Heneka is a bona-fide Jamaican success story, starting her business empire in 2007 with a clothing line where she cleverly fused her love for Jamaican Patois with fashion. Aware of the constraints and hurdles faced in tough economic times, Heneka strived forward where many would have drawn back and has since diversified to credit literature, broadcasting and manufacturing to her portfolio. I admire Heneka’s strong business and personal ethics, as although Heneka is modest, her integrity and awareness of self and others is clear in the brilliant and inspirational way she explains her company philosophy.
Jamaica is famed for many things and it is tropical, colourful, vibrant and full of vibes just like it’s people and the dialect they speak. Although the official language of Jamaica is English, the local dialect spoken in Jamaica is known as patois or patwa, a multi-lingual mixing pot of several languages that draws references from all the different inhabitants of Jamaica since the Tainos. It may take a little getting used to for the uninitiated, but when you get into the flow you will find it is powerful, direct, literal, fun and very infectious!
I am pleased to have had the chance to learn about Heneka’s journey and share it with you in this interview….
1. Introduce yourself and your role in the company?
I’m Heneka Watkis-Porter, owner and operator of Patwa Apparel. My role has over the years been one of ‘head cook and bottle washer’ but I’m slowly moving away from that to concentrate more on strategy, operations and sales/marketing.
2. When was your company established and why did you choose this career path?
We began on 7th August, 2007. I’ve always wanted to have my own business; I thought about the area of choice for sometime and then settled on a clothing line. But I have evolved more into a full-fledged entrepreneur, spreading my wings to more than just clothing. Now I have a sauce line aptly called 10 Fyah Side, 2 radio programmes – The Entrepreneurial You and Living on Purpose; a book entitled” 15 Hints To Entrepreneurial Success: Lessons From A Caribbean Woman”
3. Tell me about your typical working day?
Oh where do I start… My day though is never typical. It usually start with devotions. Some days there are meetings, volunteer projects, training, planning, travelling, planning, writing proposals, working at the shop. Tuesday is the only day that has some sort of order which includes pre-recording one of my radio programmes, tea and muffin by Bookophillia (cell-phone goes in the off position), Toastmasters club, prayer meeting.
4. What is your company philosophy?
Patwa Apparel operates on 14 points of culture i.e. commitment, community, volunteerism, consistency, efficiency, empowerment, creativity, integrity, leadership, accountability, passion, quality, respect and abundance.
5. Where is your Head Office based and do you manufacture / produce your products in Jamaica?
We are based at shop # 12 Devon House, 26 Hope Road, Kingston 10, Jamaica. Our products are manufactured in Jamaica.
6. Do you use Jamaican raw materials in your products?
7. Are you Jamaican?
Born and bred…
8. Tell me your top 3 likes and dislikes about Jamaica?
the strength of brand Jamaica and our culture; our passion; our creativity
crime; political tribalism; bureaucracy
9. What new company plans and visions are you working on?
Well the company is now going through an intense period of planning for re-branding, restructuring and development and growth. Part of the change will see us attracting a wider range of international customers. There will be changes to our website and social media interaction; design, etc.
10. What is your personal favourite project you are working on and why?
I am working on so many projects right now and I love them all. I think if I have to give an answer, I’d say restructuring the company, building a team and generally implementing changes to grow the company.
11. Who or what, is your inspiration or role model?
My inspiration comes primarily from God. I also read books, watch videos and attend seminars to keep myself motivated. I also draw inspiration from life in general and the people within especially I travel.
12. Where can we buy your products in Jamaica and overseas?
We are located at shop # 12 Devon House, 26 Hope Road; our website outlines our locations (www.patwaapparel.com); our sauces are available at supermarkets in Kingston as well as the Patwa outlet in Devon House. My book is available online on Amazon and Barnes & Noble (15 Hints To Entrepreneurial Success).
13. How do you love to spend your free time in Jamaica?
Free time? J I’m always working, but I enjoy every moment of it. I try to find time for the beach, and go to the country every once in a while…I read sometimes too.
14. If you could be Prime Minister of Jamaica for a day, what would you do?
As the Prime Minister for the day I’d fire most of the Members of Parliament.
15. Which Jamaican, dead or alive, do you feel made the biggest contribution to Jamaica and why?
As someone who is in the business of monetizing from Patois, I’m indebted to the late Louise Bennett-Coverley for her work on the Jamaican language. She has enabled a wider acceptance of the way we speak of Jamaicans. Her contribution to Jamaica is simply priceless.
16. If you could impart one piece of advice to inspire young Jamaicans to start their own businesses or succeed in their chosen career, what would it be?
It is important to belief in yourself and your God-given abilities. Find your purpose, know your why, write your vision down and work the plan. But most importantly, trust in God.
17. If you could change jobs, what would you do?
If I could change jobs (and I can), I wouldn’t change anything. I absolutely love what I do and as such don’t view it as work.
18. Apart from your own company, what is your favourite Jamaican company and why?
I admire the work of the Lascelles Chin-led LASCO. Chin had a very humble beginning yet his impact globally is undeniable. He was determined to make it.
19. What do you believe contributes most to your company’s ongoing success?
My company’s success has been attributed to my faith, my core values and the 15 Hints I speak about in my book. The main one is ‘finding my purpose’. Everything I do is purpose driven.
20. What do you feel your company has to offer the international and home markets, over and above your competitors?
Our uniqueness, simple yet creative design set us apart from our competitors. This is backed by our customer service as is evidenced by comments in our guest book and on tripadvisor.com.
Brand Jamaica is at the heart of everything we do.
21. How do you believe as a nation we can help to build Jamaica?
We can help to build Jamaica by being job creators instead of everyone seeking jobs. Our socialization has messed up our psyche; we are taught to go to school and get a good education so that in turn we can get a good job. This is where most of our problems are as there aren’t enough jobs to cater to the needs of the mass.
22. What are your aspirations for Jamaica?
I really want Jamaica to be the place of choice to live, do business and raise families. I dream of a Jamaica where neighbours look out for each other and the Government of the day is selfless.
Contact Details for Patwa Apparel
Shop # 12 Devon House
26 Hope Road
Facebook – Patwa Apparel; 10 Fyah Side; The Entrepreneurial You
Twitter: @patwaapparel @10fyahside @TheEntrepYou
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Keep the Conversation Going…
Which is your favourite piece in the Patwa Apparel collection? What do you love to eat your 10 Fyah Side sauces with? Get in touch below we look forward to hearing from you.