Michelle Chong, CEO and co-founder of the independent bakery Honey Bun Ltd., has in her first act as Jamaica Exporters' Association (JEA) president, charged both leaders and members to be the executors of change. In a rousing address, after her unopposed election as JEA president at the 50th
annual general meeting on Wednesday, March 9 at JEA headquarters on Winchester Road, Mrs. Chong urged business leaders to end their fixation on negative thinking.
"It is not easy to run a business in Jamaica, but as members of the business fraternity, we must cease the constant conversation on the things that we consider are holding us back. Let us refocus our thoughts on the great opportunities we have as a country," said Mrs Chong. "We need to engage a culture change, stop talking, complaining and let's start dreaming and executing." Chong reiterated that the JEA plays a key role in national development, positing that the only way to forward for the Jamaican economy is to balance the trade deficit.
The new president noted her support for General Manager Sandra Glasgow's re-vamp of the institution which will include a review of the structure of the Association.
Chong takes over from Marjorie Kennedy who showed her support for the coming changes, commenting "We have a new visual identity (new logo) and a new tagline - 'Let's Think Bigger. Together' (because) we are positioning ourselves as the premier export support agency... pushing innovative thinking and execution."
Chief among Mrs. Chong's targets for her two-year presidency are: actively engaging young creative entrepreneurs to think differently about the export markets; setting goals that are above world standards for new and existing members to adopt; and creating within the JEA a structure that affords exporters the opportunity to be executors of change.
The Honey Bun boss, who founded the 34-year-old company with her husband, Herbert Chong, brings a wealth of strategic experience to the presidency. She has overseen the company's successful listing on the Junior Stock Exchange in 2011, which in 2014-15 netted $69 million increase in profits, and a 31% increase in exports over the previous year. The pastry bakery has secured mainstream retail listings in Canada and in the UK where its Easter Buns and Rum Cakes are available in ASDA stores. In recent months the bakery has reported that it aims to engage with new non-traditional export markets.
The rest of the newly elected JEA executive body includes: Deputy President Paul Lewis; Vice-Presidents Stephen Dawkins, Natalie Grandison, Lisa Johnston, and Roderick Francis; and re-elected Honorary Treasurer Hernal Hamilton. The exporters were treated to a presentation on the potential export earnings of nutraceuticals and the realities of the medical cannabis industry by guest speaker Dr Henry Lowe.