Name: Craslyn Benjamin
Name of business: Benlar Foods Limited
Your job title: Chief Executive Officer
Age at which you started your business: 27
What do you think is the most important character trait in a successful entrepreneur?
Possessing the ability to work hard and maintain a level head. I have learnt that in running a business, for it to be successful, you must work hard to achieve your desired result. Running a business is risky, but one of my mantras in life is, “You can be, do or have ANYTHING you desire; you just have to work hard enough to get it”.
Identify one hardship that you experienced while building your business and how you overcame that.
Wow! Doing business in Jamaica is not easy, especially when your business involves farming. One of the hardships I experienced when I just started the business was getting proper access to capital funding. I went to my commercial bank excited about my plans to revolutionise our agriculture sector and my personal banker didn’t even look at my business plan. She literally shut down the idea by telling me it was too risky and furthermore, my account was only one year old and that I had to have an account with them for at least two full years to be even considered for a loan. I was really saddened by the response, but didn’t give up. My business partner and I pooled all the funds we had and invested with high hopes that we would be successful. With all our investment, we took on one big account and from there, were able to grow the business.
Earlier this year, my project was selected to be part of the Made of More Challenge (MOMEC) – the Branson Centre’s largest annual event to pitch for investment in the business. I didn’t win the competition, but I pitched for US$40,000 and got exactly that. That was a proud moment for me because I have grown so much through the Branson Centre and seeing the result of such growth was amazing …
How important were family/connections/relationships to your work’s success?
To be honest, the only real family support I have ever had is from my Grandpa, Clarence Benjamin. I believe he was sent in this lifetime as an angel of light to protect and care for me. There were times when I reached out to other family members but didn’t get the support that I needed. It was important that I had someone who believed in me. I grew up hearing “no, quit” often from most of my family and people around me, but my grandfather prayed for me a lot and I always wanted to make him proud. My business partner and confidant, Craig Larmond, also plays a critical role in the success of the business. His commitment and support is unquestioned. He believes in the vision and is supportive of my dreams and he inspires me to always be the best version of myself.
What advice would you give to youth considering starting entrepreneurial ventures in Jamaica?
My advice to entrepreneurs is “to do EXACTLY what you love”. The passion for what you really love will always flow naturally and that’s how true success comes. Also, never be afraid to disrupt an industry to bring your dream to life.
For the picture: Why did you choose this pic and what does it say about you?
Earlier this year in Oregon, I met a photographer, Indira Burke, who taught me that looking in the camera sends a message of confidence, and so, in this picture, not only do I look confident, but I feel confident.
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