West Kingston, like Nazareth, has its detractors; however, despite the negatives associated with this inner city community, a young business owner bustles around his store, located at Shop 5, 29 Spanish Town Road, as he prepares for an off site business meeting.
“I’ll soon be there,” he tells a client on his cell phone, as he tries to accommodate a photo shoot before his meeting. He has his own thoughts on the “downbeat” side of his community; but they are thoughts which he prefers to keep to himself, as he focuses his energies on developing his business.
Meet Curtis Davis, not your typical young adult by any measure. He has been operating his computer parts, service and accessories business, as well as an internet café under his New Era Technology Services entity, which trades as NET Services Limited, since he was 19. A techie, this St. George’s College old boy and a JN Small Business Loans Limited (JNSBL) client, has always had a knack for indentifying problems and creating solutions for them to earn a profit.
“When I was younger, they used to call me the ‘genius’,” he fondly recalled, “Because people would take their gadgets for me to fix,” which he did for a small price. The youngster, who lives in Tivoli Gardens, would also fix computers, skills he picked up after he influenced an uncle to give him an old computer unit he was throwing out, “a dinosaur” as he called it, when he was only 13 years old.
“It was an old computer,” he says reflecting on his younger years. “And, when I pulled it down I couldn’t get it back up, but I never stopped trying until eventually I knew how to fix it.”
For young Curtis, mobile devices and computers were like toys. “I spent a lot of time reading about them and fooling around computer gadgets and devices; therefore, I learned quite a bit about them from an early age” he said.
His love for mobile devices would become his discipline at St. George’s College in Kingston, where he pursued Information Technology and Principles of Business at the CSEC level, prior to moving on to the Vocational Training Development Institute (VTDI) to continue studies in Information and Communication Technology.
“After leaving school, I got a job with Sangster’s Book Store in Mall Plaza, Half-Way Tree and they placed me in charge of the internet café,” he says.
That job gave him room to explore his technical abilities as he implemented efficient and a profitable pricing mechanism- skills which he would use to his advantage when he opened his business in 2009.
“There was only one internet café in West Kingston and they didn’t offer the services I wanted, because they were not tech savvy, and could not assist with even simple jobs, such as formatting a letter,” he explained, recalling the catalyst which moved him to launch his New Era Technology Services.
A registered computer services and sales outfit, the early days of business for New Era Technology Services were not easy. The global financial crisis of 2009, filtered to his community and the Jamaican Government introduced a general consumption tax on computers, as it sought revenue to service the national budget.
“Two friends from St. George’s provided the capital and also helped me with networking,” Curtis tells. The establishment opened its doors in October 2009, offering internet and computing services, including printing to residents.
“JN Small Business Loans came at a critical time I remember, because I needed a new printer and the taxes had just been introduced and capital was scarce,” he remembers.
A director in the company got wind of a presentation that was being made by JNSBL at a church in Swallowfield in St. Andrew and encouraged Curtis to go. There he met Jamaica National Building Society, General Manager, Earl Jarrett, who he impressed with his concept and Mr. Jarrett introduced him to Frank Whylie, then General Manager of JNSBL who was also delighted by Curtis’ business model. Thelma Yong, Credit and Risk Assessment Manager, JNSBL, also admired his talent and ambition as a young entrepreneur and readily ushered him under her wings, providing assistance where possible.
“What Curtis offered was not only a workable business idea, it is a good social enterprise, which benefits the people of West Kingston,” Mr. Whylie comments.
“Having access to internet services are especially critical in times like these, especially for our students who demand and require these services to make themselves competitive and prepared to also create their own jobs,” he continued.
The application process was not cumbersome, Curtis said. And, soon he was able to purchase new computers and a printer and used the remaining funds as working capital.
“Whenever I come here, I can always rely on the assistance of Mr. Davis or his assistant,” comments Akeeno Clarke, a third form student at the St. Andrew Technical High School who was busy trying to complete an assignment. “If there is something I don’t understand, he would show me how to do it and in the end I always receive a good grade,” the articulate youngster adds.
New Era Technology has grown in the past four years of operation to also becoming a dealer for telecommunications provider, LIME, this year. The company employs four people: a computer technician, two assistants and Curtis. It also contracts persons on an “as needed” basis.
“We offer a variety of services. We have a computer repairs department, a document centre and we buy and sell computer parts, refurbish computers, graphic designing, website development and we offer landline, mobile and internet services through LIME,” he said, pointing out that his vision was to build a well-known computer sales and services brand, while maintaining a service on which the people of West Kingston could depend.
“I admire how many people are seeking knowledge about computers, there are many people who want to learn and I am happy for that,” he says.