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Nuts about success
American Actor Jake Gyllenhaal once said, "Crazy people don't sit around wondering if they are nuts."
Instead, they sometimes chuck it all in the face of adversity as they chase their dream to map out a future for their family.
Despite the discouraging remarks and disparaging comments which preceded his entry into the nuts business 29 years ago, Clyde Agard said he was never about following others.
Instead, he was determined to defy the naysayers and prove that in spite of setting up shop in the stigmatized community of Laventille, he would one day become a household name in T&T.
Today, the 58-year-old father of three who is originally from Cedros, has surpassed his own expectations by becoming the largest retailer of nuts, grains and dried fruits in the country.
Recalling the early trials he faced long before the idea for Agard's Nuts House Ltd was born, Agard said his humble beginnings at a parlour under a house at Buller Trace, Laventille wasn't successful.
However, he admitted it was a "side hustle" at the time as he was employed as a police officer with the Port Authority of T&T (PATT).
The Mt. Lambert resident said while his wife left her job to join him in the business full-time, it never managed to take off the way he expected.
Although he was disappointed, Agard said, "I always had an interest in being a pioneer in a particular field."
He laughingly disclosed, "Actually, I didn't really know what field to go into, just that I wanted to be in business and not just a parlour."
As the owner of a million dollar empire now, Agard reflected on his modest start in the nuts business which began with a single 110-lb bag of nuts.
He said, "I think it was by luck and chance that I stumbled on the nuts business."
The man who failed to finish primary school and skipped secondary school altogether - said he is aware the nuts business is a field which could be easily overlooked.
Agard said while he and his wife dabbled in buying and selling nuts early on, it was something he felt had a lot of profit.
Convinced "The right price and right quality of nuts would attract customers regardless of the location," Agard assured his wife it would work out.
Having never advertised his business which took off like a NASA rocket, Agard said, "The biggest back-bone of my business are the nuts vendors."
He surmised, "As they started to buy from me, I think that is when my business started to grow."
Grateful for the support of hundreds of persons, Agard said as part of his desire to give back to the community - he now provides an in-house facility for nuts vendors to bake and package their finished products for sale at no cost to them on the condition they purchase the products from him.
As his business grew and relocated from Buller Trace to Pashley Street, Agard said his success was cemented after he was able to purchase the property which he maintains to this day.
Agard said he was aware customers were still discouraged from coming to Pashley Street, which prompted a move to the corner of Sixth Avenue and Eastern Main Road, Barataria, before he bought the lot opposite and established the head-office of Agard's Nuts House Ltd.
Speaking about the challenges he has encountered thus far, Agard lamented the 40 per cent duty on imports which he said was taking a toll on his business and negatively impacting the hundreds of persons who are making a living by selling nuts.
He said, "Peanut prices are so high right now that it is very challenging even for the nuts-men to make a proper living because they too have expenses and bills to face, so it difficult on them and this has a ripple effect on my business."
Agard said one of his most pressing concerns remained the recently concluded Caribbean Premier League (CPL) which resulted in vendors being prevented from selling peanuts and other treats inside the facility as was usually allowed in the past.
Naming the company which purchased the franchise and saw vendors being told they had to sell products being manufactured by them alone, Agard said, "That too has a direct impact on my business."
Agard said while he has no regrets, it did come at a personal price as his wife and kids were sometimes neglected - a burden which still weighs heavily on his mind and informs his decision making-processes a lot more now.
Revealing the challenge to obtain foreign exchange locally in order to continue trading with his suppliers in China, India and Vietnam, Agard credited close business ties with other Caribbean territories as the life-line which has seen him through the current crunch.
He said, "Because I wasn't getting funds, I am asking them to pay me in US."
However, he is relying on their "loyalty" to see him through but maintains a dire outlook that, "If what is happening here does not change very soon, it will put a lot of small businesses out of operation."
Joined by his last two children who have agreed to ease into the business alongside him, Agard said he his wife also recently ventured out on her own.
Agard said while he is hoping to expand into production, he is not ruling out partnering with larger established groceries and health shops to carry his products, in order to reach more of T&T.
Agard's youngest who will turn 23 this week, Samuel said he was encouraged to join his dad in business as it was one way to maintain the legacy he built up through hard work and sheer determination to succeed.
He described his father's dedication, commitment and exemplary work ethic as some of the driving factors which also motivated him to want to achieve the same success and take Agard's Nuts House Ltd even further.
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