KERRI, DENISE, DONNA AND KEVINIA
We were fortunate to be blessed with great parents. Our father did not have much growing up and with hard work and sacrifice, he became a leader of his community, taking up many skills and welcoming all challenges. The immeasurable support, love and faith he and Mommy Gen had for each other bloomed an unstoppable force that created a legacy not only for all the lives they touched but for all the citizens of Antigua and Barbuda, whom they saw as family. Kennedy’s was built on that foundation, that everyone is family and should be treated as such.
When we mention, we have great parents, it may sound cliché but we really did. They taught each of their children and extended family pure unconditional love. They imprinted in us that with love, unity, knowledge, strength, and God, nothing is impossible. We were taught that every problem has a solution and that hard work, sacrifice and practice are the key to success. We learned about giving back to the community and helping others in need.
We remember growing up, our house was always filled with family, friends and even strangers, who would then become part of us too. There was always food in the house and people would always stop by because they knew Mommy Gen and Daddy would have something to fill their tummies or advice for any problems.
Just a little insight as to how our parents’ great minds work at tackling a problem. When Kennedy’s started in the village of Liberta, we recall our parents telling us, the liquor license would be taken away if there were any fights at the bar. They decided to hire all the trouble makers in the village to be the bouncers at the bar so that there were never any incidents. That’s how their minds worked. Embrace every challenge, and come up with a solution.
The bar in town, just above Papa Bird’s monument, where we spent most of our childhood, was a true melting pot of people from all walks of life, every stature. Our father would often say, it’s not a bar, it’s a university. We learned to value and respect everyone. Our customers are the best. We learned from them and they learned from us. We learned from mathematicians, lawyers, judges, doctors, electricians, and even trouble makers.
All of our siblings including us, have been able to pursue our passions while propelling the family business further. Our parents, Mommy Gen and Daddy ensured that our growing company was diverse so that each person has their niche. We fit perfectly together like a puzzle. However, there were times when we questioned ourselves about working for the family company due to some negative comments about the selling of alcohol. These reservations however were put to rest as our father continued to remind us that “the first miracle Jesus performed was to turn water into wine.” Since then, there was no need for our parents, or anyone else for that matter, to convince us to contribute to building a generational legacy. He went on to stress the importance of dedication and providing for your family through the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this Day our daily Bread.” He taught us that to be a memorable leader, you must go above and beyond the call of duty.
Mommy Gen lead by example, displaying fearlessness and strength in everything she did. When we asked, “How do you do it?” She would respond, “Grace and hard work.” We all admired how confident and valiant she was to tackle any task, despite it being considered a man’s job or even impossible. Her courage and confidence explains how her assistance to our father transformed into her playing the leadership role in an extraordinary way.
Our inspiration to work in the family business comes from a single word, “sacrifice”. We recognize the sacrifices made by our parents to create a legacy that we can be proud of. We acknowledge the hours, blood, sweat and tears that were put into the creation of a dream for us and for Antigua and Barbuda. Mommy Gen and Daddy toiled upwards, starting from the bottom and bringing us to where we are today. It is now up to us, their children to carry this legacy even further.
Although many sacrifices have been made, the one thing that was never worth sacrificing is FAMILY. Growing up, we were taught that “in unity there is strength and together we can achieve anything.” From birth and to this day, our family members are our closest friends. All the days we spent as children, working in the business, learning to perform every job (from cleaning the floors to checking the accounts), we spent together.
While working in the family business, we learnt to respect differences, develop solutions in the best interest of the company and always take the family into consideration. These lessons motivated us to embrace staff as family. Through the family atmosphere created at work, it was really fascinating to see how all the staff embraced Mommy Gen and treated her as if she was their own mother instead of their boss. If any staff became ill or had an ill family member, Mommy Gen was ready and willing to assist in anyway possible. Her hugs, smiles and advice were infectious as she preached to us, that, as long as there is an Antigua, then there must always be a Kennedys. This is now our mandate to ensure the Legacy continues.
Mommy Gen & Daddy were very persistent to engrave these words “Don’t Quit” into the minds of not only their children but also their grandchildren, and great grand-children. Giving up is like a big sin in the family. Our mom would say “do not limit yourself or your potential – reach beyond the stars and keep climbing the ladder of success.”
