Not too many small businesses have been able to withstand the test of time, especially in this tough economic climate. Sea Jamaica Shipping Ltd. is an exception.
Starting 34 years ago with a few family members, the company has expanded over the years beyond forwarding freight to Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean.
“We now have a global presence,” said founding managing director, Felix Henry. “We deliver throughout Europe, Australia and other parts of the world. I know our name says “Sea Jamaica” and that’s because we still do the bulk of business there, most of my clients are from Jamaica and my wife is Jamaican. But, in reality, we are an international company.”
In 2000, Henry married Tessa Watson who he has known for the past 27 years.
Born and raised in Antigua, Henry – an accountant – came to Canada nearly four decades ago after spending three years in the United States.
“When I came here, I could not get a job as an accountant, so I sold shoes for a short while before getting into the shipping business,” he said. “We started sending cargo to Antigua and Jamaica before realizing the need to expand.”
Henry’s brothers, Isaac and Dennis, and sister Charmaine work for him. Another sister – Fern – who was involved in the company – passed away five years ago. None of his five children is part of the day-to-day operations.
“When they were young, they used to be involved, but as they got older they wanted to be independent and lead their own lives,” said Henry, who has three grandchildren. “I have no problem with that because they are doing well in their chosen fields.”
Henry said his company is committed to excellence and providing high quality service and customer care.
“That’s the main reason, I think, our business has been doing reasonably well in spite of the recession,” he said. “Our staff is highly trained and very professional and they have enabled us to meet the needs of our clients while allowing me to pay the bills…One of the good things about this venture is that you get to meet people from different walks of life and that makes my work days very interesting.”
Henry is also known for his generosity. Over the years, he has facilitated the shipment and distribution of educational equipment to schools and other charitable organizations across Jamaica.
Last week, Kindah Jamaica – which was established by Toronto Police Sgt. Wanda DeCoste – used Sea Jamaica to transport five skids of books, computers, servers and a server tower to the Negril Educational Environmental Trust, which it supports.
“I am so grateful to Mr. Henry and his staff for being so generous with their time and energy with regard to packing, handling and shipping these items,” said DeCoste. “It’s extremely costly to ship overseas and I have found out that it’s important to have a company that can be best trusted with the donations to ensure they arrive in Jamaica in the best possible condition and they are properly cleared.”
Sea Jamaica’s office and warehouse have been at its 39 Voyager Court N. location in Etobicoke for the last 26 years.