MORANT BAY, St Thomas — Kicked out of the public high school system, Horaine Kelly finally outgrew his “rude bwoy” attitude and found his way, through a series of twists and turns, into the police force.
Now he has his sights set on improving this parish he now calls home through his seemingly endless list of entrepreneurial ventures.
Kelly was born and raised in the rural district of Mill Bank, in Portland, where he spent most of his teenage years. He learnt early on that there were consequences to his poor choices.
“While attending high school I wanted to become a criminal lawyer. However, I never got the chance because at the latter part of high school I was expelled,” he told the Jamaica Observer.
“At that time I was twisted… I was adopting the trends of the streets as well as trying to impact those around me, but at the same time I was getting a perspective of different areas in life,” Kelly added.
He went on to finish high school at a private institution in Port Antonio called Smart Skills Academy. After successfully passing his Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects, Kelly was enrolled in a youth programme where he was placed at the Social Development Commission in Port Antonio. After that he enrolled in the National Youth Service Programme where he was assigned to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS).
Determined to change the reputation earned in his teenage years of being a “rude bwoy”, he worked hard to be productive and involved in his community. He was an active member of the Portland Youth Council and a Youth Advocate. But when staff layoffs began at the MLSS in 2010, he still needed a mindset change to even consider a manager's suggestion to apply to the police force.
“Becoming a police was never on my agenda because I am not from a background where any of my family members or anyone I know are police officers; plus I was a rude boy,” Kelly said with a chuckle.
Emboldened by his childhood friend Anthony Heslop's decision to also be a cop, Kelly applied to become a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).
While they waited to hear if they were accepted, they applied for other jobs. One of those was with the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, which hired Kelly. But seven months after he began the job doing census duties in the Rio Grande area, he got word that his application to the JCF had been successful. He went for training at Twickenham Park in 2011 and it was horrible, he said. Being a lawman did not come naturally for him.
“I always had to work extra hard in my academics and in the physical exercises. I always had to read ahead of my batch and do extremely well because my trainers did not favour me, which made things very difficult,” Kelly explained.
He survived the training, then had short stints at Port Morant and Yallahs police stations before he was finally settled at Morant Bay Police Station. He did general policing duties there and was also a great asset to the Morant Bay Traffic Unit for six years.
But he wanted more.
“I managed to complete short courses at the Maritime Institute, I did electrical installation at Paul Bogle Institute and supervisory management at UWI Open Campus,” Kelly said.
He also did courses in criminal investigations and was later transferred to Morant Bay's Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB).
Then in 2017, tragedy struck. A motor vehicle crash left him unable to walk for two months.
“During that time I met a friend and a mentor, 'Billy Trail'. He encouraged me to start a business. However, I was reluctant. I told him I never thought of owning a business plus I don't know what to do and he said, 'Just start'. He told me if I wanted the jump-start, he would have assisted me,” said Kelly.
After careful consideration, Kelly decided to start his entrepreneurial journey. He turned to something that he felt was needed in St Thomas.
“I thought of a concept where I could get my hair washed after being trimmed, especially on workdays, to eliminate hair on my clothes. I was able to actualise this dream through my grand-aunt who had an available space at Walker's Plaza, Morant Bay. She never took me serious at the time; however, I started to build out ideas in my head so I could make my first business move in 2018,” he explained.
After setting up the salon, Kelly decided that he wanted to embark on another business venture. Wanting to achieve more, coupled with his love for motor cycles, he thought of starting a bike business. By 2020 Kelly had set up Baanstar Cycles, Auto Parts and Accessories in Lieth Hall, St Thomas. It stocks motorcycles, bike parts and accessories as well as car parts.
“The things that I enjoy and would want to indulge [in] are not available in the parish. People always look down on St Thomas in all sense but I see it as a great place. I believe if we join hands and heart we can create a product and brand from the parish,” Kelly said of the thinking behind his entrepreneurial ventures.
Some of his business ideas have fared better than others. A barbeque joint, called Wavez, opened in Portland in early 2019 didn't survive because of COVID-19 restrictions. But Kelly hasn't given up and plans to develop his brand, The Ultimate Wavez Ja. There is a story behind the name.
“I consider myself a pluviophile, someone who loves rainfall. I am from Mill Bank District near to Rio Grande Valley where it rains a lot. As a result of these factors I grew to love nature,” he said.
He started off by selling Wavez-branded headwear and then Wavez sweat pants and pullovers as well as smoking accessories. The latest addition to the brand is the Wavez Sports Bar located in Lieth Hall. He wants to create a backyard gaming experience at the venue where patrons can get the Wavez experience, de-stress and vibe.
It hasn't been easy.
“In setting up the sports bar I encountered many challenges. I had to work a full work day [as a cop] and after leaving I would go straight to the location to set up and I would be there in the wee hours. I had a few people who helped me to get this dream alive; however, I was having a lot of burn out in terms of balancing everything at once,” Kelly said.
The supervisory course that he did at UWI has helped him on the management side. Now he just needs more hours in each day to get everything done.
“I have to plan ahead and most times I am up late at nights… but they say the secret to hard work is more hard work,” said Kelly wryly.
He keeps his eyes focused on his goal: to have people from far and wide, in and outside of Jamaica, travel to St Thomas to have a Wavez experience.