Athalyah Yisrael is part of a fast-growing group of Guyanese women who are embracing self-employment. For most of these women working for themselves is about following their hearts, giving expression to what they believe are their real strengths and, most importantly, opting for what they believe is their best route to economic independence.
In Yisrael’s case, the upcoming first anniversary of the creation of Fun Park Rentals on April 1, serves as a sharp reminder of her own decision to part company with salaried employment. As an employee of Demerara Distillers Ltd for four years, beginning in 2010, she had not been disinterested in working for herself. The critical decision to take the plunge was made in February 2014 when she had embarked on a one-off Mashramani Day ‘lunch’ venture. As fate would have it her stall was positioned virtually adjacent to the ‘bouncy castle ride’ of another vendor. The steady stream of children getting on and off the ‘castle’ excited her own innate business instincts.
She says little about her amicable parting of company with DDL except that the circumstances of her departure allowed her to invest $500,000 in the various rides which she not only takes to the seawall on Sundays but makes available for hire for public and private children’s events. Fun Park’s latest public appearance was at the recent Phagwah event at the Providence Stadium.
If you visit the seawall on Sundays, you are certain to get a sense the rapid growth of the children’s entertainment industry. The entire area is packed with children, hot dog stands and numerous rides. It is competitive business but Yisrael says the market is big enough for all of the vendors.
Her entry into the children’s entertainment sector has, she says, deepened her appreciation of the importance of providing “safe spaces” for children. “With all of the violence that we see today providing safe activities for children ought to be an important pursuit. Even now, there is room for much more of this type of entertainment.”
The engaging 26-year-old is a virtual ‘one woman army,’ moving her accoutrements by car from one location to the next, and often locating the various rides at different events. She is supported by casual staff whom she says are recruited as the need arises.
Nor is Yisrael unmindful of the responsibilities of operating in the sector she has chosen. To remain competitive she must continue to market the services she offers and to maintain her equipment to standards that provide the requisite safety and health assurances to her customers and their parents. There is an iron-clad rule about sanitizing the rides after every outing.
She is struck, she says, by the good relationship that is in evidence amongst the vendors.
She talks of her own experiences of having discourses with other vendors about who might be best positioned to take advantage of the market.
The venture, she says, has been worth the while. She basks in the freedom of self-employment though, at this juncture, she is much more inclined to talk about a gradual consolidation rather than any fanciful excursion into short-term, far-fetched expansion.