53-yo serial entrepreneur Charmaine Gordon-Burnett, breaking barriers Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

What’s in a name? Well, for Charmaine Gordon-Burnett, who bears several titles, they’re as irrelevant as they are badges of honour.

What began as a curious observation of her husband’s welding craft over 30 years ago, has sparked a successful business.

This business has served as a source of inspiration, income, independence, and stereotype-breaking in what has been traditionally a male-dominated field.

Meet 53-year-old Charmaine Gordon-Burnett, who has become adept at building and repairing truck bodies and who has been playing an integral role in the business establishment, Burnett’s Fabrication and Welding, located in Mount Olivet, Walderston, Manchester.

Charmaine Gordon-Burnett (left) and husband, Raymond, contemplate the game-plan before undertaking another welding project. (Photos: Contributed)

‘I met my husband as a welder, and being at home as a housewife, I’m not the type to sit down. I started coming to the shop with him, passing tools and using tools until I caught on,’ Mrs Gordon-Burnett toldLoop News.

Being a fast learner, she soon found herself earning respect and admiration for her expertise.

‘As a woman doing this type of work, they [truck drivers] have a big rating [for] me,’ she said, chuckling.

Bilford Young, a truck operator in the parish, attested to Gordon-Burnett’s exceptional skills.

‘Of all the welders in the shop, when her husband wanted a precise measurement, it would be her he would entrust to give him that measurement. She was that precise, she’s very good,’ he related.

Her husband, Raymond, is proud of her welding and business management skills.

‘She can do just about everything I do. She ran the business and supervised the welders,’ he said, adding that they employed up to six welders in the past.

‘It took her no time to catch on. She was a dressmaker, so she was better than me at doing measurements. She did weld and fitting… people would watch her work because they have never seen a woman master this field.’

Gordon-Burnett’s ambition did not confine her to welding, however. A decade ago, she capitalized on the welding business and ventured into selling truck auto parts at the same location as the welding business. Starting small, her business has grown to include a variety of auto parts exclusively for trucks.

‘I started out selling only filters, then, I started to expand a little, selling oil and other service parts,’ she recounted.

Charmaine Gordon-Burnett in her auto parts store in Walderston, Manchester. (Photos: Contributed)

Like many aspiring small business owners, Gordon-Burnett faced a common obstacle: securing the necessary funds to expand the business.

She decided to apply for a JN Small Business Loan (now JN Bank Small Business Loans), for support.

Having obtained 10 loans over the years, she was able to use the financial backing to secure additional stock – a decision that has proven instrumental in the success that followed.

‘When you are in business, sometimes it’s up and another time, it is down. Sometimes you really want something to push you off, but it is not there, so you have to draw for the small loan, and that’s where it comes in handy. Each time I have to use the loan to make another step and it helped,’ she affirmed, highlighting the key role the loans have played in her journey.

In the interest of diversifying the business, Gordon-Burnett started farming as well. She planted carrots, cabbage, Irish potatoes, and raised chickens. At this point, she accessed an additional two loans for this business.

‘The reason you should have a side business is that the main business might not come through when you need it. You have to have a side business to back up the main business sometimes,’ she explained, adding that while having two daughters in college at the same time, the main business was not enough to finance their education.

Her entrepreneurial spirit has not only improved the quality of her life but also that of her family. A mother of three daughters, Gordon-Burnett shared that one of her daughters is operating her own car parts business (located next to hers), another is pursuing a teaching career, and the third is currently in college.

Latoya Clarke, the client relations officer at JN Bank Small Business Loans in Christiana, who facilitated some of Gordon-Burnett’s loans, pointed out that her client’s business acumen is exceptional.

‘She exemplifies the true spirit of entrepreneurship and is very determined about pursuing her goals. Her success story underscores the invaluable role that loans play in small business operations.’

‘Many entrepreneurs’, Clarke went on, ‘use loans to purchase stock and equipment or to cover overhead costs. As a result, many aspiring entrepreneurs, like Gordon-Burnett, have turned their dreams into reality.’

‘These loans have also helped small businesses to handle any unforeseen challenges and temporary setbacks that pose a threat to their operations,’ she added.