This week I managed to visit the majority of the remaining people written about in Sue’s book. "From Little Acorns" which is available on Amazon.
First on the list was Martin Joshua who has recently given up his full time job to run his market gardening business full time. Martin has been juggling his job, his growing number of polytunnels (12 at the moment) and the produce within for the past 6 years. He now has the confidence to go it alone rather than depending on a regular income, which is quite a daunting thing to do, especially with a family.
Tomatoes and cucumbers are the main crops although parsley, lettuce and salad leaves also feature. The island gets through around 60 tonnes of tomatoes a year, which is why tomatoes are the key crop here. The yield from each plant is carefully monitored in order to gauge the break-even point.
We discussed the practice by the leading food stores on island, of taking local produce on a sale or return basis. This is in contrast to imported foods which are usually at least partially paid for in advance of receiving them. It seems a shame that the cash flow of the local grower is controlled to a greater extent by the bigger businesses. Sounds a bit like the UK doesn’t it?
Shape has a special place in the heart of the whole community here. It was set up to support locals with any disability learn to lead more independent lives by offering them a place to come and learn new skills. These skills include, running a small café, making jewellery, candles, soap, paper and food items. These are all sold through shops on island and in the centre itself. Situated in the idyllic green Sandy Bay area of the island, it is always an uplifting experience to visit shape. This time we met with Manager Sarah Dalton and Emma Piek who were running a variety of activities including maths lessons and making candles and beads.
Sleepy Hollow has the right name for a bed and breakfast to relax in. Aaron Legg and Julie George run this new business along with Aaron’s four wheel drive tours, a banana plantation and small market garden concentrating on Onions. In 2015 Julie took advantage of a trip to Cape Town to learn about running a busy bed and breakfast with more than one room. This is the goal for the future. We have one room running well and now the plan is to expand and go to two then four rooms. Julie’s attention to detail and her keenness to be there for her customers will ensure that any accommodation she runs will have people keen to stay there.
Derek and Linda Richards are similar to many of the folk in these stories in that they offer a variety of services across the whole week and any time of the day! This is in massive contrast to the hours worked by many people on the island, normally Monday to Friday 8.00am to 4.00pm.
Derek and Linda started off by leasing the sandwich bar business from Sally and Paul in my previous blog.
The Sandwich bar is one of the busiest food outlets in Jamestown, open from around 7.30 in the morning through to around 3.00 in the afternoon. Coffee, tea, bacon sandwiches, cakes and hot meals are all dispensed from the Sandwich bar.
Following on from this success Derek and Linda now operate a small restaurant from their home in St Pauls and Derek offers tours when he can get away from the stove. Both are driven by wanting to see their business succeed and to keep their customers coming back for more. No mean feat on this little island of 4000 people
Cakes Jams and Chutneys are the order of the day where Helen Joshua is concerned. Helen has recently returned to St Helena from working overseas most of her career. Helen and her husband have been working on the Falkland Islands and building their home here over the past 8 years. Now the home is finished they have both moved back here and are committed to making a living on St Helena. As Helen has a small child, she has opted for a home business which can be worked flexible hours. The finished products are sold at local markets or by locals putting in orders to be collected. So far, so good and Helen is just about keeping up with demand
The Green Wagon on Blue Hill!
I met Steve and Joan almost 5 years ago when I first arrived on St Helena.
Steve is a Florida native, Joan is the Saint.
Their dream is to have a flourishing organic market gardening business and I must say, they have gone a very long way to achieving this goal.
The island now enjoys consistent quantities of local herbs and exotic items such as melons and aubergines thanks to Joan and Steve’s endless toil.
Their 5 acre garden in Blue Hill is the hub of the enterprise with 2 polytunnels and a variety of items being grown outside.
On our visit we were able to spot a variety of Chiles, three types of basil, oregano, coriander, mint, lemongrass, lovage, parsley, thyme, marjoram, sage, aubergines. There were also waiting in the wings, passion fruit and strawberry plants. I will expect to see copious quantities of both on my next visit to the Green Wagon!
To round up these visits I would just like to say that these people are setting high standards here on St Helena and its not just about the end result.
Its about the work ethic and attention to detail which all businesses need to be successful. Its the marketing and the getting the item to market. Its about dealing with bureaucracy and customers who don't understand how your business operates. Its about having a smile after sleepless nights when the weather turns bad and when the customers don't show.
