Entrepreneurs in action
This is the first in a series about the Cayman Islands Financial Services Association in an effort by the group to better inform the public about what CIFSA does.
With so much focus on employment in the tourism and financial services sectors you might think that the only way to get ahead in Cayman is through direct employment with a firm in those industries.
They certainly are the dominant sectors of our economy.
But for individuals with the right mix of experience, personality, and determination there is another way: the path of the entrepreneur.
What is an entrepreneur? In short, he or she is an individual who sees a need for a particular product or service within a specific target customer base and starts up a business that focuses on meeting that need for those people.
Financial Services is an extremely large industry in Cayman. So what kind of opportunities might exist for entrepreneurs in this area?
Jose Luis Salgado is the owner of Enterprise Office Network Solutions, a Cayman firm that specialises in telecommunications hardware and software.
‘I had been working in telecom for many years when I came to Cayman. I immediately saw a need for experienced installers and support people with so many large firms relying heavily on their telecom systems to conduct their businesses, and a shortage of skilled workers. It was hard work getting the first few institutional customers but EONS has steadily grown over the years as executives within the sector were very open to finding a quality supplier and were very helpful in generating new business for us by letting other firms know that EONS was providing great service and support for them at reasonable prices. Today we service clients with very large organizations, like Fortis, to smaller boutique firms like Focus Consulting.’
Jose’s experience is not unique and the opportunities are not limited to highly technical fields like his. Mise en Place is a catering company that has taken advantage of opportunities to service the Financial Services sector, among others, and build a client list that includes many of the most influential companies in Grand Cayman including Deloitte, Walkers, Maples and Calder, Appleby, KPMG, The Cayman Islands Monetary Authority and many more.
Sean Collins, founder of Mise en Place, describes the journey from upstart company to respected catering firm in this way: ‘Being a Caymanian, and having worked in a number of fine dining establishments on the island I was able to identify the demand for a high end catering service serving clients in their home or office. I spent a year doing parties for individuals through word of mouth. Once the demand was there I formed a partnership with an old college roommate and professional chef Ian Nagelson. We started marketing our business the old fashioned way, going from office to office introducing ourselves and delivering menus and information on our company.
‘Gradually the phone calls started trickling in. It’s never easy to get your foot in the door but over time we demonstrated our quality and professionalism, and the frequency of orders steadily increased.’
To Sean’s surprise, staff at those businesses even began hiring him for their own private events, allowing him to network further with their guests via simple handshakes and a business card as guests had already experienced the food and service. ‘From there we were able to hire more staff and grow the business, gaining daily contracts for schools and large firms in George Town.’
Michele Aubert at Affinity Personnel describes her early years in starting up a human resources firm as ‘challenging but exciting times.’ Her background in Human Resources with several years of experience, gave Michele good insight into the issues facing her clients. ‘Establishing Affinity and building a solid client base has been a significant challenge. It has been hard work,’ says Michele. ‘Our commitment to providing high quality service has contributed greatly to our success. Our philosophy of consistency with personal interaction to build close long-term relationships has been well received by our clients. We are very appreciative of the list of high caliber and quality firms we can call our clients.’
So what can we learn from the success of these entrepreneurs? First, that opportunities are all around us if we keep our eyes and ears open. Second, that you need some skill or experience in the field in order to provide excellent service. And third that your first impression has to be great, because people often share their experiences (both good and bad) with others and in a relatively small community like Cayman that can make or break a business very quickly. But perhaps a more subtle message here is that you do not have to work in financial services to make a good living from financial services companies here in Cayman.