Lavern King, a young woman who grew up on the lovely Grenadine Island of Canouan is a testament to the value of perseverance.
She attended the Canouan Government School, then moved on to the Emmanuel High School Kingstown, now known as the Dr. J.P. Eustace Memorial Secondary School.
Lavern specialized in marketing and communication at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus. She completed both her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees there.
In an interview ith ANN, King shared with us some of the challenges she would have faced in the early years of her life, long before she would meet the obstacles in the world of entrepreneurship. She noted that the love and motivation provided by her mother as well as other community members were a great help along the way.
‘I grew up in a single parent family where we were all we had. My mom struggled by herself to send me to school but there were times when the goodwill of our community pitched in and gave a little assistance here and there. I think the determination of my mother to ensure that my sister and I didn’t become high school dropouts was a big motivational factor to me. When we were finished with secondary school, it wasn’t possible for both of us to go to college and my sister said I should be the one to go. Every now and again I think about that and feel a bit guilty that she too didn’t get the opportunities that I got because of poverty. That’s why I’m such a big believer in paying it forward and helping out younger people with their educational pursuits in whatever way I can.’
King shared with us the reasons behind her three current businesses.
‘I did marketing because it’s my training. My gadget store in Canouan was to fulfill a need. My seamoss business was for the social impact.’
According to Lavern, she got into the world of entrepreneurship because she had no other choice. Noting that she met a considerable amount of difficulty gaining employment following time at the UWI, she decided to take the plunge and start her own business.
‘I got into business because I had no other choice. I don’t think that I ever feel like I was born to be that, I happened upon it for survival. It was difficult to get a job after graduating from university so I decided to start my own business.’
However, she would realize that just like life growing up, the world of business would have its own challenges to face, but noted that the challenges also provide her with valuable lessons that have been great assets to her.
‘Since the first one I’ve had about two unsuccessful others but I’ve learnt so much since then about “stickitivity” and how to be relentless. I’ve learnt how to get up and keep trying even when my accounts hit $0.00 I just decided not to give up and to keep going.
Now I have a successful marketing business doing websites for clients, I manage a few social media pages, and I have a seamoss business. Combined I provide employment for 5 people including myself.’
King says that the most notable challenge that she has faced since starting her own business was the starting up period.
‘I think startup was the hardest challenge. When you come from where I’m coming from, there are no handouts. There are times my mom would say “Lavern, you have to stop working so much.” I know however that what separates me from others is just discipline and hard work. As a poor island girl, what other options were there?
It’s still hard now, entrepreneurial pursuits aren’t as easy and flashy as people love to make it out to be. I still stay up long nights trying to figure out everything and trying to strategize.’
Lavern said if there was one thing she could change about the early stages of her entrepreneurial journey, it would be to seek guidance at the start, saying that mentorship earlier on could have helped to cut down on costly mistakes.
‘I think I’d have sought more mentorship earlier on in the business. The more lessons I can learn without making my own mistakes the less expensive it would’ve been.
There’s a mentorship deficit in SVG…and also poor attitudes towards mentorship- I hope that will change soon.’
Lavern says that since her business has not closed and is still open and operating she considers it a success. She expressed gratitude to still be in business, noting that a considerable number of business have not been so fortunate over the years.
‘I consider myself successful because my business hasn’t closed. I think to just still be trying and to still be here is success enough. There are so many businesses that folded over the past few years. I’m just grateful to still be around.’
Reliability, discipline, relatability and adaptability are four key qualities that any entrepreneur should have, according to Lavern.
Being in business for eight years, King always tries to tie any business she does to a social project, providing us with some examples of how she does that.
‘With everything I’ve done and been doing business wise I always tie it to a social project. I’m happy that I’m able to assist with community events through my business. I’m happy as well to be able to simply provide.’
Lavern King through undeterred determination has shown that there is great value in perseverance. Despite encountering numerous blocks on her road to success, she is able to today to hold her head high, and call herself the proud owner and operator of not one, not two, but three successful businesses, not only providing benefit for herself, but providing employment for others, and making a social impact.
Lavern said being the P.R.O of the NDP is hard work, it’s been one of the single most important and challenging things I’ve ever done. I hope my involvement helps to bring a new government that will make doing business more friendly for young entrepreneurs. Sometimes people think I’m superwoman to do it all but some days I do find it hard to find that balance. What I have done though is try to empower the people on my team to work independently of me so that the businesses can go on for a few days without me. Further my sister Shelly is my right hand, so I trust her to ensure the day-to-day activities are in order. I do not believe in micromanagement, and I see myself as a mentor to those who work with me because I want them to branch off eventually so I give them big responsibilities. I’m an excellent manager and I’m good at delegating so that helps with keeping the business going and still being present in politics.