HAVING tried his hand at property renovation and solid waste management, Chris Jones said he was keen to break new ground in virgin territory last year.
The 36-year-old Jones is CEO of Suave Distributors, which entered the competitive detergent market eight months ago with its China-manufactured Sky laundry detergent and dishwashing liquid.
After building a clientele in small, rural stores, the company is preparing to go mainstream.
"Considering the competition we have done surprisingly well, especially without a marketing campaign," Jones said in an interview with the Jamaica Observer. "We aren't highly visible but we're getting there."
The 500 millilitre dishwashing liquid and 250-gram detergent are the products Suave currently has in eight of the 14 parishes. Jones said most of the company's clients are wholesalers and small shop owners looking to make a profit by purchasing cheaper products that stand up to established brands.
According to Jones, St Elizabeth in south-central Jamaica and the eastern parishes of St Thomas, Portland and St Mary are Sky's strongest markets. Suave recently launched the products in Montego Bay.
While he is satisfied with the response to date, Jones admits some prospective customers are sceptical about the new kid on the block.
"The biggest challenge is somebody saying, 'instead of buying 100 cases, let me try 10 or 15 cases', because they haven't seen a marketing campaign. Once the marketing campaign has kicked off I think that hurdle will be overcome," he said.
Jones, who is from the Delacree Park area of Kingston, has lived in the United Kingdom for the past 13 years, earning a master's degree in business administration from London Metropolitan University.
He said he and his business partner pondered various commercial ventures before starting Suave Distributors with their own money.
They chose the market after Jones visited Jamaica and noticed a number of cleaning products in stores, including the Trinidad and Tobago-produced Breeze, as well as brands from Latin America.
"I thought to myself, 'we could do whatever they're doing with a better product'," he recalled.
That 'better product' is manufactured by Liaoyu Industrial Ltd, a chemical production company in China's Qundio province. Jones met with administrators there in March 2011 and by October they had manufactured a detergent and liquid for the Jamaican market.
Jones says Suave plans to expand its line of products later this year with a paste, air-freshener and house-cleaning liquid.