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A Genuine recipe for success
Three decades ago, five friends enrolled in a short course in handicraft in their close-knit Paramin community. At the end of the state-sponsored course, as they tried to figure how to use their newly acquired skills, their instructor offered an idea.
“He told us why not apply for a grant and go into making seasoning as a business,” one of the women, Veronica Romany, recalled.
“We all laughed because we told him, ‘we from Paramin and we know everything about seasoning. We born and grow up in seasoning’.
But Romany explained the instructor meant to process and bottle seasoning.
She recalled he said, “Do more with it after you plant it.”
Romany said their instructor saw what we did not see in ourselves— that we were business women.
Romany and her friends has since taken this advice and have established an agro-processing business, Genuine Paramin Seasoning, making full use of the abundant supplies of chive, broad leaf thyme, pimento and chadon beni growing in the lush green hillsides around their community.
The entrepreneurs pooled whatever savings they had and invested in modest equipment for their factory—small blenders and glass bottles.
“It was hard at first because we never did this before. It was time consuming also. We managed to buy about three or four little blenders initially and we had to do plenty grinding. But when the business started to pick up, we invested the profit into more equipment. We bought larger blenders which could grind about 60 pounds of herbs one time,” Romany said.
Today the women have a sense of fierce independence and resilience, encouraged by the success of their venture against all odds.
Romany, 62, and her business partners Martina Romany, 77, Jean Letren, 66, Gabriella Joseph 52 and Pamela Lawrence—are also part of the Paramin Women’s Group and have been instrumental in providing a platform for farmers and other micro-business owners in the area.
“We buy about 700 to 800 pounds of various herbs from the farmers in the area. We get first preference. We are a regular market for the farmers and they appreciate that,” Romany said.
As the business grew, the women got assistance from the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (Cariri) and the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation in Agriculture (IICA) to increase their production capacity.
These days, once a week on Wednesdays, the women—who all live within walking distance of the factory at Saut D’eau Road—weigh, trim and wash the herbs, freezing whatever is left over for the following week. The next day the herbs are grounded separately and poured into large barrels, then mixed together with potassium sorbate as a preservative.
Painstakingly, the women manually fill bottles with the seasonings, which are then sold for $15 a bottle or $190 a case.
When she is not churning out the popular green mixture, Romany is busy making sugar cakes and brewing home-made wine, just like some of the other members of the group.
All avid churchgoers, the five attend Sunday mass at the Paramin RC Church every week.
“We always pray before we start the day in the factory. We give the Lord thanks and ask Him to bless the business,” Romany said.
The factory produces only for the local market and, at present, there are no plans to export.
“Expanding outside Trinidad is too much money,” Romany said.
Even as they enjoy the success of their business, however, the women admit they are concerned about the future of the factory.
“The younger generation does not seem to be interested in hard work like planting garden. They only want to dress up and go out and look nice,” said Romany whose three adult daughters do not share her passion.
The other big challenge is finding workers.
“We had some but they don’t stay and it is even harder because it is an all-woman business. The workers we get always moving on,” Romany said.
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