A man of culture, polished and principled, this week's guest has the years of experience, accomplishments and business acumen to pass on for generations.
A former chairman of Jamaica's Entertainment Advisory Board, he was mentored by Professor Donald Harris (father of US VP Kamala Harris) among others, and was awarded the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander class in 2007 for having developed Jamaica's modelling industry locally, regionally and internationally. A purple-blooded mammal, he represents his alma mater Kingston College, where he was headboy by name and nature and is a family man who is well-travelled and considers himself as neither rich nor poor. Defining success as the ability to achieve one's goal, but not at any cost, Q10 catches up with Kingsley Cooper, chairman of Pulse Investments Limited.
Q10: How would you describe yourself?
KC: Driven and hard-working — I decided at an early age to pursue the things I enjoy. Work has never really been work for me, although sometimes stressful when I am handling too many critical matters at once. Generally, I enjoy a good measure of happiness. I have wide and varied interests which come from my early years of playing almost every sport, engaging in creative pursuits, strong academics (my school teacher mother), the arts, law (I was in the first group of lawyers trained in the Caribbean), construction, music (I was a popular DJ during and after university and law school, hence the parties and the concerts which became features of my business).
Q10: What's the best career decision you've ever made?
KC: To establish Pulse in 1980, which I did with my close friend and colleague Hilary Phillips, now a judge of the Court of Appeal. Starting Pulse for me was inevitable, considering my interests. I always knew I would create a business like this, even as I studied law. My knowledge of the law would help support my efforts with Pulse, which was considered a most ridiculous undertaking 41 years ago.
Q10: Why did you start your company and how have you managed to grow it into a world-brand?
KC: I felt that Pulse could make a difference by creating a brand new industry for Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, but the business had to work first – and that was not easy in an environment populated by naysayers. Also, there was no precedent to follow, no structure to adopt. We had to create everything. Interestingly, it was only after we started having international success that the pressure really built, as we were now considered magicians and were expected to pull the [proverbial] rabbit out of the hat on demand. And, of course, it was important to make a real business out of this enterprise, as without profit there could be no sustainability.
The second part of this question is easily answered — once you are on this path you simply persevere. Never give up, no matter how high your hurdles may be. If you believe in your vision, find the solutions. There is always a way. Listing the company on the JSE in 1993 was important. Equity was key, as regular bank debt is not ideal for creative businesses. We've been through and survived many crises now. After many years in the 'gym' we are fit and healthy and we hope strong enough to manage any crisis we may face. The key to our success has been having a clear vision of what we want to achieve, planning, persevering, team-building, innovating, diversifying, working hard and having the dexterity and skill to pivot and manoeuvre as we face new challenges.
Q10: What was your experience like growing up ?
KC: Happy. Family, huge amounts of church, success, lots of school, involvement in most sports, very creative, various achievements, confidence, not wealthy but not poor, ambitious [and] innovative parents, hard work.
Q10: Having had several life experiences, what advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?
KC: “Watch it. Dial back a little. It's tougher than you think.” No need for encouragement, as I was always moving forward. Caution was more in order.
Q10: If you had a chance for a do-over in life, what would you do differently?
KC: Not a lot worth mentioning, despite mistakes here and there, which were essentially character building.
Q10: If you were a super hero, what powers would you want?
KC: The ability to create agricultural miracles, grow food everywhere and feed the world. No one should go hungry.
Q10: Outside of work, what other activities are you involved in?
KC: For many years I chaired national and regional organisations for entertainment, fashion and creative business development. Not so much now. I spend a lot of time with my family these days – really my more immediate family, given the COVID challenges. Romae, Safia and Cole. Also a few close friends, mostly on social media. My seven-year-old son Cole gives me immense joy, which I suspect is a special blessing related to experiencing his growing up at this stage of my 67-year-old life.
Q10. What were you like in high school?
KC: I went to high school at nine years old. I went to Kingston College [KC] because my initials were KC and because the school, to me, was and has always been, the best we have in this country. I was head boy, house captain, editor of the school magazine and the school newspaper, played most sports, represented the school at Colts football, wrote the cheers for champs (we were winning champs when I went to KC, still winning when I left and we never lost in-between). Alexander Cooper, the great Jamaican artist, was my art teacher. I was best actor at the Schools Drama Festival Moliere play directed by the outstanding Jamaican playwright, Trevor Rhone), and witnessed the greatest schoolboy football team ever assembled, one coached by George Thompson with Tony Keyes, Jumpy Harris, Neville Oxford, et al. KC helped to make me rounded and also developed a winning ethos for me.
Q10: What do you love most about your life right now?
KC: That so much of what I have worked so hard to accomplish these many years has come together and continues to come together. I am very confident about the future, despite the challenges.
— Compiled by Kellaray Miles