Momentous Mentalism: Rowald “Felly” Derrick – On this weeks Diaspora Dynamics

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Diaspora Dynamics, where we focus on keeping you abreast of the activities, achievements, and contributions of Vincentians all around the world. For this edition, we are pleased to feature Rowald “Felly” Derrick from Cane Hall. Felly is a former Radio Frequency Engineer and currently owns and operates Felly Belly Juice Bar at Rodney Bay, Gros Islet, St. Lucia where he resides.

12/10/2016    Momentous Mentalism

Growing up as a little boy at Cane Hall, St. George, in the 1980s, Rowald “Felly” Derrick dreamed of flying off to faraway lands piloting airplanes. Visualizing that dream was a pioneering spirit, rooted in a mercurial mentalism, a natural habitat for his fertile Virgo mind.

Felly, as he is known, is of Indian, African and European descent, and was raised primarily by his mother. His father was often at sea sailing with Geest Line Shipping. The only son, the third of four children and the first boy of his generation in his family, he recalls a loving environment  surrounded by a huge extended family including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

His childhood was spent happily engaged in what we call having ‘boy days,’ in what he describes as a progressively diverse, friendly and balanced community.

“I was the first grandson for my grandparents and the only boy, so I was kind of the family favorite, especially with all of my uncles. I grew up playing cricket with my uncles at Bacchus Cricket Field, established by my grandfather. Cricket was a big part of my life. I played all of the positions, but mostly wicket keeper.”

His entrepreneurial spirit was fostered washing cars for his various uncles starting at thirteen. It was his first taste of financial independence and accomplishment.

“I think that’s what ultimately drew me to business. I liked making money and most of all, the pride I felt seeing their satisfaction after washing the cars. That was my favorite part.”

In 1994, Felly took his first explorative step outside of St. Vincent, traveling to Cuba in pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering. “I was attracted to aviation because I really wanted to be a pilot, but my mom expressed some concerns about my future job prospects.

At that time, there weren’t that many aviation positions available in the Caribbean. Honestly, I suspect she feared I may crash, since we recently had some airline crashes in the region. So, to please my parents, I decided to study electrical engineering instead.”

Felly returned home to limited job prospects in his chosen field. He eventually accepted a position to install cable service all over the mainland with Carib Cable. This job gave him a different perspective of his homeland.

“Although it wasn’t exactly my field, I benefitted from this experience because I had the opportunity to see the whole island. We were making cable available to everyone from Kingstown, all the way out in the country, up to Georgetown. I was climbing poles and going into some remote villages. I learned how to get around through all the back roads all over the island.

It was very humbling at times to see the conditions some people were living in. It was an eye opener going into different homes and seeing first hand how much some families struggled to make ends meet.”

In February 1997, the newly formed World Trade Commission’s first significant accomplishment involved sixty-nine governments formalizing commitments to liberalize their basic telecommunications services under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), spawning the creation of the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ECTEL).

ECTEL established a National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC), on each of the member islands in the OECS to end Cable & Wireless’ monopoly on the market. This opened the way for competition to flourish in the wireless industry in the region.

When St. Vincent’s branch of NTRC was established, Felly finally found a position in his field of engineering for the next two years.

ECTEL, the overseeing administrative body headquartered in St. Lucia, conceived of a plan to develop a radio frequency spectrum for the multi-national OECS members. This was a groundbreaking move as it was the first time in the world that a single wireless radio frequency spectrum was being dedicated to service several independent states.

Felly was awarded the contract to divide the bands between satellites, cell phones, walkie-talkies, microwaves, and emergency and rescue operations for the citizens and governments of the OECS. He returned to St. Lucia in 2004 to assume this exciting new position.

“This was a challenging position as we had to be the innovators. This was the first project of its kind in the world. The process was similar to assigning the spectrum for FM radio. I was responsible for syncing the options to specific bandwidths. It’s like your radio tuning into Hot97, by turning your FM dial to 97 on your radio.

I had to match and assign specific frequencies to bandwidths on the available spectrum. We also had to ensure we left enough distance between bandwidths so the signals didn’t overlap to cause interferences across Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent.”

