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The oldest and largest water producer in the country is seeking to further diversify its offerings in a tough economic climate, targeting production of the Rock Star energy drink as a means to kick-start sales.
Jeffrey Knowles, the operations manager at Aquapure, told Guardian Business, "You have to diversity if you're going to make it."
Although traditionally focused on water and juices, Knowles said the more the company can fill it's 25 delivery trucks, the more efficient it can be.
"We have to get Rock Star going," he said.
"It makes a lot of sense to launch this product. We have our energy going towards that, and if it's successful we'll look at other products."
Knowles explained that Rock Star is a popular beverage among younger customers in the 20-to-35 range. This demographic, he added, tends to be very active and will consume a great deal of fluids. Aquapure has embarked on a marketing campaign with Rock Star at a series of events that are popular among young people, such as night clubs and beach parties.
After that, if all goes well, the company intends to begin production of the energy drink.
"We probably have one of the largest distribution networks in our business," he said.
"In that sense, we want to add to our capacity. The more options you add to the public, the more business you get. Everything is diversification these says. You have to diversify if you're going to make it. The competition is so great out there, and certainly for drinks."
One of the main reasons for the diversification, he explained, is Nestle, the multinational company. According to Knowles, Nestle is "trying to corner the market", and "they produce the cheapest water there is".
He said local production companies, such as Aquapure, have struggled, and producers need to be more protected by finding ways to reduce their operating costs.
"When it comes to basic necessities like water, you need to protect and make sure people here are producing it," he said, citing the aftermath of Hurricane Irene and the need for extra water supplies.
Another method Aquapure is implementing to increase sales is a marketing partner with Bahamas Speed Week (BSW), which held its opening ceremony on Tuesday.
Together with Jimmie Lowe, the president of BSW, the company is producing 24,000 bottles of specially labeled bottles for the festivities. Although the actual investment is modest, the concept behind the campaign is to improve visibility for the company.
"We do it more for the support of the function. It gets our name out there, shows the diversity of the company."
Knowles said Aquapure is considering including Rock Star in BSW, but instead decided to roll the new product out slowly to ensure its success.
The new Solomon's in the Seahorse Shopping Center has received in excess of 500 applications in anticipation of its summer opening.
AML Foods plans to hire around 60 Bahamians for the supermarket, which is taking over the building formerly occupied by City Market.
Gavin Watchorn, the CEO of AML Foods, said management has been hired, and the company will soon begin to sort through a mountain of resumes to select the remainder of the staff.
The news comes as Mark Finlayson, the president of Bahamas Supermarkets Limited (BSL), told Guardian Business that nobody has stepped up to acquire the Eight Mile Rock location. That means more than 100 employees are now looking for work, adding to Grand Bahama's already high unemployment rate.
The opening of Solomon's this summer could go a long way to filling some of these employment gaps.
"We are on track for a mid-June opening, or perhaps early July," according to Watchorn. "Equipment is rolling in and we've hired our management staff. We expect products to be flowing in around three or four weeks from now. We'll need to hire cashiers soon and give them some training."
The BISX-listed company, which signed the lease back in March, will spend nearly $4 million to overhaul the store.
Watchorn revealed that outfitting this location will require an investment in energy efficient products and techniques. While sales remain high, coming in at just shy of $100 million last year, operating costs and utilities are major challenges to profitability.
The company will invest a further $1 million this year in energy efficiency to help bring down utility costs.
"We are buying with energy efficiency in mind. The biggest culprit is refrigeration, followed by air conditioning and lighting," Wachorn told Guardian Business.
The new store is targeting up to $15 million in sales within 36 months.
According to recent financials, the company is projecting $125 million in total sales by 2014 despite utility costs rising 20 percent each year.
The new Solomon's in Freeport, the successful Solomon's Fresh Market in western New Providence, and the introduction of AML Food's first Carl's Jr franchise later this year should go a long way to achieving this goal.
"We have good sales with new businesses. We expect to add new revenue streams and new locations, and new products to boost sales," he explained. "As long as we keep managing controllable costs well and keep central costs low, then we'll continue to move in the direction we want to go."