I really admire anyone who is prepared to take a dream and turn it into reality. Especially when that reality means hard work, disappointment and set backs along with the satisfaction and successes of being in control of your own business. These are not the only businesses on St Helena, they are just some of the ones who followed the training in Food Safety we offered a year or so ago. There are many businesses on St Helena who deserve to be applauded and long may they last!
Today I am writing about some of the businesses on St Helena who worked towards achieving high standards of food safety in their operations.
This was all done with the support and help of Sue White, from deepest Dorset, who travelled over here twice in 2014 and 2015. Over 200 people passed food safety qualifications of some sort and many changed the way they work in order to make sure their food and premises achieve international standards of hygiene.
When Sue returned to the UK, she put pen to paper, or whatever the modern equivalent is, and wrote a book!
Her book which is called, from little acorns… and is available on Amazon. It follows the story of a number of Saint Businesses who worked with her in the food safety field. Each chapter gives the story of how one business started up and operates over here and is well worth a read.
The book arrived here a few weeks ago and my role was to make sure that each business received at least one of Sue’s books. The motive here from my part was to record the event so that Sue could see her books made it back to the island and also to celebrate these folk who are mostly running these businesses off their own money
St Helena is not the most conducive place on earth to start a business. There are some big advantages such as no VAT and no business rates but on the other side of the coin there is the lack of raw materials as most things have to be imported, expensive slow broadband, expensive electricity and a small local marketplace.
The people featured in Sue’s book have to plan any purchasing around 10 weeks before they need to use items, they have to deal with items not arriving when ordered or being stopped by customs here or in South Africa because the paperwork isn’t correct.
Roddy is the only island’s commercial egg producer and has been in business for around 5 years. Roddy, had a situation around a year ago when he couldn’t get any new chickens to replace his egg laying stock. This was because they had to come from abroad and because of a number of problems regarding regulations Roddy didn’t get his chickens. This meant, his income dropped like a stone and the island ran out of eggs.
Roddy now has more chickens than ever and is raising some of his own stock although fresh stock still has to come from overseas every year or so. He has moved into new premises recently although is still waiting for a water supply to be fitted in one area. Roddy has no apprentice to assist as few youngsters want this kind of work (sounds familiar) and so hasn’t had a holiday for years, he works 7 days a week. It’s a good job that he loves what he does, in spite of some of the setbacks.
Paul and Sally Hickling are well known to all on St Helena and a few folk across the globe, including many of the Navy crews who stop here for a couple of days R&R. The reason being is that Sally and Paul own the islands and in their words, “the world’s most remote distillery”.
Always up for a challenge they have gone from making one or two products to a line which now includes limoncello, a coffee liqueur and wine.
Their products sell well and have recently created and sold a brandy to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s time here on St Helena.
Heading down to Rupert’s Bay to visit what was the Argos factory, one is struck by the immense changes going on down this way. Rupert’s is to be the new Cargo terminal and so is having new roads, wharf and other infrastructures built. The poor residents of the area have been subjected to this activity for over two years. Tucked away in a corner is the fish processing plant for the island and as mentioned it was run by a company called Argos until recently. Melvin Obey has worked down here for years and has seen many changes over that period. On the day we visited to give Melvin and his team the book, there had been a good catch of Wahoo brought in as you can see from the picture. Also this month we have been seeing skipjack and yellowfin tuna, all at prices around a fifth of what you would pay in the UK.
Ann’s place in the castle gardens is an open air eatery which has been running for years and at the moment is under the patronage of Jane Sim and her family. Jane does the majority of the work and also looks after her family. This means that she is another one who regularly works 7 days a week. Ann’s place has always been popular with yacht crews when they come past on their way to South America. Some have donated flags over the years which adorn the ceilings as you can see in my picture. Janes menu has plenty of local fish on it as her husband is a fisherman.
Gregory Cairns Wicks and Anita Magellan run the successful Queen Mary Store which sells everything from Cream Cheese to Roofing! When I was running 2onmain, Gregory and his team were some of the most helpful suppliers we used. Nothing was too much trouble, including telling us what was coming in from Cape Town on the ship before if arrived so we could do our menus in advance. Gregory has made sure that his food team are all trained in food safety and has embraced the principles which go to make what is known in the trade as "safer food better business". This means that customers can be sure that the food they are buying is fit for consumption because it has been stored at correct temperatures and handled with a minimum of risk by trained staff.
In fact all the businesses which have been mentioned in this blog are managing their businesses with these principles in place. When you consider that most food here is imported and the average temperature in Jamestown is above 20 degrees Centigrade, there is every reason to make sure that risks are minimised.
Next week I should be visiting a few more of the businesses and will post a blog and of course the pictures!