A Tropical Village where it’s always ‘Good morning.’
One cannot help but admire 36-year-old mum-of-three, Althea Bennett. She has opened up a West Indian grocery store in north London, and has a lot of stereotypes to break.
“When I did my research, a lot of the feedback I would get is that the owners of these shops are so rude and don’t have any patience,” Althea said. People told her about the Caribbean shop up the road that had to close down; their shelves were too bare, prices too high, they opened too late, and closed too early.
Jamaican-born Althea determined, “Mine is never going to be anything like that.”
When she opened Tropical Village in Enfield’s Brick Lane last September, it quickly became a hit with locals. The warm and brightly decorated shop sells both groceries and takeaway foods, like patties, coco bread, buns and cakes.
“People say we’re polite and helpful, and they always come back. We made a point of saying ‘Good morning’ to the schoolchildren who come in, and now they all say ‘Good morning’. Some call us Aunty. They say, ‘I only have £1, can I bring in the other 5p tomorrow?’, and they always do.”
On the sticky point of price, she adds: “I find that I can set things at the same price as competitors, and some are even more expensive than we are. People comment on that.”
Althea graduated with a degree in Nursing, and then studied Health and Social Care, so she wasn’t always thinking of opening up a shop. Her venture came as a result of a casual comment made by her husband that there are not many Black people selling their own food in the community.
They found a prime location, and were about to sign the lease when disappointment hit… followed by Althea’s first lesson in trusting God in business.
“When that shop fell through, I was so devastated,” she said. “I now realise that if we had got it in that location, it wouldn’t have worked, as there was a bakery nearby selling a few of the things we wanted to sell. Here, we can sell everything. We are next door to a secondary school, and it’s the patties and coco bread that bring in most of the profit. Besides, the business rates would have been more expensive.”
Althea has since taken courses in business management, business finance and marketing, and has even found that her earlier qualifications in nursing and social care come in handy when it comes to delivering customer care.
She works Monday through Saturday, and employs one other person to help in the shop during the day. During the evening, her husband comes in to take over, so that she can go home to help the children – three girls: 13, 10 and 20 months – with homework, afterschool activities and getting to bed. That, says Althea, is the hardest part.
“My husband works late, so the kids are not seeing him at night,” she said. “But when it’s your business, it can’t be part time. It’s retail and we have just started, so we have to open longer. It is a big challenge, but I push to see it through. I thank God I am a Christian and a believer. Every obstacle is for a reason and turns me into a stronger person, and He does not give me more than I can bear. We have pulled together to be at this stage. It is nice to have something that’s yours.”
Tropical Village is located at 8 Brick Lane Lock, Enfield, Middlesex, EN3 5BA. Tel 020 3092 7127.
The importance of networking
Whatever business endeavour an individual undertakes, it’s important they are part of a network, that they are in relationship with people who can help them achieve their business/professional goals and engage in networking, ie. participate in activities that enable them to meet people who can become part of their network.
Some businesses fail to achieve the success they are capable of, because their owners and staff don’t make time to network.
If you run a business, it’s important to build and cultivate business relationships via networking, and become part of useful networks because, in doing so, you’ll increase your chances of being recommended for new business; learn about key developments and new initiatives within your industry, and find out about up and coming new business contracts.
Although you can network anywhere, it makes sense to join organisations designed specifically for the task, such as local chambers of commerce, business forums or attend events designed specifically for networking at industry events.
Networking is never a waste of time, because it can and does help generate new business.
Empowered Woman 2014 Conference: A Woman’s Sacred Calling
There must be a reason why you want to achieve. Perhaps among them is a desire to help younger women around you. If so, this one-day conference, organised by Empowered Woman, could help. Sessions include: Building Upward – Her Relationship With God – Salvation; Building Inward – Her Relationship with Herself – Wholeness; and Building Outward – Her Relationship with Others – Fruitfulness. Additional breakout sessions will tackle your calling around specific areas, for example, as a mother and/or wife both in the world and in business. Empowered Woman Conference 2014 – A Women’s Sacred Calling takes place on Saturday, 26 April 2014 from 11:30am to 6:30pm at New Testament Assembly Tooting, SW17 7BU. Entrance is free, but you must register first. Find out more at www.empoweredwoman.org.uk/.