The Bahamas Telecommunications Company has invested $240,000 in the reopening of two stores in Grand Bahama in just three days.
The stores on Pioneers Way and High Rock represent projects number two and three on a laundry list of major renovations and openings through the country for BTC.
More than 100 Bahamians found employment through the two renovations.
The openings follow the unveiling of BTC's new flagship store in Mall at Marathon last month, bringing the firm's total investment up to three-quarters of a million.
In all, 46 more openings and refurbishments will occur this year.
"The new concept fits the BTC vision of offering better choices for its customers," said Marlon Johnson, vice president of Brand and Communication, in reference to the opening at High Rock. "Now, people of East Grand Bahama can do much more than pay a bill and can access all of the latest telecommunications technology in their own community."
Whereas previously the High Rock branch only offered a basic payment center, the 160 square-foot store will now offer the technology and conveniences of a modern retial store.
Internet, land-line packages and full cellular services are now provided out of the east Grand Bahama store.
The roll out of retail offerings also coincides with BTC's 4G launch late last year, an initiative that cost the firm tens of million in network infrastructure.
Neko Grant, the minister of public works and Transport, is also the MP of Lucaya.
He was on hand for the reopening of the much larger Pioneers Way retail store.
"We are grateful that this project by BTC to demolish and rebuild has resulted in the creation of various job opportunities on Grand Bahama," Grant said in a statement. "I am told that during the life of the project to re-create this area now occupied b the store, approximately one hundred Grand Bahamians in the construction industry were employed to complete necessary works. As Minister of Public Works, I have been impressed by the reports regarding the efficiency of the work schedule of this project to renovate this 2,000 square-foot space."
Similar to the Junkanoo theme at the flagship store at Mall at Marathon, BTC employed local artists to produce Bahamian-themed art for the walls at the Pioneer Way store.
Lamaro Smith and FDK Laminators & Graphic Dsign were commissioned to produce the 216-square-door mural of fishermen.
Other staff was hired for the grand opening weekend.
The next scheduled openings are scheduled for March in Exuma and Abaco.
BTC is currently in the midst of a new retail strategy whereby it is expanding its services throughout the country. The company is also keen to create more small business opportunities by invited qualified entrepreneurs to create stores and booths to sell the products.
"The majority of the new stores and kiosks will be owned and operated by Bahamians," Johnson said in an earlier interview. "We are refurbishing a lot of our exiting properties and looking to create opportunities for people who want to open small centers or kiosks in existing stores as well."
The CEO of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) said he expects to launch 10 flagship stores across the country over the next 14 to 16 weeks, and bring the first franchisee to market by the end of the month.
Geoff Houston revealed that as many as 400 jobs should be created through this expansion.
BTC is indeed in the midst of an aggressive retail explosion since coming out with its much-anticipated 4G network late last year.
Beginning in New Providence and moving on to Grand Bahama, Houston told Guardian Business that more stores in Exuma, Abaco and other Family Islands are now in the sights of the telecommunications provider.
However, while the launch of the flagship stores is being seen as a major move, the BTC chief said bringing in franchisees "is a whole new business model for us".
"That is taking longer than we anticipated," he added.
"It's a whole new way of doing business that we have set up, but after that we expect it to fly. We hope to license at least 30 to 40 stores owned by other people over the next 12 to 18 months."
Houston downplayed the expansion's potential to BTC's bottom line, and instead highlighted how it will prepare the company for competition.
"It will protect the business so we can provide a better level of service to customers," he explained.
From an everyday Bahamian perspective, it's also about creating jobs, he noted, with 300 to 400 projected during this period.
In terms of next year, Houston reported BTC should undergo a period of consolidation by taking stock of its gains, finishing the 4G network and completing the restructuring of the business.
He said the company will "fix up our pricing at bit more".
By the end of the March, BTC plans to introduce a new billing system for prepaid, Houston added. A new voicemail platform and a texting platform is also on the agenda.
Despite all the change he said, "we need a period to settle down."
Last month, Guardian Business reported the two store reopenings in Grand Bahama - on Pioneers Way and High Rock - represented a $240,000 investment and 100 jobs for Bahamians.
