Boss ladies - Judy Benjamin and Dr Veronica Reid

Monday, June 10, 2013

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With an increase in focus on the female entrepreneur, the boss lady has been busy traversing the path of being the successful and influential business owner.

This week we highlight two boss ladies who have been holding their own.

Judy Benjamin — JohnsonBenjamin & Associates Limited

JUDY Benjamin is a leader in real estate in Jamaica, with a career that spans over 12 years. Her passion and expertise were honed in several corporate capacities, beginning at Century 21 Heave Ho Properties, then within the Jamaica National Building Society where she developed solutions such as the JNBS Realtors Affiliate Programme as well as deepened the relationship between JNBS and local housing developers.

It was out of a personal situation, however -- her own house-hunting -- that the idea to open her business was born.

"I was in the market to buy a home and thought that some areas of the business could be improved to ensure a better customer experience. Of course, I also wanted to be financially wealthy and owning and operating a business is one avenue to take. Moreso, I love the independence and freedom to create and influence something that lines up with my vision and ideals," she said.

JohnsonBenjamin & Associates Limited was then established in January 2012 -- a combo of her experiences and that of partner Howard Johnson Jr -- on the premise of simplifying the real estate experience. Benjamin has been accomplishing this by providing an environment of ease to clients and treating everyone with respect, no matter their circumstances.

She notes that to become an entrepreneur it's important to "follow your gut".

"Have confidence in the decisions made and learn lessons quickly and well," she said.

It is this advice that continues to drive her successes.

She has, of course, faced difficulties growing and developing the business, but admitted that her greatest challenge stems from a personal flaw.

"I tend to be a very direct, straightforward person, so I come across as sharp. I have had to temper my sometimes abrasive personality to ensure that the team is not offended and harmony exists."

As for rewarding moments, Benjamin cited the realisation of one year in operation as one of her most proud to date.

When not matching persons with their perfect homes, the mother of two teens -- Christian, 17 and Gabrielle, 15 -- indulges in watching football and athletics (live), and engaging in social activities with family and friends.

Advice to potential female entrepreneurs:

1. Start with prayer and end with prayer.

2. Spend some time visualising your business from all stakeholders' point of view

3. Get a good attorney and accountant/auditor

4. Surround yourself with solid people who see your vision

5. Understand your financials and your financial position at all times.

6. Spend on marketing and publicity.

Veronica Reid, PhD — Beautiful Earth Natural Hair Haven

DR Veronica Reid is a confident, highly motivated woman who is having a noticeably positive impact on the natural hair care industry in Jamaica through her Beautiful Earth Natural Hair Haven salon.

Having completed her PhD in business and management at the University of Nottingham, England, Reid returned home "with the express purpose of opening a business".

"I had crafted business plans for my hair salon and product line as I was interested in providing chemical-free products and services to Jamaicans because this is something that I did not see easily available here," she said.

As with all start-ups, Reid's biggest challenge was getting the word out about her salon, but she overcame this through excellence in customer service and staff management. Actually, she admitted that one critical lesson learnt was that "the members of your team are extremely critical to the realisation of your goals".

"The staff in your business will make or break your business. If you are not able to transfer your vision to those that work with you, you will be in serious trouble," she said.

Reid counts among her most rewarding moments being able to provide employment for others in this financial climate as well as the time "when I was approached by a potential investor after only a year in business"

"It meant to me that others saw what I saw in my business, and helped to validate my belief that it can go much further."

Having enjoyed success in business, Reid advises potential entrepreneurs to get over the fear of failure.

"Some people are afraid to listen to themselves, but as an entrepreneur, you have to learn to trust your gut. You're your best advisor. Sometimes others may not see the vision until you bring it to fruition so you have to take that first step, and another, and another. And most importantly, don't wait until everything is perfect; start something and start it today."

The Spanish Town native, who is a proud St Jago alum, readily admits that she is doing something she loves and is motivated to work on day and night.

"I'm motivated to provide high quality service to women and men who want to flaunt their natural hair and to support local manufacturers of products like coconut oil, castor oil, and crafts like earrings. I'm also motivated by my employees, as I feel good providing employment to previously unemployed or underemployed women who have skills that may not otherwise be fully utilised."

Reid has many plans for her business, including expansion of the product line, adding to her services by offering facial services and natural nail services, and opening a new branch of the salon this summer.

When not devising winning entrepreneurial strategies, the mother of a 'strong-willed' six-month-old baby girl loves to read, watch documentaries and travel.




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