SHOP GIRL: "Every time I finish a project I become a stronger leader," reflects the entrepreneur, photographed at Patwa Apparel, Devon House.
Any conversation about the most relentlessly achieving young female entrepreneurs in Jamaica must include Heneka Watkis-Porter, that highly self-motivated go-getter who embodies the unbridled TALLAWAH spirit. With an impressive track record that comprises such successes as the casuo-sporty clothing line Patwa Apparel, a range of recipe-ready condiments, two radio shows, and a motivational book released in 2014, the thirty-plus businesswoman is the kind of trailblazer who diligently pursues whatever she sets her mind to and usually comes out on top.
So we were not at all surprised to see her working the spotlight and the camera angles on the new reality show NCB's Capital Quest, as one of seven entrepreneurs vying for a $50 million equity investment to catapult their businesses to the next level. With only five episodes remaining, Watkis-Porter gives TALLAWAH readers a first-hand account of the competition, what she's taking away from the overall experience, and the art of balancing commerce and creativity.
TALLAWAH: You guys seem to be having so much fun on the show. What's the experience been like for you?
Heneka Watkis-Porter: The experience has been very challenging. In terms of the time, the production hours are long hours. At the same time, the atmosphere is very competitive. I mean, I am up against some truly formidable challengers; all of them with great businesses. It's like the creme de la creme in local entrepreneurship. We all have our unique stories and humble beginnings, and, in spite of the individual differences, one thing we all have in common is that drive to succeed. We are all really motivated to do the best for ourselves and our family and make the country proud.
TALLAWAH: Indeed. In the end though, what do you ultimately plan on taking away from the show?
H.W.P.: Let's just say it's anybody's game right now, but for me in particular, what I'm taking away is the camaraderie that has come with participating on the show. On the production set we spend so much time getting to know each other while working together because we all know we want to build something solid. We have each other's backs.
TALLAWAH: Sounds like you're all playing nice. Any behind-the-scenes drama to report?
H.W.P.: Nothing outrageous (Laughs). A lot of the talk behind the scenes is more abut being a strong leader, being creative, strategizing and effective marketing. And from my experience, even before the show, every time I finish a project I become a stronger leader.
TALLAWAH: How do you feel about the whole reality show element?
H.W.P.: I love it! For me, it's a cross between Celebrity Apprentice and Shark Tank, and I really love both shows. So when I heard about this show being in the works and coming to local TV, I knew it was something I'd want to be a part of.
TALLAWAH: Local stations, the cable channels included, have been ratcheting up their efforts when it comes to delivering quality local programming to cater to that growing demand. Do you agree?
H.W.P.: Yes. I am an avid fan of local TV; I love to see a good local programme. I think TV J in particular is getting it right. Yes, we Jamaicans have an appetite for foreign shows, but you see where they are pushing for us to maintain that taste for good local programming. But more support is needed, especially from corporate Jamaica.
TALLAWAH: Let's talk money. Should you walk away with that cool $50 mil, what are your spending plans?
H.W.P.: Certainly if I win that kind of investment, the first thing I'd do for the business is step up the marketing arrangements and start expanding across territories regionally and internationally. But the truth is we are all winners by simply being able to take part in a competition like this. It's a life-changing opportunity.
TALLAWAH: Within the last decade or so you've accomplished remarkable things in terms of making your mark as a serious businesswoman - in the areas of fashion, literature and the culinary arts. How do you plan on diversifying further as you take Brand Heneka into another decade?
H.W.P.: What we're looking at is a new line and working on a new website for patwaappparel.com. In terms of the shirts, we have a few new designs promoting right now. We put funny patois expressions of the shirts along with the interpretations in English because the aim is to put a smile on people's faces wherever in the world they are. Part of our marketing strategy has to do with the fact that you may not know patois, but there is something about Jamaica that resonates with you. We also plan to forge relationships with people in the music industry and so on. I've learnt that with business you have to be patient and willing to put in that time and financial investment. But I think I'm doing a good job in terms of creating an awareness and getting some solid results.