AS a young girl, Pauline McDonald, now a successful entrepreneur who owns a 24-hour grocery and wholesale, dreamt of one day becoming a top fashion designer. Although her passion for the industry followed her into adulthood, her career was short-lived. The fashion industry did not reap the benefits she had hoped for, but she was determined to find her niche, and even tried her hand at being a fitness instructor. That profession wasn't the right match either, but she was not deterred and kept searching for her big break.
Her wide-ranging experiences served to hone her skills as a businesswoman. Determined to create the financial stability she desired for her family, McDonald encountered the perfect opportunity when she learnt of the sale of a minimart on Main Street in Oracabessa, St Mary, while talking to a participant at one of the gym sessions she was conducting.
McDonald gave the idea considerable thought and weighed the pros and cons of making the purchase. After careful examination she decided it would be a viable and profitable business with the right management, goods and services. The location of the minimart was ideal, the area was ripe for development, and would eventually propel significant growth. She said she was convinced that this venture would be successful because she was passionate and determined to make it happen.
Taking a leap of faith, she used all her savings to purchase the minimart in 2003. She added her personal brand to the store, naming it McDonald's Super-Save Grocery and Wholesale. Fourteen years and two relocations later, the business is now nicely settled in the busy Oracabessa market.
“The business was growing steadily and it became necessary for me to expand so I could better meet the needs of my customers,” she explained. But to expand and relocate required more capital and support from a financial institution.
As a client of Sagicor Bank for over 10 years, McDonald said she visited the bank and presented her business plan to one of the managers, anticipating a favourable outcome. She reflected on her experience leading up to the expansion of her business: “I remember going to another bank twice for a loan and being turned down. When I went to Sagicor for financial assistance to expand my business, they were there for me without hesitation. They were willing to listen and help work out a solution. And even now, if I have any challenges, they will work with me.
“McDonald's Super-Save Grocery and Wholesale offers a variety of grocery and household items, everything from a pin to an anchor,” the proud owner stated.
Up until May of this year, the wholesale operated for 12 hours — from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm — still longer opening hours than the other stores and supermarkets in the area. Now the business is open for 24 hours.
“I want to provide a service that will suit and satisfy the needs of my customers, so I made a decision to run the wholesale as a 24-hour business,” she said.
“Some thought it was a crazy idea wanting to be open for 24 hours, but I had studied the community and I prayed about it; I knew it was the right decision, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
As a female entrepreneur, McDonald was not surprised by some of the challenges she encountered, including being perceived as a woman who “does not look like a businesswoman”.
“People will try to take advantage, so I have to be tough,” she revealed.
Being competitive by nature and owning a small business with larger competitors in the industry gives McDonald that extra adrenaline to succeed as the underdog.
“I love a good challenge, and this helps to drive my motivation for success,” she declared.
But McDonald isn't only succeeding as a businesswoman. She is a strong believer in giving back and building the community. She hosts senior citizen care days, sponsors community football competitions, a Kiddies Corner for the children, gives weekly donations to the churches, as well as having regular customer appreciation days at the wholesale.
She also led the charge for a fundraising event to assist a young teenager in the community who was diagnosed with scoliosis. The event raised sufficient funds for the teen's medical treatment, and her condition is now much improved.
McDonald says she finds it gratifying to be able to extend a helping hand to those in need, and is inspired to continue giving back.
“It's a community supermarket and we are for the community,” she said.
As a successful businesswoman, balancing work and family can often be difficult, especially running a 24-hour business. But the mother of a six-year-old son and a teenage daughter says although the business consumes a lot of her time, spending time with her family is very important. The strong support of her brother and sister, who also work in the business, makes it easier for McDonald to strike the work-life balance.
“I do know that while I want to give my family the best life possible, nothing can replace spending time with them...it's far more important than money,” she admitted.