Miss Jenny dedicated to Hendon – Shopkeeper regarded as ‘community mom’
Jennifer ‘Miss Jenny’ Brown is a beacon in the community of Hendon in Norwood, St James.
The operator of Jenny’s Corner Shop has a dual role. Not only is she an apt storekeeper, she is also regarded as the ‘community mom’. It is a role the mother of six takes seriously. Having raised her children as a single parent, she is intimately aware of the struggles families within her community face.
“I used to lean up two zinc in this same yard here before it become this. Underneath an ackee tree down there with my baby, and that was my mattress. So I know what it feels like, what persons have been through,” said Brown.
It is for that reason that she started her shop, not only to improve her own circumstances, but those of members of her community as well.
“Whenever I open the doors, it [reminds] me of where I am coming from. Raising my children, being a single mother with six on my own. Seeing how I struggled having to raise them on my own, I found a method that works for me. So I wanted to share it with others,”
By offering small quantities, Miss Jenny’s store offers a variety of price points.
“For instance, I would have a customer come, and they say, ‘Miss Jenny, I don’t have [it, but] I need some toothpaste. I can’t buy the whole toothpaste; I only have $20’, and I’ll say, ‘Come, man’. I don’t turn away anybody because every $20 [counts], and that’s what they have, that’s what they can afford,” she said.
Brown says she knows that families are now facing even more difficulties, so she ensures that members of her community get access to essentials in whatever quantity they can afford.
“I start selling single pad, I start selling $20 ketchup, $20 baking soda, baking powder fi look ‘bout two dumplings. I would have three chicken foot in a bag. I’d have a pound of flour, half pound of flour with some cornmeal and a chicken noodle. I’ll cut the bully (corned) beef in two if they can’t afford it. I’ll cut the bag of soap in half so that they can get it. You come to Jenny Corner Shop, yuh caa go home [empty-handed], and the price is really low,” she shared.
Brown’s efforts to help residents doesn’t stop at her shop. She plays an integral role in the lives of those in Hendon whether it is helping them to find jobs, taking care of the elderly, home renovations, or providing funds to help residents in need cover school fees, purchase uniforms and pay for doctor visits, medication and necessities.
“I would go downtown to find out from places if they need anybody to work, and I would take them myself. I’d go as far as Lucea,” she said.
She also volunteers in the community’s violence prevention initiative and offers counselling.
Brown is happy the spirit to help others has not skipped a generation. Her son has started a restaurant to provide affordable options for children and their parents.
“You have parents that work, so they are not able to be home to give their children a hot meal, and so he is right there,” said Brown.
One of four Supreme Heroes, selected by the Supreme Ventures Foundation for her outstanding work in her community, Brown says she was “elated” when she found out she was chosen for the programme.
“I didn’t know that persons in my area had nominated me, so I was moved by it,” said Brown.
The programme aims to not only provide funding but increase capacity by improving operations by providing training and equipment.
The premise of the programme is simple: build the business and expand the outreach, and is doing so through Change Makers Limited, which is organising the roll-out of the programme, with the assistance of the Mona Entrepreneurial and Commercialization Centre.
She says the sessions have helped her tremendously, particularly the training in business law and marketing.
The training has also been integral in the expansion of her offerings. She has started selling phone cards and is looking at other ventures.
She is also exploring partnerships and consignments, a method which she says she was previously unaware of.
“It has help me a lot. When me say a lot, me mean say a lot, because I look at things on a different scale,” Brown said. “Supreme Ventures don’t even know what dem do.”
Training for the Supreme Heroes programme will end in February 2021, but even before then, Brown is using the skills gained to grow, and has big plans for her business and outreach.