Evelyn Williams — The mighty matriarch
Evelyn Williams

EVELYN Joy Williams, the founder of pharmaceutical powerhouse RA Williams Distributors Limited, has, along with her children, brought the company from very humble beginnings in Chapelton, Clarendon, to a formidable force to be reckoned with.

Officially opened in 2012, the business has caught the attention of prominent business luminaries to form its board of directors. But not so long ago, Williams had to borrow $100,000 to save it.

"I believe I worked the hardest during the opening of our family-owned retail pharmacy in Chapelton. That business essentially served as the catalyst for RA Williams Distributors," Williams told All Woman.

Borrowing funds to save the business is what she saw as her greatest challenge to date – "It taught me that pharmaceutical distribution is capital-intensive and requires sound financial backing."

"The business got to a point where we needed additional capital in order to grow, and forced me to go back to the drawing board to find a solution. Luckily for us our current Board Chairman R 'Danny' Williams was very open to partnering with us and provided good mentorship."

Now the shy, humble, hard-working mother of three says she feels extremely proud of where she is, powered by her high school motto "Labor omnia vincit" which translates to "Labour conquers all".

"As an entrepreneur, specifically a woman in business, challenges are inevitable. However, one setback isn't the end of your journey. You have the ability to rise above your challenges and use them as teaching moments. You'll look back later on and see that they only served to make you stronger and wiser," she advised.

Williams' son and daughter have remained steadfast in following in her footsteps of becoming registered pharmacists themselves and together, as a family, they have built what is Jamaica's only pharmaceutical distribution company founded and headed by a family of registered pharmacists.

"As a family we do everything together, so they were co-conceptualisers in every aspect," she said.

In 2021 they won the Jamaican Pharmaceutical Industry Award and achieved mind-blowing sales results for their last financial periods.

This mighty matriarch, who has been one of the strongest influences in her children's lives, says God, gratitude, and resilience have been the hallmark for their success.

"With God all things are possible, and it's important that we ask his guidance in all that we do. No duty is more important than giving thanks. Borrowing a quotation, I maintain that thanks is the highest form of thought, and gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. Always have an attitude of gratitude," she said, while thanking all customers as well as current and past employees for their contributions along the journey thus far.

"Resilience is the ability to bounce back quickly from challenges and we have had our fair share of challenges. However, challenges are the ingredients that develop your mental fortitude to withstand the competition and daily setbacks," she added.

Hailing from York Street district, Linstead, in St Catherine, young Evelyn attended St Jago High School and The University of Technology, Jamaica where she received a bachelor of pharmacy degree.

"Growing up from humble beginnings but being reassured by my late father [Ransford Anton Williams] that you can be anything you want to be is the root of my resilience," she shared. "He was the driving force behind my aspirations and he instilled in all of us the value of a good education by telling us that education was our passport out of poverty."

She defines success as not only achieving your goals, but also as the number of people you've positively impacted along the way.

"As it relates to pharmacy, that would mean ensuring that patients are able to access effective and economical alternatives to treat or manage their conditions, which is a great contribution to the health care industry," she explained.

A typical day includes preparing and reviewing dossiers for submission to the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

She also specialises in oncology pharmacy which provides medication therapy management for patients with cancer.

"My days are often long and busy, but rewarding," she shared. "As an entrepreneur, specifically a woman in business, challenges are inevitable. However, one setback isn't the end of your journey. You have the ability to rise above your challenges and use them as teaching moments. You'll look back later on and see that they only served to make you stronger and wiser."

She said words can't explain what it's been like to have her children following in her footsteps – "to see both Jewel and Audley as the face of the company".

"They have worked tirelessly to bring RA Williams to where it is now. It's rare that you see young people at their age who would deny themselves opportunities of pleasure and work late nights and weekends to ensure that customers' needs are met. They are a true reflection of dedication and resilience."

Celebrating 10 years in the pharmaceutical distribution business is what she sees as her biggest career achievement to date, and, "I'll reiterate that, with God, all things are possible."

"Ten years ago we couldn't have imagined being among the leading pharmaceutical distributors in Jamaica, but here we are today," she shared. "Pharmacists are a critical part of the health-care team. I love contributing to a healthy nation and making people's lives better.

"The pharmacy profession in Jamaica is over 90 years old and was initially a male-dominated field. Due to hard work and dedication, especially by women such as Dr Eugenie Brown-Myrie, women are now the face of pharmacy."

Williams likes to think of herself as a "silent giant". "I like to work quietly and diligently behind the scenes without the need to be highlighted or promoted," she shared.

When she's not working she loves to cook and eat: "A garden salad with salmon is my go-to meal."

And, "on the weekends, I enjoy travelling the countryside. I also love music and People Like You by Gramps Morgan is among my favourites".

PETULIA CLARKE-LAWRENCE

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