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!