Anjule McLean Talks About Running a Business & Manoeuvring the Pandemic New Kingston R
For many of us, the inside of a pharmacy is an all too familiar scene. Shelves packed with an array of medication, interesting novelties on display, and the smell of isopropyl alcohol fills the air. To say nothing of shuffling through our belongings for a slip of paper with markings that our scrub wearing counterparts so skilfully decipher.
There can be no doubt that pharmacies are vital to our society here in Jamaica. This has been made especially clear during this pandemic. We at Yello aim to shine a spotlight on how local businesses, such as pharmacies, have been carving their path in this period of lockdowns, curfews, and restrictions.
We had the delight of corresponding with one of our customers Anjule McLean, owner of the New Kingston Pharmacy. Anjule tells us about her journey as a small business owner navigating the pandemic.
What inspired you to start your business?
New Kingston Pharmacy is one of three pharmacies under Ljekarna Limited, a family-owned business that has been in the pharmacy retail industry for over 15 years. So, when the opportunity came along to operate in a prime business district, we knew it was one that we could not give up. New Kingston Rx opened its doors on 8 October 2010.
What services or products do you offer, and how many employees do you have?
With regards to services, we offer the full range of retail pharmacy services such as blood pressure and blood sugar testing. A prime feature is CARVED, an amazing engraving service which we offer. In this section, customers choose from a variety of products, they select what they want to be engraved on their item and get it in minutes! We offer delivery and curbside pickup and are also a JUTC Top Up location.
We have a wide selection of OTC (over the counter non-prescription items) as well as everyday product lines available. However, we have made our mark as the place to find the unusual ‘one of a kind’ gift items and go above and beyond to offer our customers unique items from around the world. We carry a wide offering of spiritual and inspirational products such as plaques, journals, devotionals, and drinkware, striving to ensure that our products are high quality while always maintaining competitive pricing. New Kingston Rx has 14 employees including two pharmacists.
What were some challenges you faced when initially offering your service?
Operating a retail pharmacy is not a unique business – there are pharmacies everywhere! So, we realised incredibly early on that we needed to identify our competitive advantage. What would make someone drive past three other pharmacies to come to us? We discovered that something as simple as how you interact with your customers was enough to have them make that sacrifice. Our team prides itself on the excellent brand of customer service that we have established and consistently work extremely hard to maintain that standard. We get such pleasure when our customers leave satisfied.
What are your business goals?
As a progressive entity, we are always looking for opportunities to develop in the pharmaceutical space. Whether that looks like increasing our brick-and-mortar locations or expanding offerings within existing locations. We also want to ensure that whatever decisions we make in attaining our goals do not negatively impact the quality of products or services we offer our customers.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business?
Like many, if not all businesses, the pandemic has not been kind to us. We initially saw an uptick in sales with the early onset of COVID-19 when there was a run on the market for masks and hand sanitisers. Unfortunately, however, we too are now experiencing a decline in sales.
Consequently, what changes have you made to the business strategy?
Fortunately, we had already implemented our Prescription WhatsApp Service and our delivery system before COVID-19 hit, so we did not have to scramble around to try and put this in place.
Our ability to deliver to our customers was seamless, and being an ‘essential service,’ we were not impacted by the various curfews and lockdowns. We also have a curbside pickup service available which gives our customers another option if they do not want to or are unable to come inside.
It has become necessary for us to tighten our belts and become a leaner machine in terms of inventory purchasing and control. This has been critical to safeguarding our survival in the event of another shock.
How have the services offered by Yello helped you to navigate the pandemic?
New Kingston Pharmacy uses Yello for our social media marketing, and we have seen where this has benefitted the business regarding customer awareness.
Prospective customers can browse through product photos on our profiles and message us if interested. Additionally, we have content that gets customers interacting in the comments. We love getting to know our customers as it gives us a unique advantage, and this is one of the ways we do it.
In what ways has your business been supporting and servicing the surrounding community?
We implemented our discount offerings some time ago, however, without a doubt, customers appreciate them now more than ever. Recent times have been financially challenging for so many. Our discounts extend to senior citizens, the police force, and nurses. We also have our Discount Dayz. This allows all customers with certain medical conditions to receive discounts on their prescriptions if they fill it on certain days.
In days gone by, we hosted health fairs partnering with some of our major suppliers who would showcase their products and services as well as offer giveaways.
We offered free blood pressure and blood sugar tests as well as cholesterol tests. These health fairs were always a success, and we hope for a time when we can bring them back.
Is there any advice you have for aspiring small business owners in your field?
If Covid has taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected! Small businesses need to ensure that, along with paying your bills, staff, loans etc., they should always try to put something aside for those unexpected events that are bound to come along. No matter how small the amount, it will add up. Then, when you get to the point where it is possible, invest!
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