Michael Anthony:  Clover’s

Mr. Anthony, managing director of Clover’s, grew up working in the family shoe and accessories store named for his mother, Ruth Clover Penn-Anthony. Mr. Anthony, a Virgin Islander and graduate of BVI High School, later trained in the United States as a software engineer and returned in 1992 to work at Clover’s. The Tortola store recently opened a second location in St. Thomas. Mr. Anthony is also a member of the Teaching Service Commission and a pastor at the Apostolic Faith Church.

Could you tell me about the business?

The business was started in 1962 by my mom, who at the time was a retired teacher. And she took her small severance pay of I think two or 300 bucks and invested a portion of it in a single case of shoes and started there.

What was your first job at the business?

We always had an exciting time when we received new goods in stocking. There was always cleanup and trash removal at the end of each day. Empty boxes or things like that. Just the joy of being in the store interacting with customers. I remember being a young boy and reaching up to the cash register, learning to cash even before I could quite stand and reach the counter.

How have you seen the business change since 1992?

The biggest change I’ve seen in the business is in volume and in customers’ expectations for higher quality. Customers’ expectations have gone way up. That’s why we at Clover’s try and carry lines to meet those expectations. … In the St. Thomas store in particular, we only offer a portion of what we offer in Tortola. The St. Thomas store is called Clover’s Shoe-tique to give that connotation which we wanted to emphasise that we will be offering accessories, leather shoes for the ladies, the handbags and wallets to go along with the shoes; for men, the belts, the wallets and the socks to go along with the shoes and shoe accessories.

It’s not that common for a VI retailer to expand to St. Thomas. Why do you think that is?

Obviously, the average BVI customer knows the value and the variety and the selection and the choices available in the USVI market, and I see no reason why we as a retailer cannot go down there and fill that niche, because additionally, and very importantly, we have at the Tortola branch of Clover’s … a huge following of USVI clients, and we just hope it becomes a successful venture.

What advice would you give to young people who want to get started in business?

I’d say find the thing you’re happy doing. Investigate if there’s a need in the market. Educate and gain experience. You don’t want to necessarily start off as an owner as your first experience in the work world. I say attach yourself to some entity, gain experience, educate yourself about your particular business that you want to do — whether it be a service, a production; whether you yourself are the product if you’re an artist, a writer, someone with a skill. Whatever it is, make sure you build up experience in that, and then market yourself the proper way.

What do you mean?

You don’t want to just get cash and start a business. You want to have the proper advice and follow the proven methodologies. Have a business plan, investigate financing, make projections. Have sources and resources of advice, whether they be government resources or from private industry or people who’ve had experience. Sit down and speak to people who’ve gone through the rigours of self-owned businesses.  … Do not expect it to be an overnight success. It takes time.  

Interview conducted, condensed and edited by Jason Smith.