At times, it felt insurmountable.
The changes and challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic was a daunting prospect for entrepreneur Melesia Adderley.
The owner of Island Grub says the pandemic put a great deal of pressure on her online food delivery service, as well as her drivers.
Through it all, however, Melesia and her team rose to the task – risking their own health and safety in the face of an often chaotic and potentially life-threatening situation.
“COVID caught us all off-guard and things changed in a matter of hours,” she says. “It was scary sometimes. But we stuck it out to help our Cayman community.”
In those early days of lockdown, social-distancing measures forced restaurants and bars to close temporarily. Many switched to delivery to stay afloat – and consumer demand was high.
“We first had to ensure we got our clearance to operate,” recalls Melesia. “Then we had to drop everything, and work on Island Grub around the clock to make major changes to the website, and our flow, in order to better manage the orders.”
She has high praise for her employees, who went above and beyond during those uncertain times.
“Not knowing whether we would catch COVID, and die, was our biggest concern,” she says. “Our drivers worked so hard – being willing to risk your life is enough in itself.”
Melesia is first to admit things didn’t always run smoothly. At the time, there was only one other food delivery service in operation.
“I will say upfront, we could not meet the island-wide demand,” she says. “Given we were not fully prepared to handle the load, unfortunately not all customers had the best experience due to order delays.
“Many nights, my senior staff and I would be so exhausted we would cry because we just wanted to make everyone happy, but we couldn’t do everything. We did our best.”
Despite the trying times, Melesia is happy there were some positives.
“We have learned so much,” she says. “We have grown and developed with a solid
Melesia launched Island Grub in 2015 with her husband Hareem Leon Adderley, a software developer who owns Kingpin Apps.
“It was just myself and my husband,” she says.
“I was the dispatcher, the delivery driver – everything. I literally started from scratch.”
She was also working full-time while struggling to make a go of the business.
“I would swap uniform shirts from my 9-to-5 job to my Island Grub shirt to go to the restaurants and collect the food and deliver it to the customer,” she recalls. “I can still remember the first delivery location. I’ll never forget it and that customer will never know how much it meant to us to get our very first order.”
Today, Island Grub has 10 full-time employees, working under a business model Melesia developed.
“We don’t have an office, so we have pushed and promoted a work-from-home culture, supporting work-life balance,” she says.
“Our drivers make a set salary so there is never a day they have to wonder if they will receive enough orders to make enough money,” she says. “They aren’t paid by the order or by the hour. My drivers are never competing with one another for orders.
“I want them to always feel happy about their job. That’s very important to me. In addition, they make 100% of all tips they earn, no gratuity and pooling tips together. I don’t believe in that way of handling tips. If you did it, you earned it. Simple.”
Unique business model
Her business model for the delivery service is also unique – based on a great deal of research.
Rather than charging restaurants a commission fee of around 20% to 30% per order, a common practice in the industry that some say is hurting their bottom line, Island Grub charges a flat fee of $10 per delivery to the customer.
“Now that COVID happened, more and more people are using our services, and more and more are starting to understand why we charge a $10 delivery fee,” she says. “They appreciate the transparency of our entire business. Our business has grown, and we are grateful, and hope it can continue to grow.”
That’s been one of the silver linings from the pandemic.
“We’ve been through every possible food delivery service issue you can have,” says Melesia. “Now we are more confident about the unique food delivery business model that we have created.
“We have increased our reach as well, as more people are interested in delivery and restaurants now see a benefit in it.”
Her husband is developing a mobile app for Island Grub, which they expect to launch soon.
At the same time, the couple is raising four young children, spanning from age 4 to 9, homeschooling them as well. It’s a heavy load, but Melesia says the rewards are many.
“It’s definitely not a walk in the park,” she says. “But I control my own time, and still accomplish everything that is required for me to do. Being there for my children means everything. That’s not possible with a 9-to-5 job.”
The pandemic, despite its hardships, reignited Melesia’s passion for the business.
“It has pushed us to take back up our vision for Island Grub and take it to the next level.” she says.
[email protected] (dispatch centre)
[email protected] (office)
In addition to Island Grub, Melesia is the founder of Women’s Haven, a female-owned business that sells a range of organic sanitary products that are distributed in Cayman and internationally.
Launched in late 2017, Women’s Haven is the first Caymanian-owned company to manufacture and launch its very own line of female sanitary napkins and other feminine-
“We are now in 12 countries and growing,” says Melesia.
The products offer an alternative to traditional sanitary products, with an emphasis on natural, anti-bacterial materials that promote women’s health and well-being.
“We use organic everything – from the formulas that make up our organic cottons, to the glue that we use,” she says.
Melesia now has a business partner in the Bahamas. The company has garnered attention in newspapers across the Caribbean including the Cayman Compass.
Locally, Women’s Haven feminine-care products are available at Foster’s, Hurley’s, Rochel’s Beauty Supply and West Bay Pharmacy as well as online.