Saturday January 22, 2017 was supposed to be a normal day of business for Ruth-Ann Smith. But, all that changed in a flash when she received a called from neighbours.
After being called, she rushed to her bag juice factory on Parry Road, Kencot in St. Andrew early that Saturday morning to find the premises being gutted with fire.
An electrical shortage at a neighboring property resulted in a fire, which damaged a section of the building in which her juice manufacturing business was located.
“I was at home when friends from a neighboring property called me to say my business was on fire. I rushed to the location and found my production area up in smoke,” Miss Smith recalled. “I lost two juice making machines and other equipment.”
She was devastated. “I started to worry about how I would survive. I called my credit relations officer at JN Small Business Loans (JNSBL),” Miss Smith related, “And, she told me not to worry because they will work something out and everything would be all right.”
At the end of that conversation she felt encouraged, especially when her credit relations officer, Yvonne Swaby, visited shortly after, and reassured her in person.
In the aftermath of the disaster, Miss Smith had to deal with how she would keep her operations going without downsizing.
“I did not want to send anyone home; but, I wondered how I would survive and keep my business open. Therefore, I came up with a plan, which no matter how difficult, would not place me and my staff at a disadvantage, and would keep my customers,” she stated.
“From the date of the fire to May, I purchased bag juices from other manufacturers, this allowed me to continue to serve my customers and provide employment to my staff who supported the purchase and delivery of juices. My profit was less but it was more important to stay in business. I also moved the operations to a small section of the building that was not damaged.”
Her credit relations officer, from JNSBL, who visited the factory immediately after the fire, took photos and reassured her that JNSBL would assist. That assistance came as Ms. Smith was able to purchase new machines and renovate her factory space.
Ruth-Ann Smith stands beside some of the crates that were replaced after fire destroyed her factory on Parry Avenue earlier this year.
“I am grateful to JNSBL, because they were with me through it all, as I made repairs and restructured. I am now in full operation, with two new juice making machines; and a totally renovated production space. The loan company was really at my side, to help me overcome this challenge,” she related.
Mrs Shaw Nicholson, communications and client services manager, JNSBL, who also visited with Ms. Smith indicated that the mother of two, displayed the determination necessary to be successful.
“During the period of her greatest challenge yet, Miss Smith displayed resilience by coming up with creative solutions, to keep her operations afloat,” Mrs Nicholson related.
“Many persons would give up; however, Miss Smith found a way to survive, she stated. And, at JNSBL we maintain close relationships with our clients; we value them; and are committed to help them grow as well as overcome obstacles. Miss Smith has displayed commendable resilience and determination, a true entrepreneur who we welcome the opportunity to continue to support, to achieve her aspirations.”
Currently, Miss Smith has returned to full manufacturing capacity of between 500 and 1,000 bag juices per day. And, despite her setback, she plans to add other products to her” I Quench” product line.
“I plan to do box juices and cooking oil; and while I wanted to start this year, the fire caused a delay. However, I am determined to start producing those products early next year,” she declared.