While working as a teacher in Early Childhood Education, Ruth Ann Smith started assisting her spouse in his bag juice manufacturing business. Six years later, she has moved on from teaching and is a dedicated entrepreneur, managing the operation of the once fledgling business.
Mrs. Smith’s operation, FC Enterprise, manufactures the “I Quench” brand of bag juices from her location on Parry Road in St Andrew.
“My spouse came up with the idea based on his involvement in the juice manufacturing business,” said Mrs Smith. “I used to help out during the summer and on weekends in the early days. But, as the demand for the product grew, I resigned my job as an Early Childhood Teacher and started working here full-time,” she outlined, while pointing out that her husband now operates another business.
The company currently employs four persons, two full-time in production; and two part-timers, who handle the packaging and distribution of the product.
“One full-time employee is responsible for mixing the different flavours,” she explained. “In the early days we had different persons mixing the flavours; but that affected the quality of the product. Now, only one person mixes; and assures the consistency of the product,” she added.
From March to August, Mrs Smith’s operation is at its peak, as she manufactures up to 1,000 bags of juices per day. This volume meets the high demand for juices as the days become warmer. However, this number declines to as low as 500, as a result of the September rains, followed by the cooler months of December and January.
Apart from that challenge, the mother of two had to undertake a major repackaging of the I Quench bag juice, as two years ago she found out that other brands used the same Dora image and some persons mistook the brand for others, which were of lesser quality.
“I used to have on an image of Dora on the package,” noted Mrs Smith. “But, I realised that persons would say they did not like the brand because of the taste. Even when I made the ‘I Quench’ logo larger, I received the same complaint. Therefore, I dropped the image of Dora; redesigned my I Quench logo and made it more central; and since then, I have had no complaints,” she pointed out.
The Bridgeport High School past student markets her product via referrals; and distributes her juices in Portland, St. Mary, St. Thomas; as well as in the Corporate Area.
“The weekends are hectic, as that is when I get the most orders from Portland and St. Mary, especially,” she related.
Mrs Smith attributes the growth of her business to the assistance she received from JN Small Business Loans (JNSBL). Her first loan was used to acquire an additional bag juice machine, which immediately increased production. And, her continued relationship with JNSBL allowed her to procure raw material in larger volumes; as well as, to modernise the operations.
“Three years ago, when I wanted to increase production to meet high demand, someone recommended JNSBL. Representatives visited my factory, and determined that an additional machine would definitely improve my operation,” she related.
“Subsequently, the process to acquire the loan was smooth; and my relationship with JNSBL has been good, as they have been reliable and provided me with valuable guidance,” she explained.
Mrs Gillian Hyde, general manager, JNSBL confirmed that Mrs Smith is a dedicated client who is desirous of doing well. “Over the years, she worked hard to ensure that her company met the demand and maintained the quality of her product,” said Mrs. Hyde.
“Mrs. Smith understands the needs of her customers; and she constantly seeks to improve the quality of the ‘I Quench’ product. These are the traits we encourage in our clients; and, we are confident that she will continue to succeed.”
A year ago, the production area of the business was gutted with fire and this being the largest challenge faced she expressed that JNSBL was once again there to assist her to overcome.
“I lost both my bag juice machines, all my raw materials, mixing drums, crates and other items during the fire, she related. “My JNSBL Officer, as well as other members of JNSBL management visited with me and offered encouragement. I am now back in operation with two new machines a totally renovated production area and raw materials thanks to JNSBL who was there to help me overcome this challenge.”
Mrs. Shaw Nicholson, Communications and Client Services Manager, JNSBL, indicated that Mrs. Smith displays the resilience and determination necessary to be successful. “During the period of her greatest challenge Mrs. Smith was able to maintain the relationship with her customers by selling products from other brands until she was able to produce again.”
“At JNSBL the relationship we have with our clients is paramount and we are committed to helping them achieve their business and personal goals. We look forward to assisting Mrs. Smith to achieve all her aspirations.”
In addition to bag juices, Mrs. Smith is exploring now the addition of other products to her “I Quench brand.” She is currently researching how to manufacture and package cooking oil; and the production of pouch juices.
“I have already contacted one of the larger companies to learn more about manufacturing and distributing cooking oil; and, I hope to start doing that soon,” Mrs. Smith revealed. “I also want to do pouch juices; however, cooking oil is the main thing I plan to launch into next.”