A year ago, he was on the verge of closing his business. This year, Kevin Murrell, owner of KAMS Aquarium Fish Shop, is beaming with excitement after he took up an improvement challenge instead.
It was in February, 2014, the Brown’s Gap, Hothersal Turning, St Michael resident was contemplating giving up his ten-year-old-plus home-based business as he wrestled with some financial and personal problems.
But after attending one of the National Initiative For Service Excellence’s (NISE) networking sessions, Kevin took on a new dare –– the NISE 100 Days Organizational Challenge. This saw him carrying out more than 100 improvements to his establishment in the 100 days.
Impressed by his enthusiasm and change of heart to keep his business, which sells fish, aquariums and other related items, NISE officials introduced a new challenge for the Brown’s Gap community –– the NISE 100 Improvements KAMS Aquarium Fish Shop Community Project.
This new project saw a further transformation of the interior and exterior of the micro-enterprise –– with the help of a number of individuals and businesses, including Oran Limited, Ace H&B Hardware, Harris Paints (Barbados) Limited and Nomis Limited.
Other buildings and areas of the community were also spruced up.
Speaking to members of the media yesterday during a special ribbon-cutting exercise, a renewed Kevin expressed gratitude to those who had helped to save his operation, noting that although he was tempted to close the business, he really didn’t want to.
But he did admit it was a difficult decision “not to give up”.
“I was at a stage where I could not afford to keep my business open and I could not afford to close it,” said the father of one.
“It dawned on me that since I could not afford to do any of the two, the best thing was to keep it open. Then I remembered hearing about the NISE Challenge, and I said to myself that I should apply.
“I did so reluctantly, thinking that my little microbusiness might not qualify; but I decided to try,” Kevin recalled.
“At that point I was thinking, ‘It is all over’; but, thanks to NISE, it still continues; and I am so glad that I heeded the call and accepted the NISE 100 Days Organizational Challenge. And today, words cannot describe how being a part of that programme changed the way that I view my business,” said Kevin.
Pointing out that members of the community also played a critical role in helping to spruce up the surroundings, and helping him to make his business more appealing, Kevin said that, like him, his daughter Kevena was very excited.
“I remember when I did a PowerPoint presentation [at one of the NISE sessions] I said, ‘I now feel like a businessman’. That was a wonderful thing for me. My daughter said to me a few times so far that one of the best things I did [for the shop] was signing up for the NISE challenge. It has made such a big difference to our business,” said Kevin.
His favourite moments of the improvements programme were the meetings “where the NISE Organizational Challenge champions from each participating organization shared ideas and learned from each other”.
“Being in a room with some of the biggest names in corporate Barbados and several public sector entities was truly a wonderful experience, and also provided a great networking opportunity for me,” said the entrepreneur.
And he is encouraging other small business operators not to give up, no matter how difficult times get. He suggests instead that they seek new ways to make their operation look better. This, he believes, would eventually improve business.
Kevin said that as a result of the improvements to his business he had seen “individuals coming in daily and inviting persons to come to my business –– I guess because they feel comfortable about the appearance”.
On location to congratulate and encourage the entrepreneur were Minister of Industry, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss; Member of Parliament for the area and Opposition Leader Mia Mottley; acting chairman of the NISE board of directors, Cedric Murrell; and Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister Senator Patrick Todd.
Acting chairman Murrell said he was especially pleased to witness the positive response and enthusiasm of Kevin, as well as other community representatives, students and teachers, adding that, from all reports, organizations participating in the NISE improvement challenge had seen “positive increases to their bottom line, as well as improved customer service levels and employee engagement”.
The same, the NISE official stated, could be said for regional enterprises that had participated in NISE training programmes.
Commending Kevin for his determination to keep his decade-old business opened, minister Inniss said that should serve as an inspiration to other micro-enterprise operators who were faced with problems.
“This morning ought to be an inspiration to all of us who have an interest in developing this economy and the business sector to continue to reflect on the micro-enterprises,” the Ministry of Industry said.
And he called on business operators not to compromise customer service, as this was a critical part of ensuring that customers kept supporting an organization.
“Too often in this society we are prepared to settle for mediocrity, or sometimes we feel our enterprises are so big that we don’t have to focus on customer satisfaction. Or you may feel that because your business is a Mum and Pop, or one-man show, you don’t have to be nice to your customers.
“Regardless of the size of your business, your customers are key to you,” Inniss advised.