Successful Jamaican-Owned Business In Us Looks To Jamaica For Spices

President and Chief Executive Officer of the largest and fastest growing Jamaican-owned business in the United States, Jamaican-born Lowell Hawthorne has decided to source a large quantity of spices in Jamaica for his business overseas.

Even though there are already 69 Golden Krust stores across the United States with 30 being opened last year alone and 14 now under construction, Hawthorne’s vision is 250 stores stronger; a dream he pursues resolutely. Today Golden Krust can be found in places frequented by the upper crust such as Westchester County, Times Square, Park Avenue, Madison Square Garden, and the Empire State Building.

In a JIS Television interview, Mr. Hawthorne chronicled the events which led to him being featured by CNN, the New York Times, Forbes Magazine, named by Black enterprise as one of the 100 largest minority owned businesses in the United States, making Entrepreneur Magazine’s list of top 500 franchise opportunities and receiving the accounting firm Ernst and Young’s entrepreneur of the year award for the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut in 2000.

“We began as a simple family business (in 1987) and as the years went by the company went into partnership,” Hawthorne says. However in 1996 having opened several outlets across New York in predominant Caribbean neighbourhoods, he decided to sell franchises.

Having sought and obtained permission from the State to franchise in 37 states, Golden Krust became the first Caribbean Baked goods producer to hold this distinction and is the manufacturer, distributor and franchiser of Caribbean bakeries, grilled and food products, offering 42 different high quality Caribbean foods at affordable prices.

Like any keen entrepreneur he takes advantage of cravings and has capitalised on the rising demand for ethnic foods.

So now hard to find Caribbean cuisine and the much loved jerk is among Golden Krust’s offerings coupled with a new exotic juice line for sorrel and ginger and a new sauce line; Golden Krust Sauce and Jerk Seasoning.

“We have now introduced the jerk chicken concept within the stores, it is a system where the chicken is done on the grill, manufactured in our south branch facility and shipped to every store and done right in front of our customers,” Hawthorne explains. “It has taken off tremendously,” he adds.

His island home is to benefit even more from his good sense as Mr. Hawthorne intends to establish farther linkages with Jamaican farmers for the export of spices other than thyme and pepper as well as other products to support his business. In this, Mr. Hawthorne informs that the company is looking to pull about 226,000 kilograms or 500,000 pounds of pepper annually and 90,000 kilograms or 200,000 pounds of thyme from Jamaica.

He says there is also an interest in pimento, nutmeg, sorrel and other non-traditional export items such as ginger, escallion and onions as the island provides the very best spices. He adds that he sees the venture providing employment and opportunities for the island’s youth and farmers, “we are hoping that Jamaican farmers can be more efficient in their production so they can be more cost effective where they can give us a more competitive price.”

This decision to further contribute to the country’s development comes at a time when the Jamaican government is placing marked emphasis on involving its Diaspora to contribute to Jamaica’s development.

Not one to settle at the half mark he has set his sights on even greater achievements. “America as you know has a population of over 250 million people and it is the company’s objectives to take Golden Krust to every neighbourhood in the United States. And I think we can do it, we have the product, and we have the people behind the organization and I do believe the franchisees also play a very important role in the development of the Golden Krust concept,” he states confidently.

Elevating Golden Krust is no pipe-dream and last year the franchise entered into a seven-year agreement with Pepsi under which the soft drink giant will install soda fountains in all its outlets. In return Golden Krust will receive some US$1.2 million in incentives from Pepsi. The agreement became effective September 1, 2003 and signalled Pepsi’s acceptance of Golden Krust as a national chain.

Under the contract Pepsi will assist Golden Krust with redesigning the menu boards in all the stores as well as provide rebates on the volume of soda fountains sold. Pepsi will also assist Golden Krust with its marketing programme and demographics on new store locations.

Mr. Hawthorne says the alliance was part of the company’s decision that in moving forward part of the growth mode was being able to foster and build relationships with companies in the United States in some way. “We have done it with Pepsi,” he notes and adds that Golden Krust will also capitalize on Pepsi’s marketing strength. An alliance has also been formed with General Mills for the supply of donuts, croissants and muffins, among other products.

Though he enjoys enviable success, Mr. Hawthorne quickly points out that the journey to the top was no walkover. “It wasn’t easy, it was uncharted water, no Caribbean business has ever gone there and there wasn’t much experience I could have pulled on, it was a lot of trial and error but we were able to perfect it as we moved along,” he admits. He was also hampered by a lack of ready funds, a situation made right by the decision of all family members to mortgage their homes to access the necessary funding. It was a risk that paid off well.

However, he says Caribbean franchising in the United States is not an easy road with progress made difficult by legal requirements and the overall compliance requirements in terms of administration, training programmes that have to put in place for the franchisees for the consistency of the product in establishing prototype stores.

Despite the challenges, Mr. Hawthorne says consistency is guaranteed, “in so much that whatever branch of Golden Krust the consumer visits he is assured of the same Caribbean atmosphere and quality,” aided by the Caribbean d

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