This month we talk to another husband and wife business that I first saw on a local TV show, The Innovators. It was a surprising revelation which made me more aware that there are a good amount of Christian Businesses in Jamaica that are making it and making it great. Meet the proprietors of I Can! Stationery.
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I am Altano Morgan, married for 15 years to Tamara and we have 3 children. We attend Church of the First Born Grace Gospel Hall.
2. How long have you been in Business, how did you get started and why?
Before I Can! we were in the manufacturing of Baby Nursing/Feeding Pillows which Is the only Jamaican made brand pillow In the island “Altano’s” Then I Can! came along and took away some of our energy.
I Can! Stationery and More is a motivational/affirmation based business whereby we Insert various motivational words on our products. We have been In business for 5 years.
It started after visiting a bookstore and seeing a secular artiste on the covers of the books the Lord laid it upon my heart that it would be a more positive influence of having a gospel artist instead. When we set out to accomplish the task the idea also came to have motivational words on the inside of the books and to also give the book a name, few days after asking the Lord, the answer came to call the books I CAN!
Our Initial intention was to get the books made by another manufacturer and then we would do the marketing/sales to various books stores. However, the agreement/delivery from our supplier did not work out and so we were forced to start manufacturing the books ourselves. We then had to get equipment, a building and staff and then set to work!
Our main product is writing books ranging from exercise books, pocket books, steno pads, subject note books, journals. We presently have other products such as, pens, pencil, cups, school bags, calendars, keyrings and book markers and do plan to extend our product line as we go.
I Can! motto Is “Transforming Lives by Renewing Thoughts”. We target the individual so our phrases are written in the first person. Example ” I Altano Morgan was born for greatness I was created for excellence”. We also focus on personalizing all our items so an individual could have their photograph on the cover of their book, pen, pencils or cups.
Although the Lord choose us to bring transformation to our nation and the world, before that, we have been experiencing, amidst the challenges, the favour of God our the years.
3. How do you market your business?
We market our business mostly through direct contact with the end users such as schools, companies (for which we do branding), churches and also parents. We also market to some stores, through the radio station, television, internet and directory.
4. Does the social & economic environment impact your business? What other issues affect I Can?
Well the economic environment Impacts on the buying power of some customers, hence they will seek to get a cheap/inferior Imported product. The government policies are not conducive to manufacturing In Jamaica, the energy bill and high value of raw materials are two factors that affect our competitive edge in the market.
5. Whom do you seek advice from for your business? Also Tell us also about “ The Innovators” experience.
We first of all always pray to the Lord for wisdom, directions and creative ideas. Regular discussions are made among the directors. We also have a team of advisors that we share our plans with.
Our Innovative Experience was a good one, we gained a lot of exposure to the air and it was through this experience we were aware of the Jamaica Manufacturing Association and without hesitation, we became a member.
6. What is the feed back from the customers?
Our customers are always pleased with the top quality and blown away by the Idea of I Can!
They see it as something that they need in this time as there is a lot of hopelessness and despair so I Can! is seen as a ray of Hope. Some will comment and say ‘where was I CAN! when they were attending school.’ We see tears running down faces when the various affirmations are read by our customers, we see eyes being enlightened after reading, we hear teachers getting emotional about instant change that I Can! bring to their students, we hear parent bragging about a positive change of attitude from their children and last but not least we too are encouraged by the various motivational words and the overwhelming testimonies all this Is a tower of strength to push through the various challenges and purpose In our hearts that “wi Nah Give Up!”
7. Where do you see your business in the next five years?
We see I Can! covering the entire Jamaica where every household Is aware of our brand, we see exporting of our products, at least two other locations, increase product line, government contracts which allow us even a greater Influence in the schools.
8. How does being a Christian help you with your business?
It is of tremendous help! If it wasn’t for the Lord there would be no I Can! We are strengthened knowing that the creator of the universe the one who is in control has called us to such an awesome task. All wisdom comes from Him and he promised to do exceedingly abundantly above all we can ever ask, think or even Imagine. It is a very borderless experience knowing that God can do anything with I Can!
After all, I Can! is a medium to bring His message of Hope, Self-esteem, purpose, good morals to a needy world.
9. How do you balance family & business?
Well, that is a very challenging one. The call of I Can! entails the entire family. As Husband and Wife in business, we work long hours together, many sacrifices and sleepless nights. So with three children, we get them involved by building comfort areas at the business place so they are able to always be around us. We believe they are the ones who are going to continue in the business so they get hands on experience. We try to take short breaks together by ordering take out, one day country travel, short visits to friends and relatives, couple hours of picnic, we always ensure that once we are at home we all eat together around the table where we get the opportunity to talk a bit, dancing and enjoying music together after closing the office, we always ensure that time Is taken to assist with homework and projects, and we volunteer at various school events.
10. So Far, what has been your most memorable moment?
In the first year of business one Friday evening I went in our store room for material to fill an order and discovered that termites had infested the building and eaten up over $400,000.00 worth of material. I Instantly felt despair, heartbroken in the midst of my start up period, tears filled my eyes, I felt hopeless and alone, the staff was unable to stay and my wife and children were in the country. After battling with the termites in tears insect spray I asked the Lord what should I do. I was bending down to pick up something off the ground and an I Can! pen which was in my pocket fell out when I took it up It had written “Yes! MI Nah Give Up” I was Instantly revived just by reading the words on the pen. I felt as if the Lord spoke firmly into my spirit. With tears still In my eyes, I said yes Lord Mi Nah Give Up!
I was Instantly revived just by reading the words on the pen. I felt as if the Lord spoke firmly into my spirit. With tears still In my eyes, I said yes Lord Mi Nah Give Up!
I was slated to preach at church the Sunday and asked the Lord what to share and He told me to share and encourage the brethren not to give up. That Sunday was an awesome service not only was I encouraged but many lives were blessed.
11. What’s your advice to Christians wanting to start their Business?
Ensure that your motive to start a business is not based on money as that may be a challenge in the first years. Seek the Lord on what to do and always present your plans to Him. Be willing to be obedient to the leading of the Lord, don’t be afraid to step out. Remember you are a Vessels of Honour, the Lord expects you to walk and operate your business in a Christ-like manner. Although the Lord says go, you may still encounter some storms but keep focused.
Don’t rely on family or friends to support your business, the hard truth is; some will support you and some will not. Rely on God and don’t be overly concerned about the economy or things around wherever the Lord leads he provides. Hold on your day of favour will come.
Message Board Magazine