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Filmmaker’s recipe for success
It started with a sampling of tasty, spicy tomato chutney at a party one day and it took off from there. Success came quickly for popular local filmmaker Sean Hodgkinson, whose company, Sumptuously Orgasmic, is rapidly growing, with orders for his hams and chutneys coming in fast and furious.
“I used to make tomato chutney and take to house limes. That’s what I was known for and a friend was like, ‘This is real best’ and she suggested that I bottle it,” he recalled.
“She encouraged me to take a bottle as a sample at one of the Upmarkets and from there the rest is history... Sumptuously Orgasmic came into being with a taste like no other. And it’s all made at my kitchen at home and with local ingredients.”
Two years after launching into the business, Hodgkinson put his chutney skills on hold to focus on making films. “I asked myself why am I standing up in the kitchen and pushing out jams, so I stopped and focused more on film,” he said.
He wrote, produced and directed A Story About Wendy and the highly acclaimed Trafficked, both of which were showcased and received high ratings at the T&T Film Festival. However, a slow down in the film industry saw Hodgkinson returning to his chutney and jam business.
His products go well beyond smashed and seasoned tomatoes and include jams, jellies and peppers. Among the best sellers are carrot jam, mango chutney, five finger jam, pineapple pepper sauce, cucumber scorpion pepper sauce and sorrel magic—a spicy sorrel jelly. The drunken banana jam infused with rum is a favourite.
“I just figure out, through trial and error, what will pair well together and I use whatever is in season. I will go to the market and pick up local fruits and vegetables and just be creative in coming up with exciting new recipes. I try to offer flavours that are not available or even heard of,” Hodgkinson explained.
Not all of his concoctions have been successful. Hodgkinson once tried his hand at a pineapple, five finger pepper sauce and a tangelo jam which he said were “complete disasters.” He said he regards those failures as the fun part of the job.
Product prices range from $35 to $50 for the bottled items which are supplied to a few local gourmet shops but are also widely available at the various Upmarkets held across the country.
While a wide assortment of jams, jellies and chutneys are already available locally, Hodgkinson believes his attractive packaging, which includes colourful fabric secured with twine at the top of the bottles, give his products an edge.
“Our packaging actually stands out. It’s basic fabric but it’s very bright and this makes the bottles unique. We are Caribbean and we like colour so people will come over and take a look,” he said.
However, he admits that with success has come some drawbacks.
Hodgkinson explained: “Because of the lack of variety everyone has to use the same bottles, so how do you differentiate your product from everyone else? Apart from taste and flavour, how do you really stand out?
“People like packaging and that’s part of marketing. Display and presentation are important and finding creative means is critical especially if we want to be competitive.”
He is toying with the idea of importing bottles in various shapes and sizes to enhance his products but several factors have to be ironed out, including cost.
“I may have to move into a small factory because that’s something to think about. How will you supply yourself in light of the foreign exchange issue? That’s another factor to be examined.
“I wish we had a greater variety of bottles readily available for local businesses like myself,” he said.
The 41-year-old Diego Martin resident, who has relatives in Barbados, has his sights set on penetrating that island’s market sometime in the future.
“I was in Barbados last week and in the supermarkets there are not many Caribbean jams available.
That’s something to look at,” he said, adding that there’s always opportunity for export of local products.
For now, he is expanding his business incrementally, starting on the domestic front.
“I’ve learnt to compartmentalise my time a lot better. I enjoy the experience of making my products and going out and selling them and the response has been amazing.
The fun part is meeting new customers and interacting with them right on spot as opposed to putting the items on a shelf,” he said.
“I have the dream having my products on supermarket shelves everywhere but that’s a lot of work and right now I do everything myself. So I have to do everything gradually.”
Hodgkinson wants to see local spaces better utilised to promote and showcase homegrown products.
He gives the example of the Port-of-Spain Waterfront which he thinks can be transformed into a dynamic spot for vendors, promoting development of T&T’s cottage industries.
“There’s a growing cottage industry and there’s just not enough space. How come the waterfront isn’t used for anything? It’s absolutely beautiful so why not use it for an artisan market?” he asked “It’s an authentic tourism product that is just sitting there but it can greatly contribute to foreign exchange. You don’t have to think outside the box but definitely we need a vision.
Hodgkinson is actively promoting the idea and has already contacted the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (UDeCOTT) with a proposal. “Trinidad is just so beautiful. I really don’t know what the problem is,” he said.
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