Albert Voaden is a certified financial analyst based in Georgetown, Cayman Islands. He works at the Cayman Islands Center for Business Development, counseling and training local small business owners. As the COVID-19 pandemic impacted businesses, the Center was created to help businesses remain viable and successful through new challenges. Voaden is also involved in the revival of the Cayman Islands tourism industry, ensuring that grant program funds are used for boat and bus repairs when needed.
Voaden’s extensive experience in finance allows him to be an effective leader and mentor, providing much-needed tools and training for small businesses through the Cayman Islands Ministry of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure. Prior to his work at CICBD, Voaden worked at DART Enterprises providing financial insights on real estate developments, conducting market research, creating valuation reports, and building out financial models. He was also an investment associate at Butterfield Bank and a senior analyst for CIBC Cayman Bank.
More recently, Voaden has launched his own business, CayGoods, providing product delivery services to the Cayman Islands. CayGoods offers a large selection of products available online – an answer to the Islands’ limited product variety. Albert Voaden believes in supporting and giving back to his community. Having lived in Georgetown for almost twenty years, he regularly donates his time and resources to help others succeed. In his free time, Voaden can be found scuba diving and spending quality time with his family.
Where did the idea for CayGoods come from?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all seen an increasing volume of online purchases. Pre-pandemic, Cayman’s online ordering was very limited, mostly due to the island’s small size. You did not have to drive far in Cayman to make most retail purchases. If what you want to purchase was not available in Cayman, buying online from the mainland is very costly due to the high shipping fees involved with bringing in small orders. CayGoods’ mission is to make online shopping more affordable.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
You have to wear many hats when you start your own business. After finding the right supplier, I had to ensure CayGoods had the best Technological Support to make sure our website is easy to navigate and has all the information and product pictures needed to ensure the consumer can make the best decision before purchasing. I then had to shift focus to operations which involved finding the right equipment, staffing strategy, warehouse, and marketing team. I try to be productive by getting the right experts to build the site. I make sure I have the right people on the technical side who know how to make my vision for CayGoods come to life. I know that unless I can deliver the best online product on Island, CayGoods will not be successful.
How do you bring ideas to life?
You must have the perseverance to bring any major project to life. Once you have found a business idea worthy of your time, you can’t let the unexpected roadblocks defeat you. If a project is not worthy of a few roadblocks, it is better not to start the project in the first place.
When I was getting my Triplex approved by planning, I never expected the hardest part to get approved would be the parking lot. The 5th parking space was on an awkward angle, and the parcel size was restricting this space from fitting by any normal parking design method. I had to resubmit that parking space plan 9 times before everyone was satisfied that a car could reverse smoothly from the space.
There were many other challenges during the construction phase. You just have to keep tackling the issues one at a time. The final product was amazing, and I could never have imagined the volume of interest from renters when it came time to lease the property. Throughout the past 2 years of the pandemic, there has only ever been 1month vacancy.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The technological advancements in the eCommerce space are amazing. There are software companies that have streamlined the retail process. I am not a programmer, but I’m quite good at intuitively figuring out the best way to make software work effectively to achieve my goals. I really enjoyed building my site, and am excited about all the features and customizations which make CayGoods one of the best retail experiences customized to suit Cayman’s local market.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I think my desire of wanting to try different work experiences has given me a very diverse background. I think it is my very diverse experience that has enabled me to be a successful entrepreneur in creating CayGoods.
When I was paying my way through school, I got a job delivering healthcare equipment in Toronto, Canada. I’m used to finding the most efficient routes to avoid traffic. I’m sure this experience will come in handy when working with my drivers to ensure our product delivery is supreme.
I graduated with honors in Web Design, before changing careers in order to move to Cayman. My design and software experience has been a huge help in creating what I believe will be Cayman’s best online retailer.
My bank experience coupled with my CFA studies has helped me to fully understand Cayman’s economic dynamics, and find ways for us to do our part in reducing the cost of living.
