Keithleen, Vernee and Roger Jr. Mathavious: Supa Value Ltd.
The food service business, which was founded in 1983 by the trio’s father, Roger Mathavious Sr., primarily caters to hotels, restaurants, mom-and-pop stores and similar enterprises, as well as provisioning yachts. Supa Valu operates facilities on Virgin Gorda and Tortola. A fourth sibling, Cleteist and Roger Sr. (not shown) at the VG location.
What are your positions here and how did you get started?
Roger Jr.: I tell people I don’t have a role. One day you might come in I might be emptying the trash. The next day I’m brokering deals with clients, and the next day I’m trying to shore up finances with the bank.
Vernee: But our first jobs were packing the shelves.
In a family business, how does that work? How do you learn your job?
Vernee: You learn as you go along. That’s the only way. Yes, we went away and we have our degrees and all that stuff, but it’s nothing to do with this business. It is a business by trend. It is a business by knowing your customer and knowing the market and going with the changes, I would say.
What’s the best part of working in a family business?
Roger Jr.: It’s all cliché: People like to say you’re working for yourself. One thing I can tell you with personal experience: Your job doesn’t stop at 5:30 or 4:30. If I did something and I go home or she did something and she goes home, my dad — he primarily runs the Virgin Gorda operation — if he comes over at night and walks through the building and he has a question, my phone might ring.
Vernee: And you can’t necessarily call in sick. Who would you be calling in to? The success of the job depends on us being here.
What’s the most challenging part of running a grocery business in the Virgin Islands?
Vernee: It’s forecasting and buying on the world market. It’s a small world. I’ll give you an example. … A lot of our lamb comes from Australia and New Zealand. Well, New Zealand had the earthquake and Australia had the floods. So that product is right now nonexistent, and it’s a product people have become very accustomed to. … Because we buy on the world market, everything that happens in the world affects us.
As a relatively small grocery business, is that even more of a challenge?
Roger Jr.: I think it affects everyone, but it’s how you adapt to it. We have a pretty good network and a pretty good support system. … We’re able to adapt and get product within a week.
How does customs duty affect you?
Vernee: Customs duty along with the cost of freight. When oil goes up our freight goes up automatically.
What kind of advice have you learned from your father about business that you’d like to pass on?
Roger Jr.: To have no role. When a guy walks in looking for a job and he says, “I want to be a driver, I want to be a stocker,” right away I’m not hearing him. But if a guy walks in and says, “I want to work.” I say, “Okay, let’s go.” We put no defined roles on our employees.
Vernee: Learning something from our dad, it’s that business is very family-oriented, and we stress making time for family. And our employees are not just employees. … We take an interest in their lives, per se, as it affects our business.
Interview conducted, compiled and edited by Jason Smith.