Having contributed four decades of his life to entrepreneurship and development of the hospitality, tourism and entertainment sectors, Robert Russell, hopes his success will be an inspiration to young, aspiring business operators.
The owner of the popular nightlife spot on the Montego Bay waterfront, Pier 1, advises young entrepreneurs to set careful targets and move steadfastly towards their goals.
“Don’t look left or right until you get there. And then set another target and keep moving ahead and moving upward, so you can contribute to Jamaica and to employment, and to the economy,” he tells JIS News.
Mr. Russell will this month be appointed a member of the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander (CD) for outstanding contribution to the Music, Entertainment, Tourism and Film Industries. He will be awarded during the National Honours and Awards ceremony at King’s House on National Heroes Day (October 16).
He was also a recipient of the 2017 Abe Issa Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association (JHTA).
“I feel very honoured and humbled by the kind of recognition I am receiving and hope that other young business people will see it as an incentive for them in whatever their chosen field is,” Mr. Russell says.
The Calabar and St. George’s College old boy, in collaboration with a small group of Montego Bay business interests, founded the popular, internationally renowned festival, Reggae Sumfest in 1993. He was Chairman for 18 years and is still integral to the show’s production following its sale in 2015. For 10 years, he also co-produced the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival.
At one point Mr. Russell operated three restaurants out of Mandeville, where he was also canteen concessionaire, supplying some 1,500 Alcan Kirkvine workers with meals.
He also owned a hotel in Ocho Rios called Little Madness, which was one of the first to use the all-inclusive concept in the island.
Mr. Russell currently manages, alongside his children, the all-inclusive hotel, Deja Resorts, in Montego Bay.
“I think it’s an insatiable will to succeed and a stick-to-itiveness that I have had over the years, to just not give up when faced with hardships and the many problems faced as a young businessman. I just stayed with it and kept my eyes on the goal and made sure I got there,” he tells JIS News.
He also attributes his achievements to the steadfast support of his family and to his children who also operate businesses in the hospitality industry.
In his earlier years, Mr. Russell was also keenly involved in the film industry, working with the Director, Perry Henzell, to produce the first feature film, written, funded and directed by Jamaicans – ‘The Harder They Come’ – which would become one of the most popular local cult classics.
He produced a second film with Vista Productions called, ‘No Place like Home’, which may be released this year.
Throughout the years, Mr. Russell has also contributed significantly to the public sector through his involvement on several Boards. He was Chairman of the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo.) for four years and Chairman of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) Montego Bay Advisory Board.
He is currently Commissioner of the Casino Gaming Commission and is a Member of the Entertainment Advisory Board.