Corentyne girl revives family’s chowmein manufacturing business

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Naiomi and her chowmein noodles at a recent exhibition where she graduated from the government’s Sustainable Livelihood Entrepreneurial Development (SLED) initiative.

– Has eyes set on Caribbean market

At first glance, Naiomi Narine offers a smile to anyone who looks in her direction.

Naiomi Narine
Naiomi Narine

She seems relaxed, confident and quiet, and very unassuming, but beneath all of that a determined manufacturer who is looking to have her brand of chowmein on the shelves of Caribbean supermarkets.
Narine, who hails from the village of Hampshire on the Corentyne, has reinvented a family business which fell by the wayside several years ago. This may be the reason behind the branding of her “Ron’s and Daughter” brand chowmein, quality noodles which have already hit the shelves in Berbice and is in demand by the Chinese restaurants on the Corentyne Coast.

A year ago, she was just sitting at home, a 22-year old without opportunities in her wake. This changed when a friend informed her about the Skills and Knowledge for Youth Employment (SKYE) project of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which is being run in collaboration with the government’s Sustainable Livelihood and Entrepreneurial Development (SLED) programme.
She found out that a component of the programme, called the Work Ready Plus initiative was being introduced to the Corentyne area and she readily applied for a place in the programme. She said that after attending classes for five weeks from December 2015 into February this year, she was determined to start her own business, having capitalized on the training offered.

A year ago, she was just sitting at home, a 22-year old without opportunities in her wake. This changed when a friend informed her about the Skills and Knowledge for Youth Employment (SKYE) project of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which is being run in collaboration with the government’s Sustainable Livelihood and Entrepreneurial Development (SLED) programme.

She was taught a range of skills including ethics in the workplace, how to address customer related matters, budgeting and marketing.
Naomi, who is an only child, then set her eyes on her project. But the resuscitation of the family’s chowmein manufacturing machines, which were lying idle at the time, was no easy task.
“It was passed down from generations and now it was my turn to make it into something,” she said confidently. She submitted proposals to the project coordinators and received funding from SKYE to start her business venture.
She said that the machines , which are housed at the family’s home , mixes the raw materials , presses the mixture several times , and then a cutter cuts the chowmein according to various sizes and then it is manually separated and cut once again after which it is placed in trays and then packaged .
She undertakes all of the work on her own, while her parents would offer assistance to her in the process. She said that the marketing includes the packaged product being sold to various restaurants and supermarkets in the area. The bags are branded in the area by a local printing company while her father helps her with delivery.
“I work according to how I receive orders from people , sometimes 100 to 300 bags each week,” she said, noting that she also manufactures chowmein in whole wheat form and this type of noodle is usually procured by pharmacies .
Expansion
Now that she has an understanding of the manufacturing aspects of the project and the market, Naomi is preparing to venture into the Caribbean market. She said that the packaging may be slightly improved and once she is able to establish a market in the region, she has plans to take her business to another level, which may include other noodle products.
But beyond the chowmein machines, Naiomi is working to expand her literary skills. She said that she always wanted to be a journalist but time may tell what will become of that dream . At the moment, she is working on a series of books, a three-part publication of poems she’s written.
“I like poems and I wish to have it published for others to read,” she said with her confident trademark smile.
There are many who helped and encouraged her along the way, but she credits her success thus to the support of her parents.
“My father is a rock; my parents are always there for me and they are a great help. I cannot do anything without my parents,” she said.