Randolph and Kerrin Stanley can be described as an unusual couple if only because they have remigrated at a time when many people their age, 36 and 31 years old, are seeking to do the opposite.
The two former Queen’s College students have already gone through that phase of their lives, having moved first to the United Kingdom then to Canada. These days they are not only resettled in Guyana but have backed their decision to return home – along with their three young sons –Reuben, 10, Levi 4 and Simeon, 2. Incidentally, their parents who reside in Guyana are not excessively enamoured with their decision.
By investing around $13 million in an enterprise which they expect will mark the beginning of a longer term, more ambitious business venture, the Stanleys are clearly seeking to make a statement about the direction in which they seek to steer their lives and – for the time being at least – the lives of their children. Initially, Stabroek Business had sought an interview with them simply to talk about Freeze Up, a new and increasingly popular beverage. However, it soon became clear that they had a far more interesting story to tell. They have, it appears, fashioned their lives around a set of ideals that are far from common around Guyanese of their generation.
Their recollections of the journey that has brought them full circle are vivid. The first of their three sons was born in Barbados. Before all that Kerrin had completed two years of a Civil Engineering Degree at the University of Guyana.
Afterwards the couple moved to the United Kingdom. The move to migrate was predictable. They were young, ambitious and by their own admission, chasing a dream. Migration would open up opportunities which Guyana did not afford them at the time; but then neither did the United Kingdom. East London was not their Mecca. They worked, saved, recruited an immigration consultant and moved to Canada.
By sheer coincidence, the process of immigrating to Canada opened up a career opportunity for Kerrin. She became intrigued by the procedures involved in immigration consultancy and once she moved to Canada she began to pay a greater interest in it. Today, Kerrin is herself an immigration consultant, certified by the Canadian government and running her own consultancy in Georgetown.
Even before leaving Guyana, Randolph Stanley had begun to put in place the first building blocks for his eventual return. He acquired 20 acres of land at Yarrowkabra on the Soesdyke-Linden highway, an initiative that now appears to fit neatly into the family’s business plan.
Randolph is an amiable, engaging and open young man. He tells his story eagerly, not in the least bothered about talking about the process that led him to where he is today. As a boy and a younger man he worked with his hands. Time was when he walked and sold the scrubbing boards that he made. He also worked in the construction industry; and unlike those migrants who studiously pretend that life in metropolitan countries is always a ‘bed of roses’ Randolph talks about the challenge of the family losing their home in Canada to a “fire sale,” a compulsory disposal that follows an inability to sustain the mortgage payments in order to repay the bank. In those circumstances the Stanleys would have lost their entire investment in the property. That experience, it appears, is now firmly behind them.
Freeze Up, Randolph explains, is a start-up initiative which, hopefully, will extend into broader local business pursuits. For the moment, however, the family is focusing its attention on consolidating an enterprise that involves extracting the juices from a range of local fruits, processing them in machines into the texture of what is known in Guyana as ‘shave ice’ and dispensing it into cups. Its primary target market is children.
Freeze Up may not be a particularly novel concept, but its attraction lies in the fact that the end product harnesses attractive contemporary technology that handles every aspect of the process. The fruit is cleaned and placed in the machine which does everything, from peeling and pulping to juicing. Ginger, passion fruit, pineapple, cherry, five finger, tamarind and guava are the flavours of choice and fruit is currently sourced from farmers at Canal Number One and the Soesdyke Highway. Plans for growth include the cultivation of the land Randolph had acquired on the highway to produce fruit for the venture.
The Stanleys are currently focused on branding the product, placing their dispensing machines at as many strategic points as possible. Freeze Up ‘stations’ can be found at Marian Academy, School of the Nations and the New Guyana School as well the Rosebud Café and most recently the Courtyard Mall on Robb Street. The Stanleys even boast of having “exported” Freeze Up to Mahdia.
Even as they monitor patronage and consolidate the local brand build out, the Stanleys say they are contemplating possible regional expansion. Randolph admits, however, that “everything takes time.” He has already extended his investment focus beyond the current venture. The construction and agricultural sectors are possible future investment targets. The other family goal is raise their children in a Guyanese environment.
Kerrin while supporting her husband in the quest to build a strong business base, admits that the Canadian citizenship provides the family with “the flexibility of travel” they enjoy.