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Caterer battles challenges of food business

Marlon Madden

Caterer battles challenges of food business

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Speak to many entrepreneurs and they will tell you that starting their own businesses was not easy.
The tune is the same for Margaret Payne, 59, owner of Mar’s Cafe & Catering Services.
Payne was one of several tenants who had to vacate the Women Entrepreneurs of Barbados (WEB) facility in Lower Broad Street in Bridgetown when it closed recently.
The WEB, which was located in the former BNB building in The City since December, was the home to several middle-aged female entrepreneurs selling a variety of products including jewellery, baked products, seasonings and printing services. The building is owned by Government and was being rented.
Payne, who used to sell her cheese spread and seasonings from that location at least three days per week, said she would now have to go back to “word of mouth” in order to keep sales going.
Payne also sells fishcakes from a tent in Foster Lodge, St George, at least three days a week.
Sitting in the WEB on the final day of operations there, Payne told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY: “We don’t have a new place yet . . . . But wherever that other place is, I will go with it.
“I just go by word of mouth. If I can get the seasonings in the supermarkets, I would be grateful for that,” she added.
For many years, the Durham’s Drive, St Lucy resident has been making cheese spread and seasonings, but mainly for sale to her neighbours and friends.
It was not until about three years ago that Payne decided to broaden her reach and turn it a business venture. Prior to that, the mother of three cooked for several canteens across the island and she once had a café.
“For me to go back and set up a café, it will be too expensive because the rents are too high. I can’t afford that right now. The fishcake [business] is rewarding. That would do well once I could get a space to function from every day. The fishcake is my main component of the business. The others are just if somebody orders,” she said.
The entrepreneur said while the reception from customers was good and a lot of people liked her products after sampling them, the competition could be harsh, especially in the catering aspect of the business which she only does once in a while.
“It is very competitive with the food,”?Payne said. “With the catering I find that the big establishments are kind of crushing the smaller caterers. Let’s say someone is getting married and they are hosting it on the hotel grounds, they get an all-inclusive package. So even if they want to give me the package, of course they are going to take the all-inclusive because it is more convenient to just have everything done the same place,” she explained.
“I made it a serious business because I like what I do. I enjoy it very much; I love to cook and I like to see the satisfaction coming from the customers when they taste my products. Also, at my age now I am not going to go around asking for a job to work in another establishment,” added Payne.
She said it was very difficult starting her business in the midst of a recession and she would be using social media to promote her products and services, with the help of her children who are also entrepreneurs,
“ . . . things are very expensive and catering is a very challenging job,” she said. “You have to love it because the benefits are not as rewarding as you would like it to be profit-wise. People like to break you down to the smallest offer.
“For micro businesses such as mine, I would like a place like the WEB so we can continue to display and sell our products. For micro businesses it is very challenging and it is expensive to advertise. Word of mouth is what we use,” she said.