Myckiel Haynes is a shining example that dreams, along with hard work and dedication, do in fact come through.
Haynes is the founder and CEO of Golden Rootz Ltd, an e-commerce operation, which exports herbs and spices naturally grown in Trinidad.
These are sold in the powder, flakes and dehydrated forms.
The company continues to have a strong international presence in the US and the UK with its sights set to enter other markets such as Europe.
However, the journey of success has not been easy.
Haynes shared some insights with the Sunday Business Guardian during the inaugural SME Marketplace hosted by Republic Bank Ltd (RBL) on Thursday.
“The biggest challenge was getting financing. I would have been into freeze drying long before but the machine was expensive, which was close to $40,000,” he said.
He praised the bank for helping him scale up his business.
“The bank helped us get our machinery and they are even there to support us to get future machinery to carry the business to another level.
Golden Rootz Ltd which is home-grown and was registered in 2019, currently markets its products on platforms such as Amazon, Ebay, Walmart and mytrinishop.com.
“As orders come through our website, we ship from Brooklyn to any country. Our most popular products are sorrel, pimento, scorpion pepper and Chadon Beni. In the freeze dry form we sell dasheen bush. Even though in Brooklyn a lot of people can get fresh chadon beni there are certain places which do not, like Texas and Pennsylvania, so we tapped into those areas.
“We also have pepper sauce that is dry so when you put water into the package it will be rehydrated back into pepper sauce,” Haynes said.
He is currently working to have his products sold in local supermarkets and he also plans to obtain a larger space to expand his offerings.
Organic with a Purpose is another example of a small businesses that has benefitted from Republic Bank.
Specialising in skincare items and unique candles, owner Balraj Basdeo said the company is family operated also by his wife and daughter.
Basdeo echoed similar sentiments to Haynes that getting the necessary money to start a small business has been one of the biggest hurdles to overcome.
Another challenge, he added was having the forex to import raw materials, which the bank has also provided assisted to the company.
He added that the bank also provided valuable insights into the world of business.
“The bank teaches you how to go about the dynamics of a small business, which is also important,” Basdeo said.
For instance, the RBL SME Toolkit is a comprehensive resource for SME businessowners who need and want tips, information on business trends, real-time case studies and overall guidance which help them develop their businesses.
Golden Rootz Ltd and Organic with a Purpose are just two of the many small businesses that continue to contribute to T&T’s economy.
Michelle Johnson, marketing manager, SME business segments at RBL, said the SME Marketplace initiative was the first of many planned initiatives by the bank specifically focused on bringing awareness to and supporting the growth of these businesses.
“Over the last year, our efforts to rally behind SMEs have expanded significantly because we believe in you and your potential. We know that with the right support you can be the drivers of innovation and contribute to economic sustainability here in T&T,” she said.
For instance, in July, the bank launched its new micro-loan package aimed at improving access to finance for the MSME business segment with relaxed qualifying criteria for loans up to $100,000.
“We also believe in bolstering the export readiness of SMEs and because of this we recently renewed our Memorandum of Understanding with Caribbean Export Development Agency to continue our shared goal to build the export capacity of businesses,” Johnson further explained.
In terms of business capacity, at the recently concluded Caribbean Association of Bankers conference, RBL hosted its SME Training Forum and Marketplace where participating SMEs explored strategies to bolster business growth and resilience in keeping with the theme, “Nurturing a big business mindset for your small business success.”
Addressing the SMEs that participated in the inaugural SME Marketplace Johnson assured: “At Republic, we will continue to champion and support your success because we understand that entrepreneurship is a path that is often unchartered and filled with uncertainty, but once successfully traversed, can be found to be boundlessly rewarding.”
At the President’s Dinner and Awards Ceremony which was hosted by the T&T Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) two weeks ago, Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon also hailed the role of small businesses.
The minister noted that non-energy exports (inclusive of locally manufactured goods) increased by 15 per cent from $15.6 billion in 2021 to $17.9 billion in 2022. Of this exports to Caricom were valued at $5.2 billion, with the top markets being Guyana, Jamaica, and Barbados.
She also noted that the TTMA, in collaboration with exporTT, has successfully conducted eight trade missions in fiscal 2023, and is expected to conduct a further ten missions in 2024.
Gopee-Scoon has often described small businesses as the “backbone” of T&T’s economy, contributing to more than 30 per cent of the country’s GDP and employing more than 200,000 people.
“SMEs are the backbone of our economy and the architects of our nation’s future. SMEs are integral not only to the country’s economic prosperity through job creation, revenue generation and foreign-exchange earnings, but also to sustaining livelihoods and well-being, especially among women and youth,” the minister said during her contribution to the 2024 budget debate in the Senate in October.
Gopee-Scoon had also identified the Moruga Agro Processing facility as an SME initiative “which takes advantage of the strong agro-base of our domestic manufacturing sector and is an apt industrial response to food security, which is a priority of the government.”
Further, she said Government is pursuing efforts to increase opportunities for female entrepreneurs through initiatives such as the SheTrades Hub.
This platform, Gopee-Scoon continued, has over 700 women registered on it.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert has also noted that “84 per cent of the 158 manufacturing companies that received foreign exchange from EXIMBank are SMEs.”