Ollunid gets ready for school

Business editor

Sunday, August 26, 2018

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Juan Carlos Corredor and his company Ollunid is in full production mode to help parents get their children back to school in high-quality Jamaican-made school shoes.

The company had expended some time exploring a partnership with a UK-based producer, but the venture eventually did not materialise, and the company lost precious time for its school shoe production.

“Now we are back on track,” said entrepreneur Corredor, undaunted by the turn of events.

“We are working to have some designs ready for the new school term,” Corredor told the Jamaica Observer. “Our main concept is to provide shoes that will last a whole school year as parents are suffering because of the low quality of school shoes available in the market and are willing to get something that will cost a bit more — but which will last much longer and will save money in the long run.”

He said that parents are finding that it is often more cost effective to buy Ollunid school shoes for up to $6,500 a pair than a pair of imported shoes from China for as little as $1,500. The all-leather Ollunid shoes can last the student the entire school year and even longer, Corredor says, while parents often find themselves having to buy two or even three pairs of the Chinese'produced shoes per term.

When in full production, Ollunid hires about eight people including Corredor and shoemaker Errol Paisley, working out of the factory on Swallowfield Road in Kingston.

Funding for the Ollunid business hasn't been easy. Most of the start-up funds originally came from the business itself, with banks hesitant to lend money to a new business with no real collateral.

But Corredor had a bit of a turnaround late last year when he entered a competion at the Branson Centre and won the top prize of thousands of US dollars as a loan at a good rate. With that cash injection, he was able to expand the business from three machines to 10 . “Thanks to the great assistance provided by Branson Jamaica we were able to get a loan which was used to purchase well-needed equipment for the company. Now we have been able to expand our shoe repair department and named it The Shoe Clinic, where we are able to be more efficient, faster and give great quality work to our customers at affordable prices,” Corredor told Sunday Finance.

“The machinery is also used in our shoe production so it complements both activities in the company. At the moment we pick up, repair and deliver our customer's products who are around our area but soon we will be able to go further,” Corredor said.

As a third stream of business, Ollunid also produces high-quality military footwear for a number of private security firms on the island. But that is an extremely competitive business, with competition coming not just from other Jamaican producers, but also China.

With a handle on hard-wearing school shoes and military footwear, and with experience now in producing shoes inspired largely by the desert boot, Corredor is looking to move up the value-chain with a more fashionable line. But those expansion plans will require more funding.

“We also intend to produce a high quality footwear that will be a signature to Jamaica and will be a great product for Jamaica made by Jamaicans. We will be looking to acquire more financial resources to be dedicated to this project,” Corredor said. He will need at least $300,000 for that expansion, he said, and is considering looking for investors.

The company is not relying solely on its footwear, however. Ollunid originally started by providing procurement services to companies and organisations, and is now looking to ramp up that service.

“We have partnered with a company in USA that helps us to provide this service faster and deliver directly to our customer's freight forwarders in Miami or directly to Jamaica,” Corredor said. “With the fast growth that Jamaica is experiencing, it has also made our company become more versatile.”

With that in mind, the company will soon launch its ecommerce website platform to facilitate purchases online — including its own products and those it distributes. And like its shoe repair service, the goods will be delivered straight to the customer's door.

“Overall, the flexibility of our company has helped us to be very versatile in our business and meet our customer's needs,” Corredor said.

Meanwhile, even while building the company and trying to get it on a steady footing, Ollunid is making donations of school shoes. Earlier this year the company donated about 120 pairs of shoes to four Kingston schools as well as the Walkers Place of Safety which had burned down, and plans are in place to donate abut 50 more pairs to two other schools that have already been identified, Corredor said.

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