Repaying debt is no fun
Small business operator T'sana Wint tells her storySunday, March 07, 2021
BY KATRICH WALKER
MANDEVILLE, Manchester — It's often very difficult to pay off debt.
For small business owner, T'sana Wint, it proved a traumatising experience since the Students' Loan Bureau (SLB) became unrelentingly insistent even as COVID-19 brought her body shaping business, Glits and Glamour Body Contouring and Detox Studio, to a virtual halt in 2020.
Looking back, the 34-year-old is filled with joy and relief to have completed her payments, after she had to put a pause on her business last year. But now she believes her story can help others to pull themselves out of trouble when all seems lost.
The certified beauty therapist, licensed body wrapper, and aesthetician's journey with the SLB started a little after she got accepted into the University of Technology (UTech) on a sports scholarship in 2005. Bright-eyed and optimistic, she pursued a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology and Management.
However, Wint faced difficulties in her first year at UTech, such as trouble transitioning from high school to university. It was her first time in Kingston, far away from her Manchester home and she found herself unable to cope mentally, emotionally and financially with tertiary level education. Among her problems was trying to balance her training for sporting competition with academics.
“The whole training and everything was also a bit too much for me. I ended up losing my sponsorship which covered half of my school fee at the time. It ended up that I had to defer my acceptance at UTech in 2005 until 2006,” she said.
During that one-year gap, T'sana got herself a job at the Percy Junior Hospital before returning to UTech to continue her degree in 2006.
But things just went from bad to worse. She did not get to complete her degree as she got pregnant in 2009, and had to stop attending school with one year left to graduate.
“I [returned to] Percy Junior Hospital, so I pretty much flunked out of college, but student loan didn't stop. Student loan kept adding the interest, adding all those late payment fees and stuff like that because you signed a contract so that kept coming,” she recalled.
Wint said, it was very soon after starting her business, inspired by the 2016 death of her mother, that the SLB reminded her of her debt to the organisation.
She said the total figure she had to pay was $1,755,981.95. “I got the loan for three years, the first year, I borrowed $220,000, the second year it went up to $230,000 and my third year it was about $250,000. So adding up all of that, I know it was over $700,000. Interest brought it over, way over the threshold over the course of the 11 or 12 years,” Wint said.
In addition to interest, late fees and taxes and other miscellaneous expenses also added to what she had to repay.
Two collection agencies were sent to collect the money accumulated over the years.
Wint explained that representatives from the collectors would show up at her business place and would make insistent calls to ask for payment.
She began repaying in 2019, and had managed to pay a substantial sum by the time COVID-19 hit, as she was determined not to let 2021 catch her in the same situation.
When the country went into COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, Wint had to put a pause on her business and search for other means of employment to pay her bills, with student loans on the forefront of her mind.
She had to pull on her computer science education from Uech, as she applied for online jobs, doing data entry and tax returns for persons online. She also got herself licensed to drive a ten-wheeler truck and when she wasn't doing online jobs, started hauling marl and sand to earn some cash.
“During the days I would do data entry for a company overseas. With each document that you do is worth between like US$18 to maybe like US$40 sometimes,” she said.
She said she also purchased and received items online for various companies for a fee. “They sent you a product list from Amazon, they would tell you how to get their product and you purchase the product, and you have to review the product for them and they would put like a US$5 credit on your account,” she said.
Wint would also buy these spa-related products in bulk and sell the balance at a small profit after doing the reviews.
She said prayer was a coping mechanism which helped her through the ordeal of going back to what she called the “baby stages” of “crying and begging”.
Wint credited a cousin, Roberta Watson, for providing a shoulder to lean on during her periods of greatest stress.
Entering 2021, Wint is proud that she has successfully paid off her student loan and can look confidently forward.
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