak Limited, though it is in the business of making plastic film and bags is aware of the damaging effects their products have on the environment and has decided to lead the way in providing an alternative in its manufacturing, in the form of oxibiodegradable plastics which it now offers to its clients as an option.
Charles Lewis, Chief Officer Credit for the EXIM Bank says that over the years they have developed a strong relation with Flexpak that transcends business. “We are truly partners” says Lewis.

International Ackee Market Completely ‘Canned’

It is an integral part of our national dish, without the ackee there would be no ackee and saltfish, but most Jamaicans living in Jamaica cannot conceive of eating ackees from a tin.  This is a luxury we are allowed to enjoy because we live here and probably have an ackee tree in our backyard. However, for those Jamaicans who live outside our beautiful shores, they can still enjoy our national dish thanks to CANCO, the leading exporters of canned ackees to the Caribbean, US and the UK.
Born out of a need to help Jamaicans feel closer to home, CANCO limited has been in operation for over twenty-four years.  In 2005 however, it was decided to market the brand under the name Linstead Market Jamaica.  The market for ackee has increased significantly over these twenty-four years and according to Norman McDonald, Chairman and Owner, not just the Diaspora, but foreigners have developed an insatiable appetite for our local delicacy.
With the provision of pre-shipment financing, other working capital support and refinancing, the EXIM Bank, according to McDonald really made for a true partner in making the business and his dream a success.  “From the security guard, to the receptionist, to the Managing Director, provided exceptional service.  I was amazed, the bank is staffed with the very best, from the top to the bottom.” He said this with great sincerity.
When asked why they are a success story, Norman says ‘ aside from the local and Us dollar financing we received from the EXIM Bank, it’s because of hard work and high standards, in the products we export as well as high standards in how we treat our employees.’  So dedicated are the staff members that even during a hurricane they refused to go home as they ‘nah mek Mr. Mc ackee spoil”. This dedication can only come from a positive reciprocity between management and staff.
In the high season there are no set working hours at the CANCO factory and a regular workforce of sixty goes up to over two hundred.  All suppliers  are local as such this company provides earnings not just for the canners inside the factory but from the large ackee farms to the little man on the bicycle who brings bags of ackees on the handle bars.
In case you are on your way out of the country and you didn’t manage to get your line of products from Linstead Market Jamaica no need to worry as there is a kiosk in the airport. ‘We have been getting requests from our kiosk to supply them with a wider variety of goods, and as such our product range has widened significantly.  Yes we are known for our ackees, but we also do jams, soups, hot pepper sauces, canned breadfruit and so much more,’ this according to Dorothy Ramsay, Managing Director.
Ms. Ramsay says the variety of soups and jams are a huge hit on the overseas market and much more local marketing will be done very soon so that local consumers can taste of the fabulous delicacies that are the brand Linstead Market Jamaica.
‘As well as our products have been doing over the years, none of this sustainable success would have been possible without the EXIM Bank. EXIM Bank has been a savior for us as they understand what they are doing as well as being understanding.’ Norman says with a smile, and Dorothy concurs. “It is because of this continued support that we are able to fill orders on a timely basis, get paid when our orders are shipped, lower interest rates and provide job security for our staff members.”
According to Charles Lewis EXIM Bank, Chief Officer for Credit, “Norman and Dorothy are personable, hardworking individuals who are easy to sit and talk with, they know what they want, and as such their businesses’ success was inevitable.”

S. N. Kraft Limited is a growing woodcraft manufacturing operation located in Banbury District, Linstead, St. Catherine.  “It is doing tremendously well.  The owners are committed and persevering,” says Charles Lewis.  He says he knew the company was set for success from his first visit years ago.  “These people knew what they were doing.”  ‘These people’ are the husband and wife team of Norris and Sonia Henry along with their daughter Keri-Ann and sons Norris Jnr.  whose team woodcraft items can be purchased in several islands throughout the Caribbean.

S. N. Kraft represents the kind of entrepreneurial success that makes EXIM Bank sure that our mission to build viable sectors and boost employment is well worth it.  Started 17 years ago, S. N. Kraft produces woodcraft souvenirs.  The product portfolio features fine craftsmanship and creative, one-of-kind designs including wall clocks, refrigerator magnets, wall plaques, fruit baskets and key rings.  The company focuses on manufacturing leaving the distribution strategy to exports who have secured entry into noted craft outlets and airport stores.  With special lines for each of its island markets, the company now exports to Antigua, Trinidad, St. Kitts and is set to expand into Barbados and the United States

While Henry’s family woodcraft business is performing well now, this did not happen overnight.  Expanding the business required steady capital investment, and, according to Managing Director Norris Henry, the company’s early interaction with EXIM Bank came through the Jamaica Exporters Association (JEA) when they accessed the JEA/Ex-Bed Facility, which provides financing at 12% interest to small and medium sized companies in the productive sector.

EXIM Bank’s financing has served to help the company streamline its operations and become more efficient.  “S. N. Kraft does a lot of graphics and the copies are placed on the wood itself.  We used to outsource the copying to unreliable suppliers but with the EXIM facility we were able to purchase our own printing machines.  It has made quite a difference in terms of our efficiency, quality and flexibility,” explained Norris.  The company even offers customised items for its diverse clientele, which includes schools, corporate entities and churches.

EXIM’s philosophy, which according to Charles Lewis, is to “lend to any viable project that can demonstrate its ability to service the loan and meet the bank’s requirements” has certainly come to life in its association with S.N. Kraft Limited.

Kool Runnings Water ParkWhy do the words Sweet Potato, Dasheen and Guava Jelly hold special meaning for EXIM Bank? These are three themed restaurants at the new Kool Runnings Water Park in Negril, partially financed by the Bank. Billed as the “Greatest Chill under the Sun”, Kool Runnings water Park features 10 water slides over five acres in one of Jamaica’s most popular resort towns.

Dr Garfield Munroe, the attraction’s Creative Director, says that since its soft launch in February 2007, the Park has been doing well. “Visitors are happy; it meets their expectations and provides good entertainment value.” Of course, good entertainment invariably means good food and, thanks to EXIM Bank financing, guests may indulge at any of the three restaurants, as well as at the Blendz juice bar.

Of the decision to approve financing, Charles Lewis, Chief Credit Officer at EXIM Bank says, ‘We had a natural interest in this project as we strongly believe that Jamaica needs more attractions to diversify its tourism product.”

When Dr Munroe (who is also the Development Consultant for the project) and his team approached the EXIM Bank, they were armed with a comprehensive business plan and had already made significant headway with the water park project. EXIM considered the team’s expertise during their assessment of the project and within four weeks of investigation and verification,disbursement was approved. The medium-term loan was granted under the Modernisation Fund Programme with a 12% interest rate.

EXIM’S strategic focus on being a customer-centric organization resulted in the timely release of funds. When the developers were faced with project delays, EXIM Bank put an accommodating hand forward, granting an extension to the moratorium period.

With a brand new attraction, happy guests and an affordable loan, Kool Runnings can be classified as a satisfied client. Of their dealings with the EXIM Bank, Garfield Munroe affirms, “We certainly had a smooth experience. They were responsive and came through within a short timeframe. They are better than big organisations. We really appreciate that.