Chiryl Newman is pint-sized but she is a giant of a woman.
She has stared obstacles in the face, defied the unknown and marched her way to success.
“When I look back on my journey, there were a lot of starts and stops,” she says.
But you would never guess as the humble, soft-spoken owner of one of Barbados’ most popular restaurants, Champers, comfortably shares a laugh with her guests and interacts with employees while juggling her usually hectic days at the busy south coast location.
“I had no experience at all, but I realized I just had a love for the restaurant business. It was just something I felt I had to do.”
Chiryl, who grew up in a happy household in Westbury Road, St Michael, started her career in the tourism sector as a tour representative for St James Travel, and she loved introducing thousands to her beloved island home. This entailed taking large groups of tourists to various restaurants to dine and, oftentimes, she would have to pitch in to ensure the guests enjoyed their experience.
For Chiryl, that was an “aha” moment.
“I really enjoyed being on the other side of the bar, but I always wished I was on the other side serving, so when the opportunity came to buy a small business called Nico’s for $50,000, I thought this was something I could do.”
And she did with the help of a partner, all the while still working at the travel agency.
“I was young and had a lot of energy. Back then, the restaurant was like a hobby . . . . Looking back now it was hard, but at the time it didn’t feel hard.”
Two years into operations, her business partner wanted to exit. Undeterred, Chiryl gave up her shares in Nico’s and stepped out on her own.
But she was in for a rude awakening.
“When I decided to go on my own that was when I saw the first stumbling blocks in my way, because the bank at the time told me that they had no confidence in me running a business.”
Chiryl and her advisors walked out of the bank and went down the street to another financial institution that opened its doors to her business plan, and Champers was born.
Looking back, Chiryl says giving up was never an option.
“I couldn’t give up because I had about 20-odd people depending on me for jobs. If I had given up what would have happened?”
The experience was a turning point for the entrepreneur who advises that the word “no” simply does not exist.
“Whatever you put your mind to, you have to put your soul to. My mother gave me a good work ethic—get up early in the morning, don’t stay in bed, you get up and you do what you have to do and you take responsibility.
“If life gives you lemons make lemon tarts. Make the best of the opportunities that you have. Too often we like to think that people will throw things at us on a platter, and as Barbadians I think that we have been spoilt over the years.”
This Independence, she wants fellow Barbadians to appreciate all they have and to remain upbeat despite the prevailing difficulties.
“I know a lot of people are probably hurting because of the layoffs, but what I see in Barbados right now is optimism. I know that things can only get better but we all need to do our part. We all can do it. It really is the Bajan Spirit.” (SD)