NGC chairman Mark Loquan, centre, with Hall of Fame inductees Nicholas Galt, left, and Langston Roach during the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce awards ceremony at NAPA, Port of Spain on Thursday. – AYANNA KINSALE
The 2022 Hall of Fame inductees at the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce Champions of Business awards gala, Langston Roach and Nicholas Galt, shared stories of struggle and triumph at the awards gala at NAPA in Port of Spain on Thursday night.
They were among six winners celebrated at the gala, which was themed Leadership and Legacy. The two business stalwarts were inducted into the Hall of Fame and will join 38 other business leaders inducted over the 17 years the programme has been running.
Roach, in accepting his award, expressed gratitude to the Almighty, family, staff and supporters. He said when he started his business in the 1970s, there was a conversation bandied about which suggested that black people did not have the acumen to run a business.
“I wanted to prove them wrong,” he said.
In a subsequent interview, he said in 1985 he had almost given up on his entrepreneurial dreams but persevered and took his business to where it is today as Langston Roach Industries Ltd.
“I remember closing my businesses in Port of Spain, going to my home in Santa Cruz and sleeping through the entire weekend. There was no communication. I just got up to eat and then I went back to sleep. I was just dealing with myself and my thoughts and how I would do in the future. I extended that weekend into two weeks.
“At the end of that period, I told myself I had a point to prove and a mission to fulfil, so I started over.”
He said one of the strategies of starting over was keeping expenses as low as possible. He said to do so he would do most of the chemical mixing of his cleaning products.
“Instead of hiring someone to do the mixing, I became the mixer. I would do as much as possible on my own and would only hire when we needed external help.”
June-Ann and Anthony Henry, owners of A&J Homemade Ice Cream, won the 2022 entrepreneurship award at the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce awards ceremony, NAPA, Port of Spain on Thursday. – AYANNA KINSALE
He said his tendency to lead from the front and to keenly observe the buying habits of his customers helped him to pivot. Now, Langston Roach markets its products to over 2,000 trade and commercial customers throughout TT.
“My greatest legacy is to leave my children with a better future than I inherited myself,” he said. “My parents gave me the best that they could have offered at the time but I am leaving my children much better off than I was when I started.”
He said all his children have multi-million-dollar businesses.
Galt, chairman of the TSL Group, also thanked family, friends, co-workers and God for his success as an entrepreneur, but also noted that his journey was a difficult one racked with disease and hard times.
“Its been a long journey to get here,” he said in a subsequent interview. “I feel grateful that the chamber has recognised the work that I’ve done over the years. You can achieve nothing until you put your best foot forward and you face your failures head on, say I am going to try again.”
He said he was struck with an illness that paralysed him, but when he recovered he turned his business around.
“Everything was connected to machines. My heart was connected, my lungs were connected, my eyes had rolled into the back of my head. But my brain was working.
“I realised that I had not done my business justice. I was chief cook and bottle-washer.”
He said he had to relearn all his body functions – talking, walking and writing. His main support during that time was his wife Nicole, who was at his side the entire time.
After he recovered he wrote a human resource application which became the most sold app in the region.
“Coming out of a tragedy like that, your entire life is changed. You become someone else,” he said.
Kamri investors got the award for Breakthrough Exporter of the Year, KC confectionery won the Internationally known, Locally-Owned Business of the Year, and DeNovo Energy copped the Green Agenda award for its work in clean-energy transition.
Winners of the entrepreneurship award, Anthony and Jude-Ann Henry, owners A&J Ice Cream, said their business started with two buckets of ice cream which they sold in a car park. Today they have 120 flavours and two stores.
Jude-Ann Henry said the main appeal of their ice creams is its “weirdness”
“It’s the unusual flavours. People come in and ask, ‘Why is there a pepper on your ice cream?’ and they naturally want to taste it. Then they tell their family and friends about it.”
“One thing that the customers always talk about is the experience,” added Anthony Henry. “When they come to A&J’s they aren’t just buying ice cream. They feel like part of a family. The way we interact with people builds that relationship to the point where the brand started to grow and kids would say they wanted A&J’s.”
Speaking on the theme for this year’s awards programme, Chamber president Charles Pashley said leadership was about taking risks and challenging the status quo by motivating others to achieve something new, different and better.
“For this we must continue to recognise our business community publicly, as the economic wealth created by a successful business community creates stability that is necessary for a successful country,” Pashley said. “This we should all celebrate.”