Sometimes, when life throws you a curve ball, you just have to come out swinging and that is exactly what Farina Fareed did. Today, she is the proud manufacturer of Lisa’s preserved fruits and her plantain and cassava chips production is growing.
Married when she was 28, Fareed did not expect life to be ‘a bed of roses’ neither did she expect to have to struggle to put food on the table while having to pay off medical bills.
Farina Fareed (centre), her daughter Christina (right) and Romeka one of her family members and employee
After having her first daughter, Fareed returned to work but the job demanded that she spend long hours on her feet. It was too much for her especially with a baby back home and the chores of a homemaker. She soon quit the job.
As stay-at-home mom, Fareed soon got her second daughter. But, the baby was born with Hydrocephalus or ‘water on the brain’. Surgery in Trinidad and Tobago was costly but with assistance, her daughter was able to have the needed surgery. This however, left the family in debt.
With two small children to take care of, a husband who was not working a mountain of bills and no food on the table, Fareed turned to a skill she had acquired while growing up; how to process carambola (five-finger) to make fruits used in cakes. This move would turn her life and her fortunes around.
Following a recipe from her aunt, Fareed has been in business since 1999, starting in her Mother-in-Law’s kitchen.
Fareed started out on a small scale selling the preserved fruits around the community. It was easier to provide for her family and clear some of the debts. “I am grateful that my aunt taught me and because of that I now have my own home and looking to develop myself more and leave something for my children,” Fareed said with pride.
Fareed described the business as one that takes determination and hard work. “The fruit production business is not an easy one. It’s a lot of process it (the fruits) has to go through to get to the finished product,” she cautioned.
Farina Fareed and her products
Sharing her experiences, Fareed noted that sales and profits for the type of business that she is involved in, does take place every day, month or week but it’s around the Christmas season that she has an influx of orders. “Profits are through the roof,” she laughingly told the Government Information Agency (GINA).
Carambola or Star Fruit commonly known as Five Finger in Guyana can be used in fruit cake, black cake and it is also incorporated into pastries . It can also be candied, which Fareed said, “is really tasty”.
Fareed said that Guyanese need to start buying more local products. She said that it is “up to the manufactures and producers to show them the way and show them that when they support the product, they are supporting Guyana as well; when they buy local they are getting quality products. They have to try it and they will see for themselves. So I encourage them to support local and buy local.”
Acquiring market was an issue when Fareed first started. When she first started, her product was packaged in plastic bags and it was hard to market. “Their facial expression said it all, the packaging was not up to standard and I knew that this was not going to work and I needed to improve,” Fareed recalled her early days trying to get her product on the shelves of supermarkets.
She then started purchasing the small Styrofoam plates while continuing to use plastic bags, this time with a seal. She noticed that sales started to increase.
When styrofoam was banned, Fareed approached the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) and through their networking, she was connected with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA). This provided assistance that saw her acquiring one pound containers. Fareed said that if she needs 100 containers she can always approach IICA and they will help, she is now in the process of acquiring seals for her containers.
Fareed noted that in order to get into the supermarkets, labels must have barcodes on them so improving her labels for her products was necessary. Attaining these standards, allowed her to expand her business and she now employs two persons.
In the next three years, Farina will be expanding her factory, “making it bigger and better so that I can do more work”. She revealed that she was able to export some her products to the Barbados market through GMC and she is hoping that her products will move from there. Additionally, she wants to expand on her plantain, cassava and salt sey (chicken foot) for the market. Farina pointed ot that competition from the street and other vendors saw a dip in her plantain chip sales, but this is okay.
Lisa’s carambola fruits products are in all the leading supermarkets her 10lbs bucket of fruits sell for $2600, the tub is $320, while the plastic bags are sold for $260.
Lisa’s Carambola Fruits can be found at the Guyana Shop, Robb and Alexander Streets and at many supermarkets. She can also be contacted on 619-7173, 666-23987, 682-6250 for orders.
Fareed is also encouraging women to, , “do not sit down”, she said that they should put their hands together and try something because it will pay off and they should reach for the stars because she did and, “I am happy with where I am, so if I do can do it, they can as well”. She noted that it is because of the business she was able to purchase her own home and is currently trying to acquire a vehicle.