During the ten years he functioned as the region’s Radio Frequency Engineer, Felly realized his dream of traveling, attending training courses in Israel, USA, Canada, and Jamaica. This job was a perfect match for his sign, as Mercury rules telecommunications, travel, mathematics, and logic.

Then the day came when the design aspect of the project was essentially completed and his position no longer appealed to him.
“The bandwidths were all assigned and up and running. It was simply a matter of maintenance from here on in. I simply lost interest. I started to wake up no longer excited about going to work. I felt like I was just existing. I was going to work every day, and just watching the clock all day.”

It so happened that around the same time he closed on the sale of a house he built on land bequeathed to him in Bequia, his engineering contract expired. He decided against renewing.

“I had enough money to get by for a while from the sale of my property, I also started thinking it was unfair for me to continue in the position. I felt like I was robbing someone who needed the opportunity from this job, so I decided to take a sabbatical to figure out my next move.”

Felly headed to Miami, Florida, USA for a few months of rest and relaxation, waiting for inspiration to strike.

“I relaxed and caught up on some reading. I love to eat out, so I spent a lot of time hanging out in cafes and juice bars. After about two months, I got bored. I found that sabbaticals were overrated.

So I returned to St. Lucia to figure out my next move.”

Felly’s epiphany, or moment of truth crystallized on a visit to his friend’s donut shop at Gros Islet Mall. She was planning on closing up shop and offered him the opportunity to apply for her spot.

“It was an intriguing proposition. Everything converged at that moment. I immediately visualized a juice bar and I had a gut feeling it would work. At the time I was heavily influenced by the business psychology theory advanced by Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point: that there is a magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”

Felly immediately contacted an architect and friend to help him draft a proposal to present to the mall’s management.
“I just asked him to help me draw up a plan to operate a juice bar at the spot. I knew I wanted something fresh, clean, natural, and friendly – with a smiley face logo. He nailed it in one shot.”

Armed with his presentation, Felly pitched the idea to JQ Mall at Rodney Bay, Gros Islet. It was a winning presentation.
In 2013, he launched Felly Belly Juice Bar, offering healthy, nutritious juices and smoothies made from fresh local ingredients including soursop, mango, guava, paw paw, and passion fruit.

He also imports crowd favorites like strawberries and blueberries. Green juices are also an option, using kale, cucumber, and spinach.

Especially appealing to tourists and local patrons is the option to create your own drink using any combination of the available ingredients.

The Felly Belly concept quickly caught on, aided by clever marketing capitalizing on his catchy logo and theme. Focusing on healthy options and friendly service, Felly Belly has garnered positive reviews with a 4.5 rating on TripAdvisor and other similar websites.

In the three years since the Felly Belly Juice Bar concept debuted, his model has expanded. Along the way, he met his partner, fellow juice enthusiast, St. Lucian Kim Noel.

“Kim plays a vital role as my business partner. She joined me shortly after I started, and we opened the second location in Castries together. She directs the overall operations at Castries.”

In addition, his sister Keisha Browne, has established a section in French Verandah restaurant at Mariner’s Hotel, Villa Beach, St. Vincent devoted to the Felly Belly brand.

Felly is currently in talks with an investor in Trinidad who is interested in franchising this winning concept. Other patrons from the US, Canada, and the UK have also expressed interest in establishing additional locations worldwide, an idea he is contemplating bringing into fruition as his next major move.

Currently, he finds his passion directed towards developing his human resources. “A big part of our branding is offering awesome customer service. To this end, Kim and I are working with the young ladies in my employ to develop our human resources through maintaining a friendly, family type environment for my workers.

Also, consistency is important to me, I am somewhat of a perfectionist and we are striving to achieve uniformity throughout all our locations. We are also working on further developing our website, Fellybelly.com.”

Felly credits his successes to a positive outlook. “Life is easy. Why worry when I can live and enjoy each moment to its fullest? I strive to stay centered in each and every moment.”

Felly has clearly maximized on the moments he turned into momentous opportunities, manifesting tangible returns, both intellectually and materially. Uniquely positioning himself to realize the potential in each tipping point. Momentous mentalism manifested.

Tricia Reddock

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