By Leigh-Ann Worrell
His entry into business may have been through baptisms by fire, but Joshua Hunte rises above the ashes.
In ten years, he has transformed himself from a 22-year-old party boy who had “no real care in the world for business” into an energetic entrepreneur who expanded his father’s company while also creating two other enterprises.
Joshua is the managing director of Platinum Systems Inc, an electrical contracting and consulting company which has been operating in Barbados and the Caribbean for more than 20 years; Solar Watt Systems, a five-year-old photovoltaic enterprise, and LED Illuminations which has been providing energy-efficient lighting solutions for the last two years. The companies in sum employ over 100 people, including a Platinum Electrical office in St Lucia.
The young entrepreneur’s first fiery challenge came during his early 20s when Platinum Systems suffered a devastating fire. At the time of the tragic incident, Joshua’s parents were overseas and unreachable for two weeks.
“The business burnt to the floor. We had nothing. But the next day we opened and had a staff meeting. I had to run a business at 22 years old by myself not knowing how to run a business at all. I had to keep [things] afloat until they got back home,” he told Dazzle magazine.
However, Joshua, an only child, was able to lean on the advice and support of an “amazing” businesswoman and trusted family friend, Sharon Christie.
“I called her at 3 am [on the night of the fire]. She talked me through what I needed to do . . . and kept talking me through. She was travelling to Miami at the time. When she got there she called me back and made sure I did all the things I was supposed to do.”
But the fire was not the toughest blaze Joshua would have to face.
A few years later, father Russell Hunte would be slowly losing his life to cancer. Joshua describes his father as the “best father you could ever want” and the driving force in making him the person he is today.
“We had a choice of whether to close the business or keep it going. My father always told me that he had staff there longer than I was alive and that the most important thing was their financial security. I wouldn’t allow a family business to go under, so I basically took initiative and fought for it. It was extremely challenging on me, not only mentally and physically, but also in making sure that my staff had a paycheque at the end of the week,” Joshua admits candidly.
The budding businessman took over the reins of Platinum Systems at 25. And after the death of his father two years later, Joshua faced uphill battles with suppliers who did not believe he could successfully run the company.
“We had one major overseas supplier who stopped working with us after my father died because he said the business would go under and that there was no way ‘that young boy’ would be able to run the company. He didn’t want to give us any more equipment because he figured that he wouldn’t get paid. That [supplier has since] come back begging for business.”
Despite the setbacks and the losses, Joshua believes this path is his calling.
“My father meant the world to me and I knew I wanted to make him proud. That’s what I did and continue to do.”
Through his work, Joshua honours his father by remaining committed to his staff and celebrating the hard work that they do.
His parents were always there to pick him up when he was down. They say behind every great man is a greater woman, and this stands true to his mother Carol Hunte who has always supported him no matter what.
“One person does not make a company. Without great staff; you are nothing. I am able to run three businesses with over 100 staff because of great people,” he states. “…We need to treat our staff well and they need to feel like the company is like their home. Most people are motivated by money, but if you treat somebody with respect they will respect you back.”
He also stays loyal to his father’s business style through innovation and a dedication to cleaner energy use. Joshua recalls that Russell Hunte was at the vanguard of renewable energy in the region during the 1980s, which unfortunately did not take off because of the high costs associated with it at the time. However, with lower start up costs, loans specifically geared to making homes and businesses greener, and a greater buzz about the potential and benefits of renewable energy, Joshua has been able to push the vision his father had over three decades ago. The businessman also makes time to keep up with the latest trends in the field of lighting and green energy through conferences and workshops in Hong Kong, the United States and the United Kingdom. His only hope is that government sees the need for stable investment in the green economy and cement their commitments through long-term policies and public education.
Until then, Joshua will work 24/7 to light greener paths for Barbados, the region and the world.
He’ll certainly continue to make his father proud.
THREE FUN FACTS
He goes to the Box aka the Cross Fit Gym five days a week
He donates time to the Ark Animal Sanctuary
He loves spending time with his dogs Maximus and Zeus, both German Shepherds