For Dave Spencer, his business does not exist just for profit…it is a community-based business geared to satisfying the specific needs of his customers. Therefore, as he stocks his shop on Thursdays, he focuses on those needs.
And, the needs of the people in his community are simple: A variety of goods, in small quantities, at the most affordable prices.
“One person may come in and ask for a big gill of oil and another asks for half gill. Some will ask for chicken foot, chicken back, liver, mixed flour, sugar, candles, fish cuttings and so on. We do well with Frankfurters and eggs. Customers come in and want six frankfurters and eggs; however, they don’t buy them one time. Instead, they make six trips. They will come in and purchase half of bread or two slices of bread. We know and cater to their needs,” Mr. Spencer said.
He opened his wholesale at 192 ½ Orange Street in downtown Kingston last November to supply a canteen, which he operates at a health centre on Slipe Pen Road; however, he discovered a broader customer base than he envisioned. Today, the operation is structured to respond to his customer needs–from pricing to quantities and packaging.
For instance, Mr. Spencer prepackages the big of gill oil; he also measures it for persons who prefer to see the liquid being poured. A big gill is about five ounces or a little more than a quarter of a pint.
“My customers ask for a lot of things. Most are not able to purchase items in large quantities; and because we are a wholesale we try our best to facilitate them and also to keep down the price. We purchase our goods at a rate; therefore, we can sell it cheap. Even if someone wants one pound of sugar, we still sell them for the wholesale price,” he said.
Mr. Spencer’s idea for the wholesale emerged when he sought cheaper and more efficient ways to supply his canteen at the Comprehensive Clinic on Slipe Pen Road in St. Andrew. In the first few months, they stood outside the property and told passersby about the business. Gradually, the business grew and now the community benefits from wholesale prices, especially on weekends when the business is at its busiest.
“Whenever you do business, you have to research the needs of your community and look at the overheads. You don’t want to invest in something and are not sure where you want to go. Being in this area, we learned about the people and the needs of the community; and, therefore, we decided to set up the wholesale here. At first we thought of Portmore, but realised that it was too far from our other business; and that’s why we are here,” he added.
Mr. Spencer has always dreamt about owning his own business. So when the chance came in 1996, he did not hesitate to seize the opportunity.
“Starting my own business was always a passion,” said Mr. Spencer. “I felt I could contribute more if I had my own business, because that way you have control over what you want to do; and you can channel it in the direction where you want it to go,” he said.
Mr. Spencer, a trained chef with more than 30 years of food service experience, started the canteen after an accident forced him to go to a health centre.
“I had an accident in 1996 and I wanted to get medication, but could not afford it. There was a church sister there who said come down to the clinic on Slipe Pen Road where I could have access to the medication at a certain rate. When I went there they said they had a canteen and needed someone to operate it. We did not have the first cent to start it. The person who told me about the Health Centre actually gave us the first $7,500 to start it and that was how the canteen came about,” said Spencer.
Since he began operating the canteen, Mr. Spencer’s business has grown; and he has hired two additional persons bringing his employees to six. The wholesale also employed one person on a part-time basis on weekends. The expansion would not have been possible, however, if it were not for a JN Small Business Loan (JNSBL).
“The JN Small Business Loan was heaven sent,” he said, as he paused to help his wife Patricia with some items as she served a customer. “I was strapped for cash and needed money to grow the business. The money came at the right time; and I put all of it in the business, which has continued to grow.”
“I actually heard about JN Small Business Loans from the man who supplies me with chicken. I said that I was interested and he told me to try them,” Spencer said.
General Manager for JN Small Business Loans Philip Bernard lauded Mr. Spencer for his approach to his businesses.
“Mr. Spencer’s business acumen is very good. He understands his customers’ needs. The service he provides to patients and employees at the Comprehensive Health Centre is commendable and his operation is also a source of meaningful employment. His approach demonstrates that small businesses are indeed good for the development of our communities,” Mr. Bernard said.
Mr. Spencer in the meantime is planning to expand his offerings at his wholesale business.
“We find that many of our customers come home from work after we are closed. And, therefore, we are planning to open for additional hours. We also want to offer more items; however, we can’t do so because of our location, and the fact that we have to adhere to strict public health standards,” he said.
He also has plans for the canteen.
“We do catering from the canteen and we want to reach a point where we go to the location with our truck and prepare the food at the location, instead of transporting it there,” he said.