Ms. Shalina Pickering spent most of her younger years preparing herself to find her place, her passion, and do it in a way that reflects her style, even if it’s in a male-dominated industry. It didn’t just come about by happenstance. In fact, it came about with lots of soul searching, sacrifices, preparation, and some hardships, but triumphantly growing is how this magazine summarizes her progress. She shares her journey with us.
L&S: Where did you start school initially, and can you take us through your educational journey?
SP: I attended Scott’s Educational Institute for my primary education and later the BVI High School (now Elmore Stoutt High School) for my secondary education, where I was among the Graduating Class of 1989.
Immediately after completing my secondary education, I moved to Minneapolis, MN where I began my tertiary education at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, MN. I spent a year taking some general education classes that would eventually transfer to a University of my choosing. At the age of 15, I thought this was a much better option than repeating a year of high school.
By the Fall of 1990, I transferred to Virginia State University (VSU) in Petersburg, VA. Four years later, in 1994, I obtained my Bachelor of Science degree in Information Systems and Decision Sciences. Graduate school was highly recommended at that time since 4-year degrees were commonplace, so I began my graduate school journey at VSU. After one semester, I transferred to Hampton University in Hampton, VA, where I completed my Master of Arts in Elementary Education in 1997.
L&S: At one point, you were a teacher at Althea Scatliffe Primary School? Why did you decide to switch?
SP: The natural progression would be to seek employment in your field, and as such, I returned home and worked for the Government of the VI with an assignment to the Althea Scatliffe Primary School from 1997 to 1999, where I taught Class Two. While I enjoyed teaching, there were aspects of the system that simply could not keep my interest for the long-term, and I made the decision to move to the private sector. I secured employment with Integro Trust (BVI) Limited in the capacity of Personnel Officer in August 1999 and remained there (Equity Trust (BVI) Limited) until December 2005. During my time, I was promoted to Human Resources Manager and had the opportunity to work alongside some of the senior Trust officers. I felt it necessary to expose myself to different aspects of the business. I was led to complete a Certificate in Company and Trust Administration with the Institute of Chartered Secretaries & Administrators (ICSA). Over time, there was just something that wasn’t completely satisfying about the day-to-day work routine, and I felt uninspired and unchallenged. I, therefore, took a huge leap of faith after some serious soul searching as to what I could see myself doing for the foreseeable future.
L&S: Was this the point where you decided to become an entrepreneur?
SP: Not exactly. It did, however, push me to make some changes and come out of my comfort zone. My interest in Architecture and Interior Design grew more profound with age and maturity. I took that leap of faith and returned to university to pursue this passion and turn it into a career.
After researching schools in this area of expertise, I decided to move to Los Angeles, CA, which as a major city, was ideal for this discipline. A myriad of educational opportunities and experiences culminated into a Master of Interior Architecture Degree from California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly Pomona) in conjunction with UCLA Extension in 2012.
While I would have loved to remain in Los Angeles and seek employment in interior design, there was a downturn in the economy while I was pursuing my degree around 2008/2009. Since this industry is more of a luxury and not a necessity, employment was almost impossible to secure after graduation.
I had a small design project of my own to complete on my Oleander Home in Threadfall, and as such, I returned home in 2012 to see it through from demolition to completion. My home was on the rental market, and most people know that once you command a certain rental amount, the standard of the property should match. This project depleted what funds I had. I was unemployed and living back at home with my parents – so it’s safe to say things were a little rough. Although it was my intention to move back to Los Angeles, that never came to fruition.
With an interior design degree and some experience doing projects for my parents and myself, a friend suggested that I speak with the then owner of Paint Factory (Jerry) to see if he would consider selling his business. I took that friend’s advice and spoke with Jerry, who did consider my interest as he had some health issues at the time. Unfortunately, Jerry had already given another interested party the right of first refusal to purchase, so I would technically be second in line at a chance should he decide to sell. A few months later, Jerry contacted me to ask if I was still interested in purchasing the business as the deal with the other interested party fell through.
There was quite a bit of back and forth, but ultimately, we came to an agreement. With the guidance and unwavering financial and moral support of my dad (the late Alvin Pickering), I was able to secure the financing necessary to enact the purchase. He was the engine behind me fulfilling my dream of becoming an entrepreneur, and I will forever be grateful to him.
L&S: How long have you owned Paint Factory?
SP: On September 13, 2013, I became the owner of Paint Factory.
L&S: Young people are scared to jump into entrepreneurship by making big investments. They would rather start small and grow. You obviously didn’t. What gave you the self-confidence that you can do it?
SP: No risk, no reward. You know it’s going to be hard work, but in my case, it’s not like I was starting a business from scratch. Paint Factory was well established and had an established clientele – a good following of people who supported the business for years; for the quality customer service and products they received. For me, it was only to improve upon those things and introduce additional products and/or services as I saw fit.
For the young aspiring entrepreneur, don’t be afraid of a challenge. If you’re fearful, you’ll never take that step.
L&S: I noticed that one of the things you did a few years after taking ownership was to improve on the retail store. Initially, I thought you hired a design firm and workers to implement the upgrade; I didn’t realise that you had the qualification under your belt to do it yourself. Being rhetorical, why do you think this was necessary?
SP: If you can recall, the store had a rustic warehouse look and feel – It felt like a quick stop for contractors and tradesmen alike, and most certainly a place for men in particular. The space was uninviting to women, and it lacked the feel of an actual retail establishment. Back then, it was way too commonplace for businesses to not care much about the retail experience. Often businesses adopted the notion of “anything goes,” which was not sufficient, so I embarked upon a project to upgrade the store and create more of a retail experience. We enclosed the space, added air conditioning, introduced a whole new color scheme, enhanced the lighting, etc. New products were continuously added, and the office area was revamped. In essence, we made the store more customer-friendly. We wanted customers to come and be comfortable browsing, shopping, choosing paint swatches, or even having one-on-one color consultations. Ultimately, I wanted the store to be more of a reflection of me, so I ensured it had a bit of a woman’s flair.
L&S: How has it been from inception to present? The challenges – triumphs or even the joys of entrepreneurship.
SP: Being a young female entrepreneur in a mostly male-dominated industry is challenging but not impossible. As with anything, you experience the good, the bad, and the indifferent. While the challenges are great, the rewards are greater. I have met a myriad of challenges, too numerous to mention but make no mistake; while it may not be easy, it’s far from impossible. Being intentional is major, being strong is a must and being unafraid to make a mistake is essential. Mistakes happen, but those are learning opportunities that you build on. For me, it has always been “Failure is not an option.” As entrepreneurs themselves, my parents instilled in me the importance of hard work and dedication, and I will forever be grateful to them for all that they taught me through their words, actions, and deeds.
One of the greatest joys for me has been the relationships with my customers that have developed over the years. There is a level of respect that we share for each other and our individual areas of expertise. I am particularly overjoyed when I’m able to choose colour schemes for my clients that they absolutely love.
L&S: Being friends with Jerry, he would always share his challenges with collections. Would you say that it’s a challenge for you too and what’s your process for success?
SP: Yes! Collections is a major, major issue. However, after the lockdown due to COVID-19 last year, we had to make the decision – cash or credit/debit cards only – no personal cheques and no new charge accounts allowed. That was a big decision, but the right decision for a time such as this.
L&S: In Paint Factory, what are your major brands?
SP: Paint Factory is a paint and sundry supply retail store. Our top paint brands are Glidden and PPG.
L&S: I see that your landlord is doing a complete rebuild of the property; what’s your plan? Do you already have a new location to move to?
SP: To be continued… but will have a new location.
L&S: How did you come about knowing that Nautool was for sale, and when did you acquire it?
SP: In conversation with Mike (the owner at the time), he asked if I knew any BVIslander or Belonger that would be interested in purchasing a machine shop as he was ready to sell. I had to ponder if there was anyone I knew, but no one came to mind. I asked myself if this was something I could take on, and after some thought, I decided to give it a shot. As with any impending deal, I did my due diligence, which is a process within itself. I made Mike an offer, and while we went back and forth for a while, we eventually settled on an offer. On December 23, 2016, I became the owner of Nautool Machine.
