Business

From Phd to business owner

Dr shuns high-profile jobs for cosmetics start-up

BY JAVENE SKYERS Sunday Observer writer skyersj@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 10, 2014    

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ANDRE Jones is a synthetic organic chemist who holds a doctorate in chemistry.

That qualifies him for a range of high profile research and development positions in biotechnology or pharmaceutical firms, teaching and research positions in research universities, or energy, defence and environmental exploration positions with international organisations and governments.

Instead of pursuing those options, however, he decided to invest his efforts and talents into manufacturing cosmetics and started his own business -- Yono Industries -- which boasts a line of body splashes, lotions, shower gels, as well as bar soaps and luxury soaps.

Yono also does private contract manufacturing and private labelling for products such as Wow hair relaxers, Superb styling gel and Winfresh mouthwash, and if things go according to plan, the company could soon become the only local one to manufacture and distribute toothpaste in the country.

Jones told the Jamaica Observer that his primary motivation for starting Yono was to build a business for his children to inherit as he really believes in self-empowerment and having control of one's own means of production.

"I actually went into cosmetics in terms of looking at the startup cost (and) it was a lot lower than going into pharmacy ...To put dreams into reality, I took the first two initials of my sons names, Yonex and Noah, and created Yono," he said.

Yono Industries was founded in 1999 in the United States of America, not because that was Jones' preference, but because he found it easier to become established there. Once he had built the company to a satisfactory level however, he relocated it to Jamaica.

"I love it here, but it's a challenging place to do business," the chemist told the Sunday Observer.

"One of the biggest challenges for any entrepreneur is finding capital to start and grow a company; that's a huge challenge," he added, explaining that he was able to come up with the capital for his business from personal savings, investments in the American stock market, as well as selling shares in his then fledgling company.

Jones' company has had, at one time or another, contracts with corporations including WalMart in the US, Breezes Resorts in Jamaica, and the Scientific Research Council (SRC) the Jamaican-Government agency tasked with fostering the creation of business through science and technology.

In the case of the latter, Jones said the said the skin care product containing Jamaican fever grass and ginger which entered the market in 2009 was very popular and was still in demand, even though it is no longer being produced, in line with the contract.

Jones operates from a factory in Temple Hall, St Andrew, where the state-of-the-art equipment run on a diesel-powered generator. This, he said, helps him to maximise production while saving money as he knows exactly how much will be spent on diesel per order and the extra power made by the generator is stored in batteries for later use.

He has not used electricity provided by the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) in more than three years, Jones said.

"We can't run a manufacturing plant with JPS. The Government needs to understand that," he told this tabloid.

The machines used in production range from an automated bar soap machine to a reverse osmosis water purification machine. The factory also has an injection moulding machine that make pre-forms (flexible fibre glass structures) and according to Jones, Yono Industries is one of only two companies that produce the material locally.

Complementing the machines, Jones has a staff of between eight and 10 people working in the factory, most of whom he has to train to use the more advanced equipment.

"We don't have a necessarily well-trained labour force... so even though they might be graduating from universities with engineering degrees and so on, they really don't have the practical skill sets," Jones bemoaned.

He stated that society, policy makers and universities have to look seriously at how well students are being prepared to enter the workforce and to compete in a global environment.

"What we really want to do is to employ and train our own Jamaicans to run businesses and that's my main focus," Jones said.

Most of the raw materials he uses is imported in order to ensure a stable supply for production, especially since he also manufactures bottles and caps. The manufacturer stated that until there can be backward integration -- where a consumer of raw materials acquires its suppliers, or sets up its own facilities -- ensuring a constant, stable supply of local materials will continue to be a problem for any manufacturer.

In addition to that, Jones said marketing his products to the "bigger players" in Jamaica is a challenge.

He said that though he has developed products for some of those players, and conducted various research and development initiatives, usually no partnership ensues.

"We are competitive in price and quality. You can use any product...and put it against anything else in the world," Jones said of Yono.

As an example, he referenced a study the SRC conducted, in which he had to register a product and provide supporting documentation to prove its effectiveness. He used the mouthwash that the company manufactures, which was measured against other major brands. Yono's product was rated "just as good in quality and taste and yet was selling less than 50 per cent in comparison to the other brands," according to Jones.

"Even though local companies like Yono Industries can guarantee prices, product and quantity, major marketing players still insist that they don't have anywhere to turn to get locally made products in a steady supply," Jones said.

He added that much of what occurs in the way of discussion about supporting local manufacturers is tantamount to "lip service" and "disingenuity", and expressed the view that certain efforts like hotel linkages to meet prospective buyers in the industry are unfruitful because at the end of the day, deals are not struck.

"It doesn't matter what bottle or product they want, we can design it to their specification," Jones said.

Yono Industries products can be found at Fontana and Mall pharmacies, among others, and are also available online via their website and Facebook.

Of his success to date, Jones credits international training and accreditation, as he said he is knowledgeable of the various methods and procedures that can help him to produce all the high-quality products at a lower cost.

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