Our parents’ main inspiration was love, and that continues to drive the company forward. Being family-oriented and trained to see the importance of each aspect of the business allows us to work along with each sibling and makes us value each position at Kennedys’. Working in the family-business is like second nature.
We owe our successes to our parents’ love, discipline and of course sacrifices which we always choose to follow rather than disregard. By holding fast to the teachings of Mommy Gen and Big Daddy, we have become who we are today and continue to follow the mantra “in unity there is strength, and with Christ all things are possible.” Our family is living proof that not only can family and business go together, but they can do so successfully. We are fortunate to be blessed with great parents, Mommy Gen and Big Daddy.
Thanks to the Heavenly Father for sustaining us until today and praying for his grace and blessings for countless years to come. We give thanks to our parents, Mommy Gen and Big Daddy, for being a Blessing to each one of us. We are grateful for the vision which helped us discover the treasure, and transform work into a family atmosphere. They have been an inspiration and motivation for us. May the Legacy of the Kennedy’s Family Live On as we celebrate our 55th Anniversary and beyond.
Mommy Gen’s parents owned the only grocery shop and Bakery in Newfield, at the time I was born. Being the first child for the young enterprising couple, I was left with my grandparents while Mommy Gen and Big Daddy sought to establish and run the new business in St. John’s, which had expanded from Liberta. Additionally, my grandfather also operated a shop in nearby Pares Village at the same time.
I had no choice. I was born in and surrounded by family-owned businesses. I had my chores, but they never seemed like tasks. I took pleasure in them. As a little boy, in Newfield, I enjoyed wrapping the flour in one pound bags, and wiping off the bread fresh from the oven, as well as tagging along with my grandfather to help out in the shop at Pares Village.
After leaving Newfield to attend the Foundation Mixed School in St. John’s, I would walk down to Kennedy’s Club at the end of class to assist my parents. I was capable of performing in many areas, because Mommy Gen ensured that I was taught every aspect of the business. Today, I can function in accounts, purchasing, sales, just to name a few departments within the Kennedy’s Group of companies. Additionally, I received technical training in Oklahoma to assist in the expansion of a branch of the business known as Kennedy’s Game Center.
Mommy Gen was a God-fearing woman, and she motivated her children spiritually, educationally, and emotionally. Where she detected a positive inclination – whether talent or skill, she propelled us to go after it. I was encouraged to become a race car driver; however, I never took it seriously. I know I would have had her full support. That is what she did for her family; she loved and supported them in their endeavors. The popular Purple Dragon Karate School, where I am the head instructor (Shihan), is an independent interest of mine that Mommy Gen supported from day one. She was at my first tournament in 1982 and traveled around the world with us.
I truly believe that the way my parents had introduced me, or should I say incorporated me, into the business, from infancy, was the reason I did not feel pressured to work in the family business. It is my business; my family business, and family must stay together for strength and endurance against all odds. Family was important to Mommy Gen. She loved and cherished her own, and embraced all. One of her great sentences was; as long as Antigua exists, Kennedy’s must exist.
The thought of working for some other company never entered my mind. I always felt it was my sense of duty to serve in my parents’ company. I suppose they taught me well, because I believe in family first and supporting what is family. It is quite logical that working for my parents’ business is just like working for me.
My father, Glasford and late mother, Mommy Gen, were strict disciplinarians, yet very caring, loving, and God-fearing parents. They encouraged me to be the best I could be.
I am the father of four sons, and like my parents, I would like to counsel, guide, and protect my children while encouraging them to continue the Legacy. I will continue to give them the encouragement to grow in the business, as I was given; and to show them the love that I received. These are the blessings that work for Kennedy’s.
I was around four years old, but still recall the delight I took in handing up a tin of sardines to my mother, Mommy Gen, to place on the shelf high above me. She never made me feel that I was in the way; I was made to feel useful. This is how it began.
After school, I would rush down to Kennedy’s Bar & Arcade to do two things: To complete my homework, which Mommy Gen insisted upon with all her children and then to pack the shelves. This was my chore and I performed it with enