Perhaps next to ackee and saltfish, which is considered a national dish; rice and peas, usually served with fried, baked, stewed or curried chicken, could easily be considered one of the favourite meals of Jamaicans.
On any day of the week rice and peas with chicken is served as a ‘lunch specialty’ at restaurants, in work places and schools; and is also considered a traditional Sunday dinner.
In Bailey’s Vale, a quaint farming community in the parish of St. Mary, near the capital Port Maria, on almost any given weekday, the aroma of chicken being deep fried; and rice and peas being cooked in rich seasoned coconut milk, emanates from the kitchen of Ann-Marie Peterson. The Cook, who operates a small catering business from her home, along with her husband Denzel, is well- known throughout the community for her preparation of this well-loved dish.
“Is how well you cook any meal,” the JN Small Business Loans (JNBSL) beneficiary says; however, the secret may, in fact, be in the special sauce that this 45-year-old mother of four serves with her fried chicken.
“I sometimes cook the chicken in a special sweet and sour sauce,” she says being careful not to giveaway her methodology or secret ingredients.
And, she points out that, it is much more than the ingredients or the methods that she employs, which makes it possible to maintain her customer base, which includes the teachers and students at Brimmer Vale High School, where she provides daily lunches.
”It is the style of the service; and the fact that we are able to provide “a brawta,” which, in the Jamaican vernacular is known as a “little more.”
“Sometimes although the main course is chicken I sometimes add a little brown stew, curry, or pork to sweet up the customer,” she relates.
Ann-Marie and Denzel understand what good customer service is about; hence, they always ensure that they deliver what is required to their customers; and never leave out the “brawta.”
“Some customers are always there for you so you have to show them some appreciation and keep the relationship going,” she says.
The small home-based operation of Mr. and Mrs. Peterson is in some ways self sufficient. The couple raises their own chickens and pigs, which they were able to establish from loans they accessed from JN Small Business Loans Limited (JNSBL).
They turned to the JNSBL in 2003, after realising that they were facing an increasing challenge with meeting the growing demands of their customers. The Peterson’s had inherited the business and its Brimmer Vale High customers in 1993 from Mr. Peterson’s brother, Charles Peterson, after he migrated to England. However, by 2003 the customer base expanded to members in the wider community, which included churches and community groups, who frequently sought out the Peterson’s catering service.
“We needed stock,” Mrs. Peterson recalls, “And, at first I was at a loss as to where to borrow the funds to purchase stock. Then a friend of mine told me about JN Small Business Loans. I, therefore, went to the office in Port Maria and stated my case.”
She said that the application process was not difficult; and soon she received a micro loan, which assisted her and her husband to purchase the necessary stock.
“The field officer sat me down and showed me how I could gain the most from the loan and I was able to meet my customers’ needs,” Mrs. Peterson said.
The couple has maintained a relationship with the company, accessing funds which they have used to establish a chicken coop and a piggery to meet the demands of their operation. They have also diversified their service by selling meat and eggs to persons in the local community.
“It’s important to ensure you maintain a good relationship with your creditors,” Mrs. Peterson emphasises, noting that one must ensure that creditors are paid on time; a practice which she says has helped to maintain the credibility of her micro business.
“If you want to grow your business and make more money, you must ensure the people who credit you are paid, because you can’t keep up your business without their support,” the savvy caterer advises.