By Shaquawn Gill
If Queenstown and Alberttown are communities in Georgetown that you frequent, then chances are… Hot and Spicy might have been one of your go-to places for breakfast, lunch, or dinner on the go. Today, March 16, 2021, marks the 16th anniversary of Hot and Spicy Creole Corner’s entrance into the hospitality and catering industry has been established back in March 2005 at the corners of 112 3rd and Albert Streets, Alberttown.
Vanessa Singh has been at the forefront of the establishment since its conception and is virtually the face one associates Hot and Spicy with. As a female businesswoman, she urges potential entrepreneurs to expand their knowledge within the intended industries of interest as she reminisces about the come-up of her business and how it all started.
“At 16 years old, I was employed at Salt ‘N’ Pepper,” Singh recalls. “It was there that I found my love for the kitchen and food preparations,” the 43-year-old businesswoman told BIG Smith News Watch.
She said making the restaurant operational was not a walk in the park.
“The concept was not a simple task especially when you had to start from scratch… It was very difficult because at first, there was not much help available to me. I was pretty much alone in the starting up of the business” she said.
Her business idea was not one to fail given the uniqueness of what she considered doing coupled with the high amount of individuality it possessed and encouraged. For Vanessa, it was the determination poise, and perseverance that took her through the many obstacles and allowed her to solidify her business as one of the most popular food establishments locally.
“It took a few years before the restaurant became ‘solid’… I was determined and I knew that if I kept my products up to a certain standard my business would grow,” Singh told this publication with confidence.
In spite of all of this, Singh noted that one of her biggest challenges throughout her years of operating as an entrepreneur remains the COVID-19 pandemic. Singh agreed that the pandemic “significantly affected” the day-to-day operations of the business as well as its profits.
“After Guyana recorded its first case of COVID-19, we (Singh and her husband) Ken Singh decided to cut down on our opening hours. Prior to the pandemic, our working hours were 7 AM to 11 PM…during the first few months of the pandemic, our working hours were [cut] to 7 AM to 5 PM,” Singh pointed out.
The pandemic has also affected the operations of a number of outlets operated by Hot and Spicy. “We were…forced to shut down the operations of our branches at Courts, Queens College, Ogle Airport, and at the University of Guyana,” We were told.
Having to cover overheads inclusive of salaries and still be able to provide for family needs and their two children, the Singhs’ noted that the pandemic brought direct and indirect challenges which had to be addressed swiftly if they were to remain in operation.
“Nevertheless, with God’s grace and a stringent rotation system, we managed to make things work… Today, our opening hours are from 7 AM to 9 Pm and our outlets at Courts and Ogle Airport have been re-opened,” Vanessa Singh related to BIG Smith News Watch.
The entrepreneur said that she learned a lot during her time in business but there are a few things that to her mind will always stick with her no matter what.
“Over the years, I’ve learned that it is absolutely impossible to please everybody, whether it be the customers, staff, or associates, there will always be a trade-off to my actions. Therefore, it is important to find a balance among these trade-offs that maximize people’s satisfaction” She told this publication.
Understanding the above principle did help her to identify the “common ground” in customer and staff satisfaction, whilst never compromising the core principles and standards of the business. Vanessa explained.
Producing palatable meals from the restaurant, Singh is also the co-owner of the Mirage Banquet Hall, a facility that is now used to house wedding receptions and other events of that nature. This brainchild of the Singh couple was first conceptualized in 2014 and later brought to life the following year, after much deliberation.
“My family and I used to live above the restaurant and after we moved, my husband and I were unsure of what to do with all that available space. He suggested that we do fine-dining, but my mind was leaning more to the building of a Banquet Hall for weddings and parties… We were able to agree on the hall, and on June 24, 2015, the Mirage [was] launched” Singh recollected.
In wrapping her interview with this publication, her advice to potential entrepreneurs is that they should properly understand the concept behind the slogan “knowledge is power” and ensure that it remains a driving factor behind the achievement of their goals.
“My advice is also that you educate yourself about the industry you are pursuing, never let anyone have [that] advantage over you,” she added.
Vanessa Singh also beseeched young entrepreneurs to embrace critical reviews as constructive remarks, even in a world that seems to take offense for everything.
“Also, take every critique as one that is constructive [and] never be discouraged by the words of others,” Singh asserts.