Quenching her thirst for success - teacher becomes bag juice entrepreneur
While working as an early-childhood teacher, Ruth-Ann Smith started assisting her spouse in his bag juice manufacturing business.
Six years later, she has moved on from teaching and is a dedicated entrepreneur, managing the operations of FC Enterprise, manufacturer of the I Quench brand of bag juices from her location on Parry Road in St Andrew.
"My spouse came up with the idea based on his involvement in the juice manufacturing business," said Smith. "I used to help out during the summer and on weekends in the early days. But, as the demand for the product grew, I resigned my job ... and started working here full-time."
The company currently employs four persons, two full-time in production and two part-timers, who handle the packaging and distribution of the product.
"One full-time employee is responsible for mixing the different flavours," she explained. "In the early days, we had different persons mixing the flavours, but that affected the quality of the product."
From March to August, Smith's operation is at its peak, as she manufactures up to 1,000 bags of juices per day.
This volume meets the high demand for juices as the days become warmer.
Apart from that challenge, the mother of two had to undertake a major repackaging of the I Quench bag juice, as two years ago she found out that other brands used the same Dora image and some persons mistook the brand for others, which were of lesser quality.
"Therefore, I dropped the image of Dora, redesigned my I Quench logo and made it more central and since then, I have had no complaints," she said.
The Bridgeport High School past student markets her product via referrals and distributes her juices in the Corporate Area, Portland, St Mary and St Thomas.
"The weekends are hectic, as that is when I get the most orders from Portland and St Mary, especially," she related.
Smith attributes the growth of her business to the assistance she received from JN Small Business Loans (JNSBL).
Her first loan was used to acquire an additional bag juice machine, thus increasing production. And her continued relationship with JNSBL allowed her to procure raw material in larger volumes, and to modernise the operations.
A year ago, the production area of the business was gutted with fire and she lost both bag juice machines, all her raw materials, mixing drums, crates and other items.
"I am now back in operation with two new machines, a totally renovated production area and raw materials, thanks to JNSBL who was there to help me overcome this challenge," she said.
In addition to bag juices, Smith is thinking of adding other products to her I Quench brand, especially cooking oil.