L&S: At Paint Factory, you sell paints, stains, and sundries, but what exactly are the services offered at Nautool, and what markets are its main target?
SP: We specialize in the fabrication of stainless steel and other metals (aluminum or bronze). We create or repair by way of machining and/or welding whatever the client needs. Prior to Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, we did quite a bit of work in the marine industry. That work significantly diminished amid the devastation suffered by the islands on a whole and practically became nonexistent with Covid-19 and the end of the tourist season in 2019. There continues to be work in some areas of the marine industry (fabricating Bimini’s, for instance, or repairing the occasionally broken shaft) and the construction industry (commercial and residential). Our day-to-day customers keep us busy, including those who may need railings, staircases, or even kitchens fabricated. We do a fair amount of work for the Corporation as well.
L&S: There’s an adage that says, “In the midst of difficulties, there are always opportunities.” Making such a financial commitment to acquire Nautool and being ravaged by the 2017 hurricanes in less than a year must have been challenging. Is it fair to say that with all the devastation, Nautool seized the opportunity in this challenging time and got more work?
SP: You would think that was the case, but instead, it was much the opposite. Following the devastation by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, many of the charter companies had their fleets written off by insurance companies or transferred to other bases elsewhere. This diminished the usual workload. Given the current climate, it would be easy to give up, but since I live by the saying “failure is not an option,” we simply had to find other areas in which to get work.
L&S: I am presently having a job done at Nautool, and it appears that you maintained most of the same staff. Can you explain why and the benefits of doing so?
SP: Nautool has always had a reputation for providing a high standard of work in the area of machining, and we are often the go-to for persons or businesses that want to get it done the first time correctly. We rely on the reputation that precedes us and our extremely hardworking and knowledgeable team’s expertise. While a few changes in staff have occurred over time, we have maintained our core.
L&S: I can recall the old Nautool location at Wickham’s II and the way it looked. I see a vast improvement at your new location at Burt Point. Is it fair to say that this is your keeping consistent with your business’s mantra being a reflection of you?
SP: The location at Wickham’s Cay II was an inherited situation; it wasn’t ideal. The building was not in its best shape, it wasn’t set up to function properly as a machine shop should, and the 2017 hurricanes also destroyed most of it. It was fixed back to a certain standard so we could continue to operate, but it was decided that moving to our new location was in the business’s best interest. The shop is now more functional in terms of the location and proximity of equipment, a dedicated welding room, and the ability to properly ventilate the space during opening hours.
L&S: As a woman in a man’s world – or so to speak – how does that make you feel? Would you say this is a chip on your shoulder?
SP: It’s more of a male-dominated field rather than a man’s world, for this is clearly not a man’s world anymore. Women are definitely a force to be reckoned with. There is no chip on my shoulder at all. I’m just doing my thing. To this day, there are still individuals who are not aware that I own Paint Factory and even less know that I also own Nautool, and that’s okay. It has never been about me. The success of both businesses can only be attributed to the hardworking men and women that comprise both teams.
L&S: Would you say that your businesses are both successful? What would you contribute your success to?
SP: We are still standing! That’s due to our hardworking, dedicated, and amazing team members: Andres, Carlotta, Ernesto at Paint Factory, and John, Page, Francisco, Elvis, Richard, Dwayne, and Delwin at Nautool. We would be nowhere without our loyal and dedicated customers whose support keeps our doors open, our team members working, and our bills paid. From inception, I made it a point to push customer service as our number one priority. People always remember the way they were treated, and good experiences mean repeat customers. It’s just as important to have good quality products and services.
L&S: Is this it for you, or can we look forward to new business ventures?
SP: By no means do I think this is it for me. Should any additional opportunities present themselves to be a lucrative investment, I would most definitely consider diving in. However, for the moment, I will continue to focus on Paint Factory, Nautool, and being a relatively new mommy to my twins.
Paint Factory is located at O’Neal Plaza, Port Purcell – Tel: 284-494-1800 or 284-542-2880
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Nautool is located at Burt Point, Road Reef (across for VISAR) – Tel: 284-346-3187 – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org