2020 into 2021 has been a hard year for women.
Not in terms of achievements, but specifically as it relates to gender based violence and the abundance of stories related to assault on women.
Now, cue the approach of International Women’s Day 2021, which will take place on Monday, 8 March.
Many may think we do not have much to celebrate, but, in spite of it all, women are resilient and stand strong.
And as we near the celebration of the global day, which honors the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, izzso media will like to place a few women in the spotlight, starting today with KATHERINE BETHEL, co-founder and Managing Director of B’s Ice Cream.
According to Bethel, “Now is the Time for all Women to take our rightful place and take care of our homes and families, and by extension we will have a better community, nation and the World at large.”
So, what is Bethel’s story?
At the young age of 53, Bethel has experienced a great deal.
Hailing from “San Juan, San Juan” as Voice would say, Bethel said “I grew up very humble, attended Barataria Junior and Senior Secondary and was a prefect all my school years.”
She said “I played netball and represented my Primary and Secondary School at netball tournaments and even practiced netball with the late great Jean Pierre for a short while.”
“I also loved sewing, as my mom was a seamstress. For my first business, I bought fabric, designed and sewed outfits for my friends.”
“In my early adult life, I had a vision of a factory, but I thought it would have been a garment factory… I didn’t know it was the foresight and visioning of B’s factory.”
Fast forward to the late 80’s when Katherine is married Anderson Bethel and gives birth to her first child – a daughter.
She tells us that Anderson lost his job as a welder fabricator as the economy was in decline at that time. “I was just an OJT at WASA then. Our parents couldn’t financially support us, so we had to do something to make ends meet. Andy was the one who had a knack for making peanut punch and pumpkin punch….he also was part of conversations with his buddy’s at that time about the trends that was developing regarding making home-made ice cream.”
Bethel added “For me it was “ignorance on fire” and I had no clue about ice cream, I was just supporting the idea and going along with the efforts for us to do something.”
She revealed that “Andy took around $3000 out of his savings and decided to build an Ice Cream Cart himself, we bought a 10 quart Ice cream pail, bought some milk, coconuts, peanut butter and other materials. We then said to ourselves, what will we name the business? The surname Bethel came to mind, and the B from the Bethel formed the name B’s Home-made Ice Cream. We then chose a bumblebee and a coconut tree to enhance the logo (Bees follow sweetness and the coconut tree represented the main ingredient and Caribbean life).”
“We then hit the streets in our community and started selling, $3.00, $9.00, $23.00 and so the sales began to grow. Our main location at that time was Curepe Junction.”
Bethel said they made the ice cream first thing in the morning, at her mother-in-law’s house.
“I would go to work at my OJT job at WASA and then go meet Andy after work to help him sell on the corner junction at Curepe. And that’s the genesis of B’s.”
As time passed and the business slowly started taking off, Bethel said she soon left the temporary position at WASA to work at the family business, using her secretarial studies to organize and manage B’s’.
She did short courses at CARIRI on Food production, quality assurance, Haccp etc. “I also furthered my studies and became ACCA qualified, I attained my MBA and began to utilize all my training and learning to develop the business. God blessed us with hardworking loyal staffers, support from various persons stemming from Family, Friends, Credit Union, Church and supportive customers. All of whom played an instrumental part in the growth of the B’s Brand.”
It all seemed like smooth sailing, so izzso asked if she encountered any challenges as a woman in Business especially with their being not one, but two children now in the mix?
To that, Bethel said she had to balance work and life, having to parent children, attend to wifely duties and work at the business 7 days a week.
“Managing mostly male workers who sometimes tried to dominate, this built up my strength and leadership style.”
I even experienced subtle but deliberate disregard amongst other male business leaders.
In the early stage, she said there was a lack of support from friends and family and she had to break many glass ceilings.
She said they had to endure lack of resources and funds to invest in the growth of the business and of course there was strong Competition mainly from the imported brands with large marketing budgets that offer very low prices for their products.
There was also surmountable cost to differentiate the B’s Brand as many people mix up B’s and the other Home-made Ice Cream brands.
As a woman in business today, and in light of the celebration of Independence Women’s Day, Bethel said “ We need to know our value and self worth.”
“We need to demonstrate this value by standing up for who we are and what value we really bring to society. We as Women represent (Creation – we bring forth the life of Generation, We are Nurturers, We are Home-makers, We are Generational Bondage Breakers, We are Role Models, We are the Strength of Families and by extension the Community, We are the bond for Family Unity and Economic Stability, We are Passionate Leaders. And we must not accept and embrace any actions that makes us feel unworthy.”
“We are beautifully and wonderfully made by God for a purpose in this world, the most important task is for us as Women to Find our Key Purpose and be brave to LIVE freely and BE authentic in our skin in spite of colour and texture.
The Covid-19 Pandemic has taken a toll on business and in some cases even families, it has caused global chaos and disrupted the World in many ways.
Bethel said “the World has definitely changed but during the pandemic we spent more time at Home, more time with family. I am sure we saw areas of brokenness and gaps in our family systems. I believe this pandemic gave us insights into areas of shortfalls and areas of parenting and mothering gaps. “
She added “Covid 19 forced us to take a better and closer look at our home infrastructure, our families and our priorities. Now is the Time for all Women to take our rightful place and take care of our homes and families, and by extension we will have a better community, nation and the World at large.”
As a woman in business and a leader in her community, I asked Bethel to tell us what her leadership style is.
She said “My Leadership style is a mix of participative and transformational.
“Very inclusive style, very passionate about driving growth and continuous development of the company and our employees holistic life. Hence the reason I pursued coaching and mentoring training as my passion, to see persons be the best version of themselves.
“My life, my successes and my learnings should be a significant example to influence and demonstrate to others that they also can achieve and attain a purposeful life contributing positively to the to our families, and our economy.”
Bethel is 53 years of age and with her beloved husband Anderson, they have two children (a 30-year-old daughter who is a Tech Entrepreneur and a 25-year-old son, who is an Attorney.