Berbice-based Entrepreneur, Ishabeth Sinclair, has accomplished more in just 22 years than most entrepreneurs aspire to in a lifetime. Her award winning natural foods manufacturing company provides employment for primarily youths and single parents from her community.
In 2016, at the age of 19, Ishabeth cofounded M & I Business Enterprise with her now husband, Michael Sinclair. The company creates high quality organic, natural and specialty food products from raw materials that are prevalent in Guyana, and is described as “The Stepping Stone to a Healthy and Convenient Lifestyle.”
Ishabeth is also the co-founder of the Youths United for Empowerment Organization which was establish with the aim to develop a country where youths are positive and passionate about personal development and other primary foregoing objectives.
GGR first learned of this young & savvy business woman back in March, 2019 when she presented her highly sought after products at the Women in Business Expo at Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown, Guyana. Here’s Ishabeth’s story..
Can you share little bit about your childhood? I was born in New Amsterdam and I grew up in a small community called Portuguese Quarter, Port Mourant located on the Corentyne Coast of Berbice. I was fortunate to have the love of my two aunts Janice Bess and Yonette Medas who both helped to raise me. I could say that my childhood days were not easy. At the age of 3, I went to live with my aunt Janice who took care of me as a single parent with the assistance of my other aunt Yonette, who was also a single parent. At the time, both of my aunts were experience personal challenges in their lives. I can recall the times when we didn’t have any food in our cupboard, and the times when I had to use a plastic bag to take my books to school (something that motivates me every time I reflect on those days). My aunt Janice made many sacrifices for me and worked as a security job to make ends meet, and to ensure that I received a proper education.
Where did you go to school? I completed Port Mourant Primary School in 2009, gaining 474 mark, which placed me at the J.C Chandisingh Secondary School; one of the recognized institution in my region at the time. I attended this institution for the period required and sat the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC), Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate to which I gained passes in ten (10) subjects, securing 6 – Grade 2’s and 4 – Grade 3’s. I also participated in the Action Club Business Training Programme, hosted by Action Coach Guyana along with the Ministry of Business – Small Business Bureau; the Youth Leadership Training Programme Modules 1 & 2 hosted by the Ministry of the Presidency Youth Empowerment Unit; the Entrepreneurship & Work Ready Skills Training Programme hosted by the Specialist in Sustainable Youth Development & Research (SSYDR) in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations; A course in Agro-processing hosted by the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA) in collaboration with the Ministry of the Presidency Youth Empowerment Unit; along with other business related training and workshops hosted by various organizations.
You’ve received extensive training in entrepreneurship and agriculture. Did this motivate you to start a manufacturing business? Honestly I really did not like the idea of being in business, since there weren’t any female entrepreneurs or role models to look up to in my areaI for me to want to emulate. So after leaving school I ventured into job search writing applications to the Ministry of Education in pursuit of becoming a teacher. I did not receive a response so I proceeded to apply to several other companies for which I was once more unsuccessful. This lead me to pursue nursing but got the same results as the previous applications. Desperately in need of a pay cheque my boyfriend at the time (now husband) got tired of seeing me disappointed and decided to start a Computer Repair Shop/Internet Café and offer me a job to work with him.
The business was successful for a short while but eventually technological advancement (the introduction of smart phones and other devices which is more handy and accessible to individuals) caused a decline in our customer based and the company closed. Nevertheless we got married in May 2016 and after listening to a charge by his Excellency President David Arthur Granger, who urged citizens to be more involved in value added products and to move away from the common plantain chips in plastic bags and have them properly labelled and packaged, we found it to be quite interesting and started contemplating on what local items we had in abundance and what we could do with them. We decided to registered M & I Business Enterprise as a wedding gift to ourselves which later bore fruit to what we call our first child; the birth of the “Natural Coconut Shreds”.
What are some other products that your company produces? M&I Business Enterprise produces seven products which can be found on the shelves of nine supermarkets across Guyana. In addition to the natural coconut sheds, we produce fruit mix, moringa powdered season mix, moringa teabag, package moringa seeds and ground orange peel.
What motivates you daily? My motivation comes from God, my husband, and a few highly respected persons with whom I communicate, and consumers who reaches out to me to share insights, testimonies, recommendations and requests for what they would like to see next, etc. And lastly, seeing my products on shelves of supermarkets standing tall next to the imported items also keeps me motivated.
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment to date? I would say getting married and owning my own business at 19 years old.
Your company’s efforts to employ single mothers and a member of a vulnerable youth population is admirable. Have you received any awards or recognition for your work? My husband and I were awarded at the first National Youth Award for outstanding achievements in advancing youth development through Agriculture and Food Security in 2018.
What’s one word that describes you? Enthusiastic!
What important lessons have you learned during your process of becoming an entrepreneur? Some of the most important lessons I have learnt are to trust in God (have faith), to never give up, and whatever we speak into the universe is what we’ll receive and to be humble.
Are there anyone who have influenced you over the years? Yes, my husband, Mr. Aubrey C. Norton, and Dr Lowell Porter. Mr. Aubrey Norton is the first individual that I have met who believes that youths are vital assets once provided with the relevant guidance. He has taught myself and over 1,000 individuals Youth Leadership Training Programmes: Critical Thinking. Dr. Lowell Porter has influenced me due to his drive to see small businesses succeed especially youth entrepreneurs. Since our first in counter he has been a guide and encouraged us to take up the challenges (view situations differently), never give and lastly help’s us in the best way he can. Personally while establishing our business he has been a strong block in our foundation, teaching us to be patient and to never give up when challenges arrived.
What are some challenges and obstacles that you’ve encountered in being an entrepreneur? One of the major challenges that I have encountered as a young woman in business is not being taken seriously. I assume that is due to my age and being a female. Another challenge is securing placement for our products on the shelves of more supermarkets across the country and internationally. Due to the fact that we are a small agro-processors, increasing sales and scheduling promotion meeting with vendors and consumers directly is sometimes difficult.
What advice would you give to young girls/women who may want to pursue a similar venture? My advice to a young girl/woman who wants to pursue this venture is to first be open and write down all of your ideas, then research them. Next chose one that you’re passionate about; work towards making it a reality; make it unique and always remember to believe in yourself.
What would you say is the essence of being a “woman who rock”? The essence of being a woman who rocks for me is simply being a woman who is eagerly doing what she loves.
What’s next for you? The expansion of the business to both products and services promoting extremely healthy lifestyles and practices, while establishing a platform to facilitate engagement and offer mentorship to other young girls in my community and country at large.
Customers can shop for M&I’s products at Bounty or Survival Supermarkets, Massy Industries and the Guyana Shop in the City and Good Life, Sparkles and F. Ali and Daughters Supermarkets in Berbice. You may also contact Ishabeth via the company’s Facebook Page or at +592 692 0208.