Small businesses make big difference on Essequibo Coast

Kaieteur News
April 8, 2007

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The old adage says “good things often come in small packages,” and that is certainly proving true for residents in Region Two (Pomeroon/Supenaam), who rely heavily on a number of small businesses to meet their consuming needs.

In a modest establishment at Anna Regina and Nightingale Street on the Essequibo Coast, one can find a variety of locally made and foreign food items, along with a variety of cakes, cassava pone, pastries and of course, flavoured fruit juices.

Established in 1990, Fraser's Enterprise, owned and operated by Anthony Fraser, serves the Anna Regina and Mainstay areas.

He hadn't much choice, being the eldest of six siblings and coming from a single parent family. Fraser played a major part in assisting to make ends meet on a daily basis. He began making and selling pastries and local fruit juices in order to assist his mother and younger siblings in the afternoon.

According to Fraser, the most popular item was the sponge cakes.

“A lot of people go for the cakes,” he said.

The march towards entrepreneurship started in a unique way for Fraser because he is one of few men to have started out selling cakes and pastries, something that is considered a female dominated occupation.

Over the years, with perseverance Fraser has been able to move from a road side “sweetie stand” to a diverse retail shop.

“I started on my own by making pasties and selling locally made fruit juices in a little tray in the afternoons,” Fraser stated.

However, he credits Shirley Fraser, his now deceased mother, who encouraged him to expand his business into a more diversified grocery shop.

Today, Fraser purchases groceries on a large scale which he resells.

As business improved, he installed a freezer to keep his locally made fruit juices cold and fresh. To date, he has seen a drastic improvement in sales, but lamented that one of the main challenges faced is the inconsistency of sales.

He factored the inconsistencies largely because of the introduction of the 16 percent Value Added Tax (VAT).

Other challenges include the rapid migration of people from the coast to Barbados and the United States.

Fraser, who is a devout Christian, says he owes his success to God and feels that “because he is determined to maintain good standards and present quality goods, the future holds well.”

In another section of Region Two, within a stone's throw from the Adventure Ferry Stelling on the Essequibo Coast, lies a business enterprise that has been in existence for over 25 years.

Kowsal Latchman owns the small shop and operates a snackette, retailing alcoholic beverages, snacks, soft drinks, confectioneries and non-alcoholic beverages, among other items.

He said that it is a family business which was founded by his father a quarter century ago and although the entity experienced some difficulties through the years, it has endured and its survival is proof of its durability.

Among the difficulties the proprietor mentioned were the late arrival of the ferry on many occasions and its late departure.

These delays cause many passengers to become frustrated and they often fall asleep in the shop until the boat arrives or departs.

However, on the positive side, he said, the delays result in increased sales because the waiting passengers make purchases mainly of snacks and non-alcoholic beverages for their children.

General sales are crucial for the sustainability of the business, he said, because although the profit margin is not too high, the volume of sales keeps the enterprise afloat.

When asked what improvements he has introduced to the business over the years, Latchman said that there was a massive expansion programme which included extensive rehabilitation to the entire building with modern toilet facilities being installed for the comfort of his customers.

He pointed out that at the time other shops in the vicinity only provided outdoor latrines which many females were not comfortable with.

The extension resulted in the former small shop being expanded into the river.

The owner said that this is the only type of business he has ventured into, and is not too keen on switching his career path.

The shop has provided community services to the traveling public with the crucial aspect being shelter for residents from far-flung communities like Charity and other areas in the Pomeroon and Lake areas.

“In general, I am satisfied with our performance, with our contribution to the public and with what the future holds for us. Many people pass through here using the ferry day and night and during the trice weekly midday service, business is at a premium,” Latchman stated.

In these times when many businesses face major economic difficulties, Latchman's story is an inspiring testimony to what can be achieved through hard work, dedication and commitment to serve the public.

Both Latchman and Fraser are examples of Guyanese making major contributions in small, tangible ways.