Two close school friends who first met each other in First Form at Charlestown Secondary School have not only retained their friendship through their teen-age years and into adulthood but have now pooled their resources and their talents to create a business for themselves and jobs for other young people through The Balance, a professional waiter service that appears destined to make a mark in one of the country’s fast-emerging sectors.
Stabroek Business met Donella Long and Mariah Barker and the rest of The Balance team at a private function hosted by an overseas-based Guyanese for child residents of Joshua House, the St. Ann’s Orphanage and other charitable institutions on Saturday evening. Elegantly bedecked and bow-tied in their black and white uniforms they were delivering a hospitality service with a sense of professionalism that was difficult to ignore. In circumstances where catering to the tastes of high-spirited children is often an exacting challenge, Donella and Mariah were directing the operation with the casual professionalism of veterans whilst themselves being thoroughly involved in serving the children.
The Balance was established in May last year at the Women’s Business Expo, born out of the fast-growing entrepreneurial spirit of young Guyanese who, increasingly, are seeing options to salaried jobs or else, are seeking opportunities to subsidize the modest incomes which those jobs frequently provide. This, indeed, is the case with both of the twenty-five-year-old businesswomen who manage The Balance. For good measure, Donella is a Secondary School teacher who is currently pursuing further studies in Industrial Technology at the Government Technical Institute. Donella works as a Clerk.
Stabroek Business had agreed to meet with both Donella and Mariah. In the instance of Mariah the commitments of her full-time job got in the way. We met with Donella alone. Focused and articulate, she explained that both she and Mariah had received hospitality service training whilst in the employ of another service provider before branching off to go on their own. The Balance, she says, is a manifestation of their collective ambition to succeed.
The company, Donella says, “specializes in providing a unique service that is increasing in demand in the 21st Century. Our area of expertise is the supply of waitresses, waiters, bartenders and mixers for your weddings, parties and all other events.” Up to this time, she says, their most challenging assignment was the execution of a contractual obligation to provide hospitality services to this year’s Caribbean Premier League (CPL) competition. “Having to provide a service that required our team to traverse much of the Providence Stadium was physically challenging but we knew what we were in for when we took on the contract,” Donella says.These days, The Balance has matured to a point where it challenges itself to take on varied assignments across much of coastal Guyana. Donella explains that the company has worked hard to develop an awareness of the socio-cultural differences associated with providing service to different types of functions. As such, the team has become mindful of the protocols and customs associated with different types of events. “Whenever we discuss providing service for an event we always discuss issues like our uniform and our general appearance. If we need to leave our ties behind, for example, then we do so. We are also mindful of the particular formalities associated with the different types of events.”
The Balance’s focus, Donella says, is on the collective contribution of the Team. “At The Balance every person in our company is a team player, with the expectation and need that they perform their duties to their fullest capacity and potential. Our objectives are to provide the best service with the highest quality staff of friendly professionals for an affordable price.”
Not surprisingly, The Balance team is gearing itself for the holiday season and the flood of entertainment events that it customarily brings. Some bookings are already in, she says, but their experience has now created a flexibility which enables them to provide ‘top class service’ whilst sometimes spreading themselves thinly. It seems that The Balance team can’t wait for Christmas to come.
With regard to the relationship that she has forged with her business partner, Donella says that “a good friendship is priceless. It is often found in unusual places but when it is found it is definitely worth cherishing. As fate would have it, Mariah and I both started 7th Grade at the same time and ever since then we formed a bond that has survived to this day’.
The niche that they have found, she says, derives from “wanting to offer something better to the Guyanese people. We have found our niche in the hospitality sector”.
The name of the company derives from the fact that its co-owners have been forced to balance hectic work schedules, family life (they are both mothers) with their business venture in Guyana’s hospitality industry. Apart, balance is a critical skill in the business of being a waiter/waitress.