These reopenings followed the unveiling of BTC's new flagship store in the Mall at Marathon in January.
"The new concept fits the BTC vision of offering better choices for its customers," said Marlon Johnson, vice president of marketing and brand communications, in reference to the opening at High Rock. "Now, people of East Grand Bahama can do much more than pay a bill and can access all of the latest telecommunications technology in their own community."
Whereas previously the High Rock branch only offered a basic payment center, the 160-square-foot store now provides the technology and conveniences of a modern retail store.
Similar improvements to products and services are expected across the Family Islands
Temple Christian School's Dwayne Sinclair knows he can throw down in the kitchen. That fact was cemented when he won the New Providence Senior Finals and the National All-Island Senior Young Chef competition last year, sweeping all categories, winning best rice and best flour dish en route to the overall senior title. This year was no different. The graduating senior put his titles on the line and mounted a successful defense. He bows out of high school as a two-time champion of the competition sponsored by Mahatma Rice and Robin Hood Flour.
"It felt like all the hard work paid off," said Sinclair whose Island Pina Colada Upside Down Cake and Island Crack Conch Cannelloni with Julienne Vegetables wowed the judges who voted them the best flour and rice dishes once again.
"[Sinclair's] food compared to the others really stood out," said One&Only Ocean Club Executive Chef Emmanuel Gibson. "His food showed his passion and creativity."
Sinclair, 17, walked away with $1,500 and a $10,000 scholarship to Lincoln College of Technology in West Palm Beach, Florida. By virtue of his win, Sinclair will travel as a junior chef with the Bahamian national squad to the Taste of the Caribbean competition, June 20-24 in Miami, Florida.
Looking back at his win, Sinclair who decided to challenge himself fully in his final showing at the competition, opted not to do any prep work prior to the competition. Nothing was prepared. He did all of his cooking and garnishes during the competition. While he said it proved to be hectic, he found he was calmer and found everything easier - that is until time for the awards ceremony. It was at that point that he doubted himself.
"You hope you win, but you really don't know until they call your name," he said.
"He was outstanding and it shows great potential," said Chef Gibson who Sinclair does work study under at the Courtyard Terrace Restaurant at the resort.
The chef said Sinclair shows great potential and that the young chef competition is a needed event which provides an avenue for high school students who aspire to the culinary arts to learn.
"They get to see so many other people's work, plus working under pressure makes a person stronger and allows them to think on your feet, so in real life situations, they can use the experience to be poised, calm and focused, and let it come out in their daily work," said Gibson.
Placing second was Sherika Gibson of S.C. Bootle High School, Abaco, with her Abaco Express and Blackwood Delight.
Third place went to Deja Burrows of Queen's College. She prepared Deja's Creamy Mango Rice Pudding with Tropical Fruit Salsa and Island Conch and Crawfish Tart with a Mango-Curry Sauce.
Stevette Murphy of North Long Island High placed fourth with her Poached Curry Grouper and Rice with Tangy Carrot and Onion Rings and Steamed Cassava Delight and Pineapple Guava Sauce.
Gibson, a graduating senior, took home $750 and a $5,000 scholarship to Lincoln College of Technology. Burrows left with $300. Murphy picked up $200 for her fourth place finish.
Judging the competition with Chef Gibson were Chef Edwin Johnson, Sapodillas Restaurant; Atlantis; Debbie Wheeler, manager of Test Kitchens for Mahatma Rice; and Chefs David Pantone and Manfred Schmidte of Lincoln College of Technology.
Chef Edwin Johnson who's been with the competition since it's inception 20 years ago, noted that organizational skills by the students have developed and improved tremendously. He also said that overall presentation including balance, color, knife skills, sanitation, nutritional value and the incorporation and utilization of indigenous products had also improved. He also mentioned that the students that now compete seem more relaxed and confident overall.
The sponsors' products, Mahatma Rice and Robin Hood Flour, are distributed in The Bahamas by Asa H. Pritchard Ltd. In addition to providing almost $4,000 in prizes each year, the sponsors also provide transportation to New Providence for competitors with their coach, and cash stipends for teachers and contestants to assist with the purchase of supplies.
