Jamaican business owners

A fair number of Jamaicans have, over the years, taken up residence and established successful businesses in the Cayman Islands. Some of these talk about how they started and the secrets of their success.  

 

Danny O’Hara, owner of Prestige Motors 

Danny O’Hara came to Cayman in 1974 to work as a land surveyor for a Jamaica business that had opened an office here. From there, setting up his own construction company was a logical progression. What was less logical, perhaps, was his decision to move away from construction and take on a Volvo car dealership. Mr. O’Hara readily admits to knowing little about cars at the time, but he was ready to take a risk.  

“Every business is a risk,” he said.  

It turned out there was less demand for Volvos than he and his business partner had anticipated, and so after a few years they applied for the Hyundai dealership. At the time Hyundai was unknown in this part of the world, but the price was right, said Mr O’Hara.  

“Around 1992 the market dropped off and we were stuck with a bunch of cars we couldn’t sell. I asked my business partner what we could do with all these cars, and he said, ‘We’ll set up a car rental business’.” And so Economy Car Rental and later Discount Car Rental were born.  

This ability to think beyond a single business model is what has ensured his success, says Mr. O’Hara. “These spin-off businesses are something I learned from my grandfather. He started out with a cattle farm and soon enough he saw he could make use of the hides so then he opened a tannery. We are able to diversify and do something that kept us in the car business.”  

 

Theresa Chin, owner of Cayman 123 Travel 

A passion for travel led Theresa Chin first to settle in Cayman and later to set up her own successful travel agency. Prior to moving to Cayman permanently, she had visited several times on vacation. “I fell in love with the beautiful beaches and the safe and secure environment that was ideal for my family’s growth,” she said. 

Ms Chin had worked for the national airline for 15 years. She left that to work in insurance but ultimately, she says, “I missed the travel world so much, I had to go back to it. Travel is my passion.” In 2007 she opened her own travel agency serving the Jamaican population in Cayman. In the past five years the business has grown beyond her wildest expectations, she says.  

“Customer service, the right attitude and a positive outlook are the keys to success in business,” according to Ms Chin.  

 

JoAnne Brown, owner of Celebrations 

Although her mother was Caymanian, JoAnne Brown grew up in Jamaica and went to school in the UK. She arrived in Cayman as a newlywed with her husband, Mike Brown. For the first few years, Mrs. Brown was very much involved in her husband’s new business venture, Mike’s Ice. She then branched out into other jobs, indulging her passion for party planning and decorations in her free time.  

“I was doing it all from my bedroom and eventually my husband said to me, ‘If you’re going to keep doing this you’ve got to get serious’.” 

So in 1993 Mrs. Brown opened a wedding coordination business, Celebrations.  

“When we started, there was little framework for the type of business we were doing. It was a new thing. There was no one renting chairs and tables. I remember my first wedding, I had to go around to all the restaurants borrowing chairs.”  

Miss Brown has built Celebrations up into a thriving business over the years, by always keeping abreast of changes in the market. In business, she says, one cannot rest on one’s laurels.  

“I don’t believe in complacency,” she says. 

 

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