‘Rarely are opportunities presented to you in a perfect way. In a nice little box with a yellow bow on top. Opportunities – the good ones – are messy, confusing and hard to recognise. They’re risky. They challenged you.’ Susan Wojcicki, CEO – YouTube
A reality on the journey of entrepreneurship is that the path is hardly ever smooth all the way through. Entrepreneurs who have paved the path before us, often remember the dents in the road and the rocky terrain that crafted their story. These entrepreneurs provide inspiration and insight, and this is what the Entrepreneur Weekly is bringing to you today with the story of Kareema Muncey, Managing Director of Home Choice, the brand that has become a local household name. This week, we are bringing you excerpts from Kareema’s story as told on the Jamaica Business Development Corporation’s (JBDC) The Entrepreneur’s Journey interview.
The Home Choice Story
Kareema Muncey is the Managing Director for 22-year-old Home Choice Ltd. The local brand specialises in the processing and packaging of innovative food items such as peppered shrimp, extracts, Indian curry powder, and other condiments. Home Choice started with their well-renowned peppered shrimp that has carved a special place in the hearts of many. Mrs. Muncey said, “I officially began Home Choice with peppered shrimps with US$50.”
In the fateful year of 1988, Kareema found her way to Guyana, with US$50 given to her by her mother. With this US$50 she bought 50 pounds of shrimp to carry home and launched a dream into a business. At the time she did not yet know how she would make peppered shrimps, which she remembered loving as a child. She would have had these fond memories from the higglers at the waving gallery at the airport. Muncey said, “I wanted to bring Jamaican products to a professional and commercial standard,” which is exactly what she did.
Some persons seem to be born with a nature that takes on entrepreneurship easier than others. Kareema attributes that inherent entrepreneurial disposition to the path that the Almighty has chosen for people. She recounts her high school journey that paved the path she chose to take. She said, “I need entrepreneurs to know and be comfortable with the path the Almighty has prescribed for them, not everyone can do well in exams, even though you are bright and smart. I was one of those persons; I wasn’t able to do well in exams. When I saw test papers, I would get nervous and get an asthma or anxiety attack. So, I knew I had to do something with myself and so I started selling from high school.” While at the Queen’s High School, she was selling jewellery from her family’s business and was even responsible for her year group’s graduation rings.
The young entrepreneur also sold macrame pot hangers in the downtown flea market. She shared that her experience with selling brought her to the realisation that “Money was easy to make, I just needed an idea.” Kareema had an entrepreneurial model to follow by way of her mother. She said, “My mother did anything for a buck, she would sell curried chicken and rice downtown at the flea market.”
Wisdom for Entrepreneurs
The now established business has undergone many losses. From losing 3000 pounds of shrimp because they didn’t have a refrigerated container, to losing big time to a competitor who began selling peppered shrimps. These didn’t stop her, and in 2004 Home Choice shrimps was nominated by Observer Food Awards as one of the best new products for the year. Kareema acknowledges that her competition has grown but Home Choice still has 80 per cent market share. Her resilience has seen her weathering many storms and coming up successful. Home Choice has been increasing by an average of 37 percent for the last few years and boasts 15 products in 30 different sizes, closing out in 2021 with $245 million in sales.
Muncey said “At the age of 45 I had an epiphany, I saw a post from Bill Gates that said, I went to High school, didn’t pass my exams but my friends passed their exams and now they work for Microsoft, but I own Microsoft.” I had a realisation that we are made differently, and we must own our differences and the path we have been given.”
Since having this epiphany, Muncey says her perspective has changed tremendously. She said, “It’s how you feel about yourself and now I reach for the highest and then everything I do now turns to goal.” She encourages entrepreneurs to “Look for the niche in the market and capitalise on it, like for me the ginger extract was great because people didn’t want to be grating ginger and messing their hands up and it has become about 80% of our sales, so we just kept creating new products and now they’ve become traditional Jamaican products.”
Kareema Endorses JBDC
The JBDC annually awards exceptional local entrepreneurs through its B.O.S.S MAN and B.O.S.S LADY of the Year programme. B.O.S.S Man and B.O.S.S Lady Awards are given to entrepreneurs who embody the entrepreneurial spirit and mindset, embrace a culture of innovation, has evidenced significant change in revenue, entered the export market/increased the value of current exports, introduced a new product/service into the market and is a JBDC Ambassador.
In 2022, following her participation in the JBDC’s Accelerator Programme Cohort 4, Kareema was awarded Runner-up B.O.S.S LADY of the year. She said, “I tell people in my mentorship groups all the time, that if you are not going to join JBDC, don’t bother to call me back, because if you don’t join agencies, you won’t get where you want to be. These agencies don’t work for you, but you work with them to achieve your goals.”