Interviews

5 Questions with Glen Laman Author of the book, Jamaican Entrepreneurship

Written by Xavier Murphy

This week we have a conversation with Jamaican author, Glen Laman. He recently wrote the book, Jamaican Entrepreneurship a review of the characteristics, traits and ideas of some of the island’s most accomplished entrepreneurs. We ask Mr. Laman about five things he learned about Jamaican Entrepreneurship while writing the book. 

1. Is there one trait you found amongst the 15 successful Entrepreneurs that you can say is uniquely Jamaican?
The Jamaican entrepreneurs share the same traits as successful entrepreneurs everywhere but they may have exhibited them in a uniquely Jamaican way. It could also argued that the historical socioeconomic and political environment found in Jamaica is unique.

2. Tell us the most compelling story of entrepreneurship that you found while doing this book?
Each entrepreneur’s story is compelling in a different way. But I found Lois Sherwood’s story fascinating because I see some of her attributes in one of my granddaughters. She knew what she wanted and was relentless and tenacious in pursuing it at a time when women where not taken seriously in business.

3. We have heard that failure is a part of entrepreneurship. It is probably a little more challenging for entrepreneurs in Jamaica. Can you tell us about how some of the entrepreneurs you interviewed overcame failure?
Entrepreneurship entails risk and you have to be willing to fail. Early in his business, Perishables Jamaica’s Norman Wright invested all his cash in a seafood canning operation in an attempt to earn foreign exchange. He ended up having to dump his entire production and shipment just as they were about to ship to the UK and USA. This experience while a setback caused him to return focus to his core competency which was tea.

4. We don’t want to give away too much about the book but can you tell us about some of the great accomplishments of Jamaican Entrepreneurs that people may not know about?
Jamaican entrepreneurship profiles 15 entrepreneurs including Abe Issa, the man who developed the first shopping center in Jamaica and the first supermarket; Rita Humphries-Lewin, the first female stockbroker in Jamaica who founded her own securities firm; Lowell Hawthorne, the man who founded a top 100 black owned business in the USA; Michael Lee-Chin who appeared on Forbes Magazine’s billionaires list; Lois Sherwood who co-founded Restaurant Associates owner of 26 Burger King restaurants in Jamaica; Gordon “Butch” Stewart of Sandals Hotel’s fame; Robert Levy who built the best dressed chicken at Jamaica Broilers group; George Yap who bought a hydroponic farm when he had never even planted a weed previously; Audrey Marks who founded Paymaster; Vincent Chang of Tastee’s, the man who redesigned the Jamaican Patty. These are just some of the great accomplishments described in the book.

5. In the Jamaican diaspora you always find Jamaicans are doing something on the “side”. Are these people considered Entrepreneurs? Why do we find this type of activity amongst so many Jamaicans in the diaspora?
I suspect there are a number of reasons for this. Jamaicans certainly have an entrepreneurial outlook. And we are always looking to “try a ting.” But in the Diaspora this attribute is probably heightened by a desire to strike it rich and go back home since “a no fi wi country dis.”

Thanks for your time. Tell us where we can learn more about the book and how to purchase.
Thank you for having me. Readers can preview the book at http://www.glenlaman.com and order online Jamaican Entrepreneurship at Amazon.com

About the author

Xavier Murphy