Additionally, I have nearly two decades of experience importing goods from North America to Cayman. Aligned with key partners, CayGoods is well equipped to deliver the best delivery experience available in Cayman.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Do your demographic research first. Make sure there is sufficient market size for the product or service you intend to provide.
Because of my experience at a health equipment company, I thought that therapy equipment could also be a sought-after item in Cayman. 10 years ago, there were fewer healthcare options available than there are today. What I did not fully estimate was the consequences of Caymanians having dual citizenship. Because of the high cost of living in Cayman, many with dual citizenship retired to a different country because of lower costs, and a wider range of healthcare services available. This limited my customer base, and the few that remained could make do with the limited selection of equipment available at the local pharmacy. While I’m proud I never lost money on the business, I realized it was not scalable. The earlier you can recognize your idea will not work, the sooner you can move on to more sustainable projects.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
In 2015, I published a book that explained the dangers of printing excessive amounts of money. Interest in this topic has been almost non-existent until today.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I think things through from every angle before acting. Know your competition, government regulations, financing, psychology of your customer, data showing demand, size of demand, key business partners, current trends, political risk. I’ve been criticized for overanalyzing things, but listening to Murphy’s Law and planning for the many things that can go wrong can help you navigate away from making costly mistakes. If you come up with a plan that can withstand all of the above restrictions, then you can move forward with taking calculated risks and putting your product or service to the true test. You can not plan for everything, but planning will save you significant future pain.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Divide your business plan into phases, the first phase being easy to achieve. However, when designing the initial phase, always keep the final goal in mind so that future phases are easy to implement when the time comes.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Even when you have a plan, things will not work out as you expect. Reassess and move forward if the revised plan still makes sense.
When I was starting CayGoods, I thought I had found the right location, and started to make plans for that location. When I tried to finalize the deal, to my surprise they did not want CayGoods. This was a huge blow, as there were no other warehouses available on the island at the time. I contacted many real estate agents, which all confirmed that there was a real shortage in warehouse space. I drove around the island looking for signs of available space. Finally, I found a space, and I got to practice my negotiating skills which I learned from the best Leasing Negotiator on the islands. When trying to achieve your goals, we all encounter obstacles in life. Obstacles bring about a pause where we should assess whether our goal is truly worthy of our time. If your goal is truly worthwhile, then you should not let any obstacle get in your way. You find a way to make it work.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Restart a new restaurant in East End. This area has been particularly hit hard due to COVID and the reduced tourism numbers. It has forced restaurants to go out of business. With all the new flights being added back to Cayman, I expect the East side will flourish in the not-so-distant future.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
In the midst of the market sell-off on January 24th of this year, I bought the 02/18/22 call option on Diamondback Energy at $5.82. I sold it 3 days later at $18.70. This was a 3-day return of over 320% (after commission). As a general rule, I almost never invest in options, as I know what it feels like to have the value go to zero. However, there are very rare occasions that prove to be irresistible. I am fortunate that my ability to invest in the market has allowed me to realize my dream of making CayGoods come to fruition.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Plug’n Pay seems to be a great company that understands Cayman’s business needs for online payment collection.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“7-Habits of Highly Effect People” is definitely one of my favourites. In particular, I like the chapter “Think Win-Win” which is about creating agreements where all parties benefit, and “Seek First to Understand. Then to be Understood.” Unfortunately, this last chapter is why I’m usually very quiet.
What is your favorite quote?
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world”
- Once you have found a business idea worthy of your time, you can’t let the unexpected roadblocks defeat you. If you’re not willing to stick with working on your vision, endlessly to the point of punishment, then best to keep your day job.
- Do your homework before you start. Make sure you know your competitive advantage, and you have the resources to see your project come to fruition.
- While some say never give up, this is not always good advice. The sooner you discover your idea’s not working, the quicker you can transition to something that might. In 1898, Henry Ford designed and built his own self-propelled vehicle, leading to the founding of the Detroit Automobile Company. Sadly, the company would fail miserably, bankrupting Henry Ford. However, shortly after he moved on to create the legendary Ford Company.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.