After 12 years serving his country through the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Oral Clarke, who also is passionate about music, opted to become a full-fledged businessman.
“Business has always been a part of me,” he told The Beacon. “If it is not music, it is business. And if it’s not business, it’s music.”
Prior to joining the JCF, he sold jewellery to tourists mainly online.
He stated that, while serving in the police force, he also obtained a first degree in business management at the University of the West Indies.
Clarke added that his love for business later prompted him to resign from the police force at the rank of corporal. “I wanted to make a name for myself, just like KFC has a name,” said the graduate of Claude McKay High School and Clarksonville Primary.
At the turn of 2012, Clarke, out of the police force by then, founded Gorge In Restaurant, Bar And Pastries initially on a former in-law’s property across from Tru Juice factory in Bog Walk, St. Catherine. In naming the business, he was mindful of the nearby Bog Walk Gorge, where the historical Flat Bridge is located.
Clarke eventually moved his operation to a property across the road from its initial location. There, he built the structure that now houses his business.
The ultimate goal, he said, is to leave a lasting legacy for his family and for the general community to which he gives back through sponsorship of events such as treats.
“Starting a business is not easy [and] continuing is not easy, but, with faith and your belief, you will get through,” Clarke declared, but said his “journey has been a wonderful one so far”.
His toughest test yet is to keep his business afloat amid the pressure wrought by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“The pandemic has done me some justice and it has done me a vast amount of bad,” the businessman disclosed. “My sales have declined; I also had to cut staff.”
His company went from seven to five employees, he said.
“I am still doing the best I can to ensure that every member who works for me still has a salary even when they are on lockdown due to the pandemic. I am one who look out for my staff members and all of that,” Clarke added. “I also operate as a staff a lot of times based on the fulfillment of my desire.”
One of his bartenders, who gave her name as Darcian, told The Beacon that she is thrilled to still have a job.
“It feels good to know that, at the end of the two weeks, you are getting money and you are the one who work hard for it,” the highly affable worker reasoned. “Being here working, I have become a better woman than I was before. For Mr Clarke, it’s not just about you coming here and work; he tries to motivate us and put us at a better level than we are at.”
In addition to the spin-off from having a motivated staff, Clarke is banking on the quality and variety of goods and services the offers.
His operation in Bog Walk has three bars where people can unwind while drinking their favourite beverages. It also boasts a restaurant serving a variety of Jamaican dishes for people who want to dine or take out. And catering service is offered too.
According to Clarke, who is mulling the addition of Airbnb, the property can also be rented for events such as parties and weddings. A swimming pool is also available there.
While operating his business in Bog Walk, Clarke, a native of St. Ann, is also a real estate dealer in Kingston.
And he is an artiste who uses the stage name Rising Sonn. “I have been on tour since October; I already did 26 States and have eight remaining before returning to Jamaica,” he told The Beacon this week.
Multitasking and having big dreams is nothing new for Clarke, who grew up in a single-parent household headed by his mother Ann-Mureen Clarke. He said his father didn’t play a role in his upbringing and so he ended up using his mother’s surname.
He encouraged other people to aim high and rise above their challenges. “Don’t ever be decoyed by the obstacles you face on a day-to-day basis,” he advised, adding that more people should go into business, even by having a small operation at home.
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