Ashanti cooking up a storm in St Catherine hills
Ashanti James, 19, had big dreams of going to university after she finished high school in 2020, but she has deferred those plans due to financial issue.
Although attending university remains in the forefront of her mind, James' focus is now on operating her small business, a cookshop, which she opened in her community of Cocoa Ridge district, Bellas Gate, St Catherine.
The 19-year-old past student of Old Harbour High School said she got accepted to two universities but did not take up the offers as she knew her family couldn't afford the tuition.
"Me is a independent girl who doesn't like to depend on people, suh me just start mi business with the only $5,000 weh me did ave," she said.
"Mi used to sell soap and dem ting deh, so a dah money deh me use and start. And after it pick up me start throw likkle pardner and suh," she said.
Spurred by her own love for food, James said she got her cooking skills by emulating her parents in the kitchen.
"Mi nuh have nuh talent. Most a the young girls dem inah the community can comb and do hair and me say me nuh have nun a dat, but me know me can cook, so me just start this and it a work out," she said.
"The first day when me start cook and me did just a do chicken and chips, mi a seh how me a guh do this cause me never even know how fi make rice and peas. But mi just do it. The first time me do it, it did do good and it sell off."
James's cookshop is now the go-to boxed food spot in the community. Her mother, Alison, applauds her efforts.
"She a try, enuh, make me feel good man. Mi like weh she a do, enuh, but me woulda really wah she go college," Alison told THE STAR.
James' dreams go far beyond her cookshop though. The young entrepreneur says she dreams of having multiple businesses, including a restaurant in the Corporate Area.
"Me still wah do different things cause me wah have more than one business. Or even if none a that nuh work out, mi woulda apply fi [Caribbean] Maritime [University] and go do customs cause me like customs," she said.
While James has no immediate plans to attend university, she says she wants to be the first in her family to receive a degree.
"It is very important for me to go to university because I want to be one of the first in my family to do it so I can uplift or motivate my siblings so they can be better in life."