The Global Financial Crisis
In October 2008, a seasoned accounting professional with eight years of public accounting experience and several years in the hospitality and real estate industry, I found myself out of work — a casualty of the global financial crisis. The five-star resort where I had recently been hired as Financial Controller failed to open after many months of preparation and millions of dollars in refurbishment. The Icelandic bank that funded it had crashed. The demise of my most recent job could not have come at a worse time. I had been through a series of personal challenges including the sudden death of my father and tragic death of my 21-year old brother, a stint in ICU with meningitis, and major surgery. My entire savings had been depleted. And then, I got a call with a job offer from Jeff Hadeed.
This was to be second stint in Jeff’s employment. Fifteen years earlier it was the early nineties, I was in my teens, and Jeff was the co-proprietor of one of the most popular restaurants on Antigua. Jeff hired me to create a computer catalogue of the Big Banana restaurant’s impressive collection of CDs, which lined the wall from bar to the ceiling. I can remember being somewhat shell-shocked by the frenetic environment of the hotspot. Nestled in St. John’s historic Redcliffe Quay, the restaurant itself was beautiful, with its long wooden bar stretching the length of the converted ancient brickwork rum warehouse. It had a welcoming island-chic decor: terra-cotta tiles, wooden tables and chairs and stunning black and white photos of island life. Huge brick arches led the way to the outdoor area, where patrons laughed heartily with friends and family, enjoying the best pizza on the island, under a canopy of tropical branches. At night, both tourists and residents alike grooved to the live music of local bands, with a steady flow of Wadadli beer and Cavalier rum served up by tight-jeans wearing servers in their iconic Big Banana tee-shirts.
I worked at a computer in the tiny office above the bar which was accessed by climbing a creaky wooden spiral staircase. Sounds and smells wafted upwards all day long. The office pulsated with musical rhythms and the sounds of clinking glasses, orders being taken, delivery boxes packed and of course the ever-present smell of delicious pizza. Jeff was both exacting and well-respected by his staff. It was a fast-paced environment– vibrant and alive, with high standards and an air of excellence. It only took a few days to finish listing the CDs but it was exciting. I felt a sense of accomplishment when I was finished, because I knew that somehow I had contributed and been a part of it. I have always been grateful for the much-needed funds, and the short but enriching experience.
The Passionate Perfectionist with a Heart of Gold
And now here was Jeff once again, rescuing me in a time of need. Jeff Hadeed completed a business degree in the United States and studied design in Italy. Returning to Antigua in the mid-1980’s, he started the Big Banana chain of restaurants with two of his siblings. These restaurants have earned the reputation of being Antigua’s chicest, most loved casual dining hotspots for over twenty-five years, thanks largely to Jeff’s managerial oversight, keen marketing insight and relentless relationship-building.
In the eight or so months that I worked with Jeff as a project accountant at Next International and ROLS Limited, I developed a deep respect for Jeff as a person and as an entrepreneur. Armed with sparkling brown eyes, and a finely tuned esthetic instinct, he is a passionate perfectionist. He is stubbornly committed to doing everything he attempts to the highest possible standard. There is a dichotomy about Jeff. He has both talent and heart. Having little patience with mediocrity, his fiery temper is legendary. I’ve seen many wither under Jeff’s fury after having his exacting standards compromised. And yet, forever in his uniform of tee-shirt and jeans, he is both unpretentious and approachable. Loyal to a fault, he quickly cultivates long-lasting friendships, never thinking twice about going out of his way to help a friend.
An Entrepreneurial Success Story
Jeff recently turned 50. His shaved head and slim, youthful physique belie his years. One of the great things about living on an island is that you can leave your mark and change its landscape, if you really want to. In the past 25 years, Jeff’s authenticity, creativity and dedication have had just that kind of impact. South Point (see photos here), a beautiful waterside development nestled in Antigua’s picturesque Falmouth Harbour, is Jeff’s newest venture. It is a labor of love for him, years in the making. Through his eye for detail, warmth for people and exacting standards, he has created hundreds of thousands of unique experiences for his employees, friends and patrons over the years. Railing against lax island standards, Jeff has committed himself to building brands that have stood the test of time. In essence, this is what being an entrepreneur is all about. It is about creating something greater than yourself, and truly believing in what you do. This is why I enjoyed working for Jeff, why I respect him, and why I am inspired by him today.
Jeff, I wish you continued success in everything you do and many more happy years to come. Happy birthday, and thank you!