BEACON OF THE DAY: Hugh Graham awarded after trading rags for riches

Hugh Graham, a former warehouse attendant, has earned another star in his crown.

He is the newest recipient of a Farquharson Institute of Public Affairs Award of the Century; this ‘for demonstrating pioneering leadership in industry and commerce in Jamaica’.

After collecting the prestigious award in Kingston this month, the business icon told The Beacon: “I am very touched and very moved and very humbled.

“To get the Award of the Century for pioneering in leadership and industry is a big statement. A century is a whole heap of years; it is more than twice my age,” added the businessman, born August 1961 – a year before Jamaica’s independence.

Graham, who is also a politician these days, is the founder of Paramount Trading Limited.

His firm, according to the Farquharson Institute, is Jamaica’s leading distributor of chemical raw materials, and is an award-winning member of the Jamaica Junior Stock Exchange.

The company is also involved in the distribution of Sika construction products as well as lubricants and oils.

Graham, over the years, has managed to forge ties with some of the top multinationals in the industry – including Shell, Exxon-Mobil and Castrol.

“You have a small Jamaican man that gets involved in-between all those big blue-chip multinational companies. I am thinking: how did I get here?” the businessman said – mulling his many feats.

His life story is a classic Jamaican example of ‘rags to riches’, the Farquharson Institute declares.

Graham, born at Victoria Jubilee Hospital to Libna Graham and the late Rupert Graham, grew up in humble circumstances in different sections of the Corporate Area, including Red Hills Road, White Hall Avenue, Grant’s Pen, and Shortwood Lane.

He attended Swallowfield Primary School, formerly Swallowfield All Age.

Graham said he did not pass the Common Entrance Examination, but reaped success in the Grade Nine Achievement Test and was placed at Calabar High School – starting in Grade Nine.

He, after secondary school, got his first job as a warehouse attendant at Broadway Linen and Quilting Industry, owned by George Morgan. The company made sheets and towels.

Graham explained how he ended up there. “I applied for a job as an Accounting Clerk. When I got there for my interview, the first person that they interviewed, they decided to give him the job… I told the supervisor that I needed a job and I really couldn’t go back home without a job…

“She took me to the warehouse and said ‘this is what I could help you with‘. I said ‘OK’. I remember I was wearing a white shirt and a green and black tie – my Calabar tie. I took off my tie, unbutton my shirt – maybe two buttons at the top, and I got to work,” the businessman recalled.

He subsequently worked as a manufacturer’s representative and commission agent. He then ventured into trading and later into manufacturing where he still flexes his muscles.

Graham made a massive move in February 1991 when he founded Paramount Trading, supported by Directors Richard Rogers and the late Daryl Fong Kong.

The company has been seeing steady growth, the Farquharson Institute said.

It further stated that Graham is committed to corporate citizenship, environmental responsibility and safety. 

The businessman, in the meantime, has been a political representative since 2007, serving in the St. Catherine Municipal Corporation as Councillor for Lluidas Vale Division.

He encourages people to keep an open mind regarding new opportunities, to not be preoccupied with their past, and to work towards their dream – if they have one.

Graham noted that he is among persons who did not start out with a specific dream.

“We all don’t come to the table with what we want to do in life, and sometimes life will reveal itself to us and, if we have a fertile or open mind, then we will embrace it,” Graham opined.

He advised: “We shouldn’t pay too much attention to where we start, because we all start at the same place – from bottom, and we work our way up with the blessing of the Lord and the talent that he has given us. He will get us across the bumps.”

By Horace Mills, Journalist


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