The taste of success
When life gives you lemons you make lemonade, is a familiar cliche.
So Shelley-Anne Clarke took being unemployed as an opened window of opportunity.
About eight years ago she was at her wit’s end finding a job. One day as she collected her daughter, Ayesha King from primary school, she had a bright idea.
“I can sell snacks on evenings before I go home,” she thought. “So I started selling sucker bubbies and kool-aids in a small cooler bag just outside the school gate.”
Clarke’s elder daughter, Ashawnya Bellamy, was attending Alexandra School at the time and Clarke explained that Ashawnya came up with flavours of the sucker bubbies and helped her sell them outside Wesley Hall Primary School as every day after school, she would hurry home to help her mother prepare.
“We used to catch the bus together and it dawned on me that I needed to get my driver’s license. When I did, I started selling light food like sandwiches and cake from the back of my father’s vehicle along the route of Apes Hill Stables. Then I bought a van and sold macaroni pie, rice and stew, fry chicken and fish.”
Clarke’s business was popular mostly on construction sites in St James. From that she gained the name “Food Woman” and though business was going well she experienced a few challenges. She said her customers developed a habit of crediting and sometimes did not want to pay what they owed.
“So I eventually stopped selling food in March 2016. The customers were coming and I felt good, but one day some would say they didn’t have any money and asked me to wait until Friday. When Friday came I couldn’t find them and I didn’t hear back from them.”
The 42-year-old had to come up with a quick plan. What about selling snacks on mornings in addition to evenings after school?
“It was a bit strange at first but it started to work out. So I decided to start selling other things because I only sold cookies, kool-aids and drinks then.
“I started to add chicken and chips, fish cakes and ham cutters and then I added toys to the cart.”
The former Springer Memorial student held different office jobs for most of her adult years and becoming a vendor was a big step in her life. She said it took some time for her to adjust to the new lifestyle.
“When I first came here with my kool-aid bag it seemed as though people were watching and saying “This is what she come to?” so it was uncomfortable at first.
“Even now people don’t consider what I do as a job, but I would never trade my jeans and sneakers to put back on high heels and skirt suits. I can manage my time better and spend more time with my children, as Ayesha still attends the Fredrick Smith Secondary School.
“Some days are hard and you just want to take a break and lay down. But I enjoy seeing the smiles on the children’s faces and some of them bring me flowers and even grass. So that gives me the determination to keep on going.”
Clarke told EASY that learning what types of snacks children liked to eat was an eye-opening experience for her. She pointed out that she had to start seeing the world in colour as children bought snacks based on imagination and what colours stood out to them. She also had to pay attention to certain infomercials on television to keep abreast with what snacks were trending.
Along the way, she realised that children were fascinated with the colour red and things that sparkle. She explained that children preferred sprinkled doughnuts to chocolate or strawberry striped doughnuts because they are not as colourful or ‘pretty’. She also learnt what children wanted when they asked her for particular products.
Clarke and Bellamy have created their own play on business attire. For them, every day has a particular colour code and they wear matching outfits.
Bellamy looks up to her mother and also aspires to become an entrepreneur. She said she was inspired by her mother’s strong will and the fact that she did not give up when she was out of a job. (SB)