Shrimp snack set to make a splash

 At 24, Vanessa Polack is no
ordinary twenty-something.

The Savannah resident – who numbers
fishing and painting among her favourite pastimes – is that rare breed: a young
female who, less than a year out of college, owns not one but two businesses.

When most at her age are light
years away from mapping out long-term plans; she attends Business after Hours
events to network and devises business models for Cayman Sea Salt and her
latest brainchild Cayman Pepper Shrimp.

Ms Polack credits her family as
being her greatest asset when it comes to her drive and determination in
pursuing business goals.

 “My parents are practical people and have always encouraged me to strive
for success and to think for myself,” she said.

“When
I’m grappling with business ideas and issues I usually end up talking them over
with my father. He’s not only a lawyer but owns his own advertising firm,
Caycab Taxi TV. In fact I advertise my newest product line Cayman Pepper Shrimp
though the TV screens in his taxis’ headrests.”

She
also cites University College of the Cayman Island’s Director of
Student Services Mary Anne
Cannon as an early mentor.

Ms
Cannon said: “Vanessa was one of those students who was self motivated, open to
guidance and found quick solutions to challenges and problems.

“While
attending the UCCI, Vanessa was vice president of the Student Council. She
advocated for students and brought an effective approach to student leadership…
We spent many hours together on project planning and management. She is proactive,
articulate and handles herself with poise.”

Having graduated with a Bachelor of
Science Degree in Marketing from the University of Tampa last May, the marketing
and e-business officer at the Department of the Tourism is determined make a
splash with her Cayman Peppered Shrimp.She cooks and packages the snacks from home after work and at weekends.

Her new, solo venture barely a
month old is sold at local supermarkets, gas stations and bars.

 The hot and spicy snack of whole, white shrimp
marinaded and cooked in a secret family recipe can be eaten at room temperature
or warmed in the microwave.

“I want Cayman Pepper Shrimp to
grow into the patty of Cayman,” she said. “I’m marketing it as a truly
Caribbean bar snack that’s tasty, locally produced and is high on island
flavour.”

The recipe, though a closely
guarded secret, harks back to the family’s Jamaican heritage and has been
adapted by her sister Olivia.

 “Being from the Caribbean, we like having
family get-togethers with friends over to shoot the breeze and eat. Olivia made
a big pot of pepper shrimp, which had been cooked over a charcoal fire. She’d
made them with their heads on – the traditional way with Scotch bonnet peppers
and Cayman Sea Salt sea,” Ms Polack said.

“Our friends asked us to make up
some batches for them and that was when it occurred to me that this could make
a great business.”

Once she got the nod from her sister
to use the recipe commercially, the business major wasted no time in pitching
the speciality product to retailers.

“I produced a marketing and
business plan, which factored in the cost of production and my intended market.

“When I was satisfied that the
numbers added up; I made some calls,  prepared
some samples and went out to pitch Cayman Pepper Shrimp to the local supermarkets,
bars and gas stations.”

 The snack, which started off being sold in
Styrofoam cartons, was switched to clear plastic containers “because clients
wanted to see at a glance what was inside.”

Each 8oz container contains four peppered
shrimp and the flavoursome, low carb snack is already attracting attention.

Unwilling to give exact sales
figures, Ms Polack said that orders were very encouraging at this early stage.

Consumers can buy the pepper
shrimps directly from her company Commercial Services Ltd and the product is
also being marketed on Facebook and Twitter.

According to the entrepreneur and
Female Junior Achiever of the year for 2004 what motivates her is “being able to call something my own.”

“…
[B]eing your own boss is the best reward of all.  If you succeed or fail
it’s all you.”

Having
set up Cayman Pepper Shrimp using her own capital and having calculated the
risks, Ms Polack is confident that like Cayman Sea Salt, the shrimp snack will
be a swimming success.

BUZcaymanpepperSTORY

Vanessa Polack is the Caymanian entrepreneur behind Cayman Pepper Shrimp.
PHOTO: ELPHINA MAGONA
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