Island Conch and Rice Cannelloni with Vegetable Julienne
Recipe: Dwayne Sinclair
2 tbsps butter
3/4 cup mirepoix
3 tbsps conch, diced
1 medium garlic clove, chopped
4 large sprigs of thyme
1/2 cup Mahatma Valencia rice
1 1/2 cups conch consomme, homemade
3 oz coconut milk
2 oz milk
3 oz mascarpone cheese
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
1 (16 x 4) sheet of ground conch meat pressed out to 1/8-inch thickness
2 large eggs
1/2 large lime, juiced
1/4 small goat pepper, ground
1 small finger pepper, ground
1 oz onion, ground
1/2 cup flour plus 1/2 cup cornstarch
5 oz seasoned Panko breadcrumbs
1 liter vegetable oil
For the vegetable julienne
2 tsps butter
1 small garlic clove
1 large thyme sprig
1 each large red, green, yellow and orange bell pepper (julienned)
1/2 medium red onion, julienned
Salt and pepper
For the creamy corn jalapeno and bacon ragout
1 strip thick-cut bacon
1 large thyme sprig
1 small garlic clove
1/2 cup fresh corn kernels (1 ear of corn)
1 tbsp flour
1/2 cup half and half
1 small jalapeno pepper, diced
4 tbsps half and half
Salt and pepper
For the plantain chips
1 small green plantain, peeled
Heat a medium saute pan. Cook the bacon until crispy. Saute the garlic, thyme and corn for about two minutes until tender, add the flour and cook another minute or so. Turn the heat to high and add the first addition of half and half. Bring to a boil. Season and let cool, then add the remaining ingredients and toss until well combined. Cover until ready to reheat for plating.
For the filling: Simmer consomme in a sauce pan. In another saucepan over medium heat, saute the mirepoix, garlic, thyme and conch in butter for two minutes until translucent. Add rice and cook for three minutes. Add half of the hot consomme to the rice and stir vigorously. Cook until the consomme is absorbed and the rice mixture looks almost dry. Add the remaining consomme and repeat the process all over again. While waiting for the second batch of consomme to be absorbed, heat the milk and coconut milk. When the rice mixture is almost dry again, add the hot milk and coconut milk. Check the seasoning. Turn the heat down to low and let the rice cook covered. When the rice is completely done, stir in the mascarpone cheese. Remove the rice from the pan and place on a plate and chill in the freezer until cold.
Assemble: Place the conch skin/wrapper on your work area with the longest sides going left to right. Make a few logs of the rice filling, and place in the center of the conch wrapper. Roll it up, shape into a proper log and freeze until cold.
Coating: Set up your station with four bowls, one each for flour, egg mixture, Panko breadcrumbs and empty plate for the finished cannellonis.
Assembly: Remove the chilled conch and rice logs from the freezer and place on cutting board. Using a serrated knife, but off the ends of the roll, then cut approximately five mini cannellonis from the log. Shape the cannellonis so that they are perfectly cylindrical
Final cooking: Place the cannellonis in the hot oil and fry for about one minute, just to lightly brown the breadcrumbs. Place the fried cannellonis in a dish lined with tissue and place in a 350 degree oven to warm through. Turn off oven, cover the dish and leave in the oven to keep warm until ready to plate.
For the vegetable julienne: In a medium saute pan, saute all ingredients until slightly softened about half-way cooked. They will finish cooking when it is time to reheat to plate.
For the creamy corn jalapeno and bacon ragout: Heat a medium saute pan. Cook the bacon until crispy. Saute the garlic, thyme and corn for about two minutes until tender, add the flour and cook another minute or so. Turn the heat to high and add the first addition of half and half. Bring to a boil. Season and let cool, then add the remaining ingredients and toss until well combined. Cover until ready to reheat for plating. (If the bechamel sauce is too stiff when ready to plate, just add a little more half and half and heat under a low flame, stirring constantly).
For the plantain chips: Using a mandolin, slice the green plantain lengthwise about 1/8 inch thick. Fry the chips in hot oil until golden brown and crisp. Immediately after the chips come out of the oil, season the chips with sea salt.
Island Pina Colada Upside Down Cake
Recipe: Dwayne Sinclair
3.7 oz dark brown sugar
2 oz white sugar
3 oz butter
4 large all spice berries, crushed
4 large cloves, crushed
3/4 tsp powdered ginger
6 grams ginger root, grated
1/2 large vanilla bean, split
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 medium star anise, crushed
20 fresh thyme leaves
12 tbsps fresh pineapple, diced
8 large maraschino cherries, diced
1 tbsp coconut, shredded
2 oz butter
2 oz mascarpone cheese
3 oz sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
4 oz Robin Hood all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp rock salt, ground
1 tsp baking powder
2 oz coconut milk
1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste
10 grams grated fresh coconut
5 grams grated fresh coconut, roasted
It is very important that all ingredients be at room temperature
Caramel: Mix all ingredients together and place approximately one tablespoon of the caramel mixture into each of the 12 cavities of the silicone pan.
Fruits: Mix the pineapple and cherries together with some vanilla bean paste and place about one tablespoon of the mixture on top of the caramel in the silicone pan.
Cake: Cream the butter, sugar and mascarpone cheese together for about one minute on medium high speed until fluffy and smooth. Incorporate the eggs. Add the dry and wet mixtures, alternating between the wet and dry. Remember to always begin and end with dry. Stop mixer and give the bowl a scrape down, then place back on the mixer whip at high speed for about 10 seconds to incorporate some air. Place the batter into a pastry bag and pipe the batter into the silicone molds on top of the caramel and fruits. Remember to fill the molds only 3/4 of the way full. Place the silicone pan on a sheet tray lined with a Silpat baking sheet and place in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and the center springs back when pressed.
Salted Coconut Benne Crumble
Recipe: Dwayne Sinclair
25 grams sugar
44 grams flour
13 grams fresh grated coconut
1 pinch sea salt
29 grams butter
1/2 tbsp benne seeds
Place all ingredients in the bowl of a mixer and mix for one minute. Spread the mixture on a Silpat-lined baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven until golden brown, about six to seven minutes. Remove from oven and let cool, then place in a container until ready to plate up.
Coconut Lime Sorbet
2 oz. coconut milk
2 oz heavy cream
41 grams simple syrup
17 grams Malibu rum
1/2 large lime, zested
Mix all the chilled ingredients together and place in an ice cream machine to churn until almost frozen, about 20 minutes. Place the sorbet into a container and freeze until solid, or ready to plate.
13 grams sugar
13 grams butter
13 grams egg whites
13 grams flour
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
3 tbsps crushed pistachios (to decorate tuile before baking)
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until the mixture is smooth and well incorporated. Place the mixture into a pastry bag with a medium round piping tip and pipe about eight (three-inch lines) onto a silpat-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the tuile batter with the crushed pistachios. Place in a 350-degree oven and bake until golden brown about one to two minutes. Remove from oven, cool and store until ready to use.
2 New BTC Stores in 3 Days -- Member of Parliament for High Rock Kenneth Russell prepares to cut the ribbon on BTC's remodeled High Rock store February 13. It was the second BTC store in Grand Bahama to re-open in three days after rebuild and transformation.
Last Wednesday evening Bahamian Brewery and Beverage Company launched its fourth beer, High Rock, a premium lager beer. The newest addition to the brewery’s line of successful beers is a higher end lager, delivering a crisp and refreshing taste with a bolder constitution.
THE Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) has invested $40,000 into the transformation of its High Rock retail store in Grand Bahama, the third of 50 openings planned for this year.
The overhaul of the 160-square feet store employed six Bahamian construction workers during a two-week period, and has one full-time retail specialist to keep the High Rock and East Grand Bahama communities connected.
The multi-service retail experience now offers Internet and land-line packages, and BTC's latest cellular products and services. In keeping with BTC's commitment to Bahamian culture, the store's design incorporates themes and colour schemes that reflect Bahamian identity.
"The new c ...
Jason McDowall is the founder and CEO of BahamasLocal.com. Beginning in 1996 as an Internet marketer, e-com- merce and search engine optimization (SEO) developer, he began development on the company in 2006 and launched it in 2009. BahamasLocal.com aims to help every Bahamian business get an online presence and push for Bahamian e-commerce.
Guardian Business: What is the biggest challenge facing your business or sector? What measures need to be taken in The Bahamas to solve it?
Jason: The biggest challenge we have is trying to change the culture and mindset of businesses towards advertising and promoting their individual businesses online. We have to explain the advantages of the Internet to Bahamian business owners and managers about how an online presence benefits the business. We have developed a product that can constantly and easily be used to locate goods, products and services that the Bahamian business has to offer.
Now, trying to solve it, we are constantly keeping all the relevant info current and up to date, which takes a lot of time and resources. We also have to inform and teach Bahamian businesses that because we are an interactive web application, each individual business can update and edit their own business information.
GB: How has your business or sector changed since the financial crisis?
Jason: We actually started building the website in 2006 and officially launched in 2009 right in the middle of the financial crisis. Globally the financial crisis has not really affected the Internet. In fact the usage, spending and advertising sales have increased because it allows people to easily find products and services at a cost they can afford. But locally, it has affected us as we are a new type of advertising to The Bahamas and as businesses try to reduce cost, one of the first things they generally cut back on is advertising. As BahamasLocal.com offers a new way of advertising (Internet) it was initially a challenge to convince businesses that this was a viable and cost-effective way of promoting their business. However, as the traffic on the site has skyrocketed over the last 12 months we are starting to see a change in this mindset
GB: Can you describe a life experience that changed how you approach your work today?
Jason: When I first came to The Bahamas nearly 10 years ago, I could not believe that so few businesses had an online presence. It was then in 2006 I set a goal to change this. I wanted to help Bahamian businesses get that online presence even if they did not have a website. Today, we have over 11,000 Bahamian businesses listed online via BahamasLocal.com. Last month alone the businesses listed on BahamasLocal.com were clicked on over 900,000 times. It is a great feeling knowing that Bahamian businesses are getting business from the site.
GB: What are you currently reading?
Jason: Being online constantly I tend to read tech blogs, digital books and articles about entrepreneurs in the Internet sector, such as Steve Jobs, Mark Cuban and Mark Zuckerberg
GB: Has the high cost of energy hurt your business? What solutions have you initiated or considered to combat it?
Jason: Energy costs have not really affected us as my business is a virtual one.
GB: What makes a great boss? What makes a bad boss?
Jason: Good Boss: In our type of business we tend to attract more younger and creative types of individuals. We allow them to do what they love to do - be online. We encourage our staff to browse the Internet and interact with social media networks. We find that when they do what they love, productivity increases.
Bad Boss: I don't like to be a bad boss. A bad boss does not understand how to get the most out of their staff. You have to "give" to "get" even allowing them time to check their email can make a big difference. Blocking social network access nowadays can be bad.
GB: If you could change one thing concerning business in The Bahamas, what would it be?
Jason: E-commerce and getting every business to understand the benefits of having a proper online presence are things I would change. A good online presence gives the consumer instant and consistent access to the goods, services and information of that business. We can talk about e-commerce later.
GB: What keeps you grounded? Do you have any major interests other than work?
Jason: On Saturday's I love watching my son play baseball and my daughter play soccer. I do try to keep off my BlackBerry during the game. Family time is very important and I try to get as much time as I can. Sometimes it is hard as the Internet business is 24-hour a day, seven-day a week operation.
GB: What should young businesses keep in mind in this current economic climate to survive?
Jason: Specifically in the Internet business, a young entrepreneur has to have integrity and be 100 percent honest with their clients and users. They have to understand how an Internet business works and even partner and share information with others. A lot of Internet businesses mislead people with incorrect information.
GB: How would you describe or classify the ease of doing business in The Bahamas?
Jason: Doing business is a bit of a challenge in The Bahamas for Internet companies at the moment. Unlike in Europe, North America and other parts of the word, businesses here don't have access to local e-commerce solutions. E-commerce has many benefits; it allows you to sell or purchase goods and services anytime, day or night. Another challenge is getting businesses to understand how the Internet can benefit them.