From benefits to business

The owner of Chingford’s new Caribbean grocery talks to Wayne Walton about how he got started

Bradlyn Parry

Bradlyn Parry, better known as ‘Derek’, is the owner of Jerk Spice in Old Church Road

Bradlyn Parry, better known in Chingford as ‘Derek’, was claiming welfare benefits when he decided he wanted to be his own boss.

Last October he set up the first and so far only Caribbean food grocery and convenience store in Chingford, in Old Church Road. The grocery store stocks dried and fresh goods, meat and fish, and Caribbean flavoured drinks including diabetic and herbal teas.

Derek, who has a background in catering, was previously in and out of jobs. He said he had really wanted to set up a restaurant but had previously not been able to obtain the required A3 restaurant premises licence from the council. So instead, he set up a grocery and convenience store called Jerk Spice.

Derek drew on his experience in business from when he was living in Jamaica, and explained his gratitude for a friend in Walthamstow who “really inspired” him: “Setting up in business was not easy, but if you put your mind to it you can do it.”

After applying for a loan from East London Small Business Centre, Derek said “it took a while going back and forth and doing other things” before the application was granted. But with the loan he was able to approach Waltham Forest Council about potential business premises. Although he was living in Walthamstow, they could only offer him premises in Chingford, for which he waited over a year.

But Derek said: “It was a long wait but it came through in the end. Most people come [to me] and ask ‘why Chingford?’ and I say, well, you’ve got to take a chance; and well here we are.”

He was under no illusion about the challenges of setting up as a new business, especially as a sole trader, and speaks candidly about the kind of help new businesses need, and especially businesses run by people on welfare benefits wanting to establish themselves.

Derek said: “More help and support is needed for new businesses as the rates are high, nearly as much as my rent, and could be the reason why some businesses fail before they have a chance to grow.

“Help is needed for people claiming welfare to establish in business, because that’s how I started and how I came off benefits.”

Talking openly of struggles, Derek emphasised the importance of being surrounded by friends who can provide “positive” support or an extra bit of encouragement. He is also thankful of the support he gets from the community and says he is now looking forward to employing a local person to help him run Jerk Spice: “Preferably someone on benefits willing to work with me to build the business.”


Wayne Walton is a presenter for Forest Radio, a local online radio station. To hear more from his interview with Derek:

Visit forestradio.co.uk

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