It was out of preparation for adversity that two friends, Jaggernauth (Jaggs) Dass and Kemaul Persaud, started Chan Chan Foods Inc.
Less than six months later, they are beginning to reap some success and hoping to be an inspiration to younger people.
In preparation for a lockdown in April, Dass bought some non-perishable items in bulk, including 50 pounds of chickpeas.
“We bought non-perishable goods obviously not knowing what was going to happen,” Dass recalled. “Coming into Maym we realised this COVID-19 is not going to be as bad as we thought, we are going to get through this and there is not going to be famine on the island and we can’t get food.”
It was th en that he contacted his neighbour and good friend Persaud, who also shares a passion for cooking, and they decided to make several dishes daily and share with other neighbours.
However, it was the hummus – made from the chickpeas – that was a big hit, and Dass and Persaud decided to capitalise on that.
Thus, Chan Chan Foods Inc. was born.
After a few mistakes, a lot of taste testing among friends, family members and neighbours, and quite a bit of research and determination, they were able to perfect the business.
“The one thing agreed upfront is that we will always do everything the right way, and that has served us well,” Dass told Barbados TODAY.
“We have seen our business grow. The first four months was a little bit rough but then we got into [one grocery store] for two weeks, but since then they have constantly been turning over our product.”
As of last month, Chan Chan Foods’ hummus had found its way onto the shelves of several grocery stores, two major supermarket chains and at least one café, and the company has been getting repeat orders.
The duo said they were surprised at the take-up of the niche product, which now competes with at least two imported brands.
“We thought the market for this type of product would be smaller.
But with so many people eating healthy, and it has no preservatives and no MSG, people like it,” said Dass.
Attributing the quick take-up of the product to the hard work of a solid partnership, Dass said he believed with their love of cooking and their different backgrounds they complemented each other.
Dass spent the majority of his career in information technology and telecommunications, though he has always been an investor.
Meanwhile, Persaud is a chartered accountant who later studied law. He has also spent many years as an educator at the secondary and tertiary levels.
The business partners said family support has also played a key role in their success to date.
Dass, a father of two, said it was his hope to see the establishment of a skills mentoring or coaching programme in Barbados that would provide the platform for both successful and failed business people to impart knowledge and share experiences with potential entrepreneurs.
“It is that practical coaching outside of the academic coaching that we need. I still don’t see it anywhere in the Caribbean,” he said.
Dass also wants to see easier access to funding, pointing out that while there were several agencies offering financial assistance, the requirements were a big turn-off for many potential and new entrepreneurs who did not know how to prepare some of the required documents.
Despite this challenge, however, Persaud said he would encourage anyone who wanted to start a business not to be deterred.
In fact, readily admitting that he was “no spring chicken”, the father of three told Barbados TODAY: “If you have a dream, there will be obstacles, but think it through and do your research and make your dreams come through, as cliché as that sounds.”
The business consultant and property manager said he and Dass were fortunate to have had some savings and did not require a lot of funds to start their home-based, St James business.
The labelling has turned out to be the most difficult part of the process and the biggest investment in Chan Chan Foods so far.
Persaud said he was especially pleased with the support from all the government agencies involved in the process.
“I hope we are an inspiration for younger people out there. We didn’t start with a lot of capital but we didn’t go to the bank and set up a loan. We did a lot of research on the Internet,” he said.
Satisfied that Chan Chan Foods was in a position to introduce new flavours, the business partners said that within a matter of weeks, hummus lovers and health-conscious individuals would have at least two new flavours from which to choose.
They are also hoping they will soon be able to expand their operations and get their products on shelves overseas and, in the process, provide employment.
Persaud said he would encourage anyone who wanted to start a business in the current environment to do lots of research and “just go for it”.
In fact, he said he believed now is the time for Barbadians to improve on or provide an alternative to items that were being imported, especially when it comes to food.
He also wants consumers to spend more time reading labels before purchasing items, adding that it was important to support local while eating healthy.