Business

Walker makes steps to expand CARIBBEAN footprint

Jamaican Care Packages entrepreneur sets eyes on Trinidad and Barbados markets

BY KARENA BENNETT
Business reporter
bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, September 15, 2017

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Three years after starting up an unconventional business of packaging goods for the Diaspora market, entrepreneur Rory Walker is looking to expand his footprint into the Caribbean islands.

The founder of the brand, Jamaican Care Packages, has his eyes set on Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados for the exportation of locally made and distributed snacks by end 2018.

“I will continue building out operations in Jamaica and make it as efficient as possible. After we've done that, then we will be looking at other Caribbean islands as well as outside of the Caribbean because this really isn't a Jamaican or Caribbean problem. It's really a problem for anybody who migrates from home and misses treats from home,” Walker told the Jamaica Observer.

What started out as a kind gesture to source a variety of snacks for a friend living overseas, quickly turned into a business for young Walker who had already made two attempts at starting a business.

Working as a full-time web developer in 2014, Walker, with the help of his mother, jump-started his business working on the weekends from his home in Red Hills, St Andrew. At that time, the pre-arranged snack packs were being shipped in shoe boxes due to Walker's lack of capital to invest in the business.

Soon after, orders started to pick up so much that he was faced with the decision of resigning his full-time job to focus on developing the business.

“The first order I got was from a preparatory school friend. Orders were very slow afterwards but when I saw that request for snack packages were going up, I said to myself that I'm going to put more time in and developed a website.

“I went full-time August last year and it was a scary decision because I thought that everybody would stop ordering and I would no longer have that set amount of monthly income. But of course that was not the case,” said the graduate of Campion College.

A month later, orders went up 100 per cent and in May 2017, Walker moved into a 500-square-foot office space at 75 Westminster Road to better handle operations. The business model then developed into customised product orders and Walker included more options for customers to pay for the goods.

Recently, he employed an operations lead to source, wrap and facilitate shipping of the goods, making a total of five full-time and part-time employees.

Walker named products such as Ti-gaz, Chippies banana chips, Cheese Trix and Spice Bun as the top export products for the company, with peak periods being the Christmas and Easter holidays.

“We do add new items every other week. The new items are chosen based on demand for the product and also introduce snacks I think should be on the site as well,” he told the Caribbean Business Report.

According to the 29-year-old entrepreneur, Jamaican Care Packages are shipped worldwide, but orders from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom account for more than 70 per cent of the business.

“We also see orders coming from Switzerland and Japan, Sweden. We have little pockets of Jamaicans everywhere, so for Japan, I have a few customers from the Japan Exchange and Teaching programme,” he said.

While Walker did not disclose numbers, he noted that export of Jamaican Care Packages today has more than doubled the company numbers in year one. Large companies such as the National Bakery have seen the need to explore the Diaspora market and have also introduced the option for customers living overseas to order the goods online. But Walker is not perturbed by his competition.

“I definitely welcome the competition. I'm just here to build the Jamaican Care Packages brand and the customer base,” he said.

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