From donuts to textbooks
It started with five archaic machines for printing; materials were folded by hand. The capital which got the business off the ground was given by the government. A television and a washing machine were used for collateral. There was no business plan, only a couple's desire to make extra money and model entrepreneurship.
"We paid every loan we got for the business, we made the company self-sufficient and improved it," said Beverly Linton, owner of BCNS Printers Limited. The first loan that the small business received was given through the "Self-Start Fund" a programme to help small business with little or no money.
Her husband, Cedric quit his job at a printery in 1993 to work full time in the family business; Linton kept her job and worked on weekends and part-time. "I had to keep my job as security," she said.
This was the first business venture that worked for the Lintons who initially took a shot at making donuts and graphic art T-shirt. The idea for the donut business was not only to produce the fried pastries, but to package them in a box that no one could resist.
The donuts, after the first set of testing did not come out how Linton expected. She confessed that they looked nothing like the round pastry. "They were huge, I don't know if I put too much yeast in them; it just didn't work", she said with arms outstretched forming a big circle, trying to create an image of the product she made.
Graphic tees, the couple's second business idea didn't make it to the testing stage; the shirts were bought and never made it outside the Linton home. They were used by her children Stacey and Nena.
BCNS Printers, named after Beverly, Cedric, Nena and Stacey respectively, was the business idea that worked for the family, and remains viable and relevant for almost two decades.
A building with two small rooms and a larger one for production on Osbourne Road, housed BCNS's first office. It started with about eight workers, including Linton and her husband, some employees worked part-time. Linton said she and her husband did not have a salary then. "Every cent BCNS made, was put into the business to develop it," she added.
The couple took another loan from the credit union to purchase bigger property for the printer.
It was a broken down structure on Norton Drive, in need of repainting and refurbishing. The property was neglected; overgrown with banana trees and was the home of stray animals. The street lights were few, based on Cedric's recollection. "Nobody wanted the property, the process of obtaining it was smooth," said Linton.
The unwanted building was transformed; the couple expanded it and put up a retaining wall. "We wanted to create an environment for BCNS to thrive," Linton said.
To remain relevant, BCNS's owners said they worked miracles, the couple worked late some nights to satisfy its customers. Cedric said he understands that with printing, persons may be working on deadlines. Large amounts of material may need to be printed in a short time. He said BCNS delivers printing services, as long as it is possible. "Sometimes customers bring files that are incompatible with our machines," he said. Only during those circumstances BCNS is unable to get a job done.
Once, BCNS printed 300 copies of a 28-page funeral programme in less than 20 hours. The service was 10:00 am one Saturday. BSNC received the photos and information in the afternoon the day before the service, Linton said.
Cedric added: "hat was a miracle job we performed."
Any job that requires printing, the couple said they will get it done. The company does work for businesses like Scotiabank. The company produces the envelopes used for quick deposits at Scotiabank automated teller machines (ATM). It also does work for Berger Paints. It prints magazines and textbooks and design and layout.
To remain competitive the company invested in up-to-date printing equipment. They took another loan from Jamaica National Small Business Loans Limited to purchase a computer-to-plate (CPT) machine, an imaging technology used in modern printing processes.
The high cost of technology is the company's biggest problem. Beverly Linton said as much as $360,000 is spent each month on electricity. "We need electricity to operate, we cannot use any less," she said.
The couple plans to enforce an energy management system to help cut electricity cost because it takes a great deal of its profit. Beverly Linton said she is researching energy saving methods. "We cannot let what we need to operate the business, cost us," she said.
Many businesses fail because of lack of creativity, said Rosalea Hamilton, Scotiabank Chair, Entrepreneurship & Develop-ment. She also said introduction of new products and services and adjusting can help a micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to develop.
BCNS began making certificate holders, a product that is sometimes exported. Beverly Linton said, a customer asked about the certificate holder, lined with satin and made of sponge, binder's cloth and cardboard. "That product wasn't in the line of products that we offer," Beverly Linton said.
The small business is willing to try new ideas; nothing is thrown out, unless it is found to not be feasible after testing, said Beverly Linton.