For some, thoughts about inner cities, their environs and the people who live there are generally negative. The association is generally that nothing and no-one good comes from that space. If that is the rule, there are always exceptions – because using a broad brush to judge every person from the inner city as bad influences is not the ideal approach to take. Time and time again, that ‘rule’ is broken and proven to be incorrect.
One exception to the rule is 20-year-old Crystal McGowan, who identifies herself as “a hardworking and determined inner-city girl with big dreams of becoming a serial entrepreneur as well as a registered travel nurse, and content creator”.
McGowan ventured into the early stages of entrepreneurship where she started her small business selling coconut water. The idea, she says, was inspired by a health journey at work and a desire to earn additional income in what she calls “a rough time to be living”.
McGowan, who works at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation Jamaica, said in an interview with Our Today, “My coworkers are fitness and health fanatics. It got to a point where we had our own personal trainer. We unfortunately fell off track with training. However, most of them started promoting a healthy lifestyle in other ways. Some exercised on their own and encouraged others to do the same, some did healthy meal preparation and at least one person ventured into selling healthy juices.”
COCONUT WATER FROM CRISSY
With a desire to make a positive contribution to the health-conscious work environment and also unlock a new stream of income, McGowan thought of starting her own small business, or “hustle” as she called it, selling coconut water at work.
McGowan shared that she ran her business idea by one of her mentors who showed support for her starting on that journey. Though she has not yet officially named her business, she promised that the name is coming.
“I asked myself, ‘what’s in demand’ and ‘what is something that people would want that you could offer’ and for some reason, coconut water was at the top of my mind. Prior to making the decision, I did some amount of market research where I sought out the average prices based on the packaging and suppliers. I found that it was relatively inexpensive and so that was even more motivation to start, try, and see how it goes,” she said.
With just one month under her belt in selling the product, McGowan has already taken some key lessons with her into the second month and beyond. She highlighted where she lost product because of the short shelf life of coconut water as well as her practice in bottling the product correctly for sale.
“Though I’m new to this, I’ve already learned some good business tactics. I failed initially but now I am at the stage where I am on a good path to understanding how to make it work for me and my customers,” she said.
“The thing with coconut water is that it can go bad fast. Initially, I didn’t take that into consideration so I was losing a lot. I also learned that how you sanitise and seal the bottles and store them can potentially cause a chemical reaction that is harmful for consumption, if you’re not careful. I was also focused on my workplace instead of broadening my market and selling it in other spaces,” she reflected.
Since facing those teachable moments, McGowan shares that she is more equipped to operate at a profit where her customers get good quality products and she can continue with this business venture and stream of income.
She then hesitantly chose to experiment with using her verandah at home as a space to sell the coconut water. “I was so shy and fearful of being judged and potentially shamed,” she said.
“The first night I went on my verandah, the fear was there but I ended up making two sales because one of my neighbours heard me trying to get sales. Those two sales were my motivation. I told myself that, ‘that’s five bills, mi can mek this work’,” she said.
“I wanted to take it a step further,” she continued. “I transferred my efforts from my verandah to the sidewalk outside my home to see what would happen.”
That small shift in location caused a positive turn for her. Earlier this month (February), she recorded her efforts in selling her product to neighbours and passersby in the evening and she stood outside her home. Her profits that night exceeded what she had ever made in one go and she was elated. She then applied some edits to the video and shared it on TikTok in hopes of inspiring others.
“From this one video, a lot of people have reached out to me and even someone has asked me to supply them with coconut water. Some people have even asked if I could deliver my products to them where they would pay a fee at my discretion,” she said with elation.
She shared that she currently has two suppliers: one person, who is from rural Jamaica that she only has access to on Saturdays and the other supplier she accesses from downtown Kingston.
CRISSY’S SHENANIGANS AND FUTURE PLANS
McGowan shared that though she is currently pursuing her coconut water business along with her fulltime job, she has plans to go back to school.
In 2022, she applied to the Bachelor of Science Nursing (BScN) programme at the University of West Indies, Mona campus (UWI). McGowan was accepted but due to circumstances beyond her control, she had to defer. She has indicated that she will commence her tertiary education experience in September. She will do a majority of her courses at the Excelsior Community College (EXED) as there is a collaboration between the two institutions.
“Though nursing is on my list, my passion is really for content creation. I have a YouTube channel called ‘Crissy’s Shenanigans’ where I have a few videos up, but I am, however, inconsistent with it because of the lack of resources to shoot, record, and edit. I only have my phone to do all the work but my issue is a lack of storage. That will be rectified soon, so I’m not that concerned. The TikTok video I did, is the catalyst to the return of my YouTube content,” she shared.
Along with school and restarting her journey in content creation, she hopes to become a restaurateur and a real estate agent who ventures into interior decorating and refurbishing homes.
McGowan is also an aspiring chef and she plans to master her culinary skills. Later this year, she hopes to do a pop up shop showcasing those skills and use it as a tester to see how potential clients like her cooking.
WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT FOR OTHERS
McGowan urges everyone to find their passion and get to know themself.
“Things here are rough but there is no obstacle that you can’t overcome. With the right determination, you can do anything. It all starts in your mind. If you tell your mind that something can’t work even if it could work, remember that it’s never gonna work. That’s all because you’ve placed a limit on your capabilities,” she said.
“Lastly, create a healthy environment for your mind, speak positively over yourself and don’t listen to the people behind you who are always negative. No one has to see your vision. As long as you see your vision, work towards it,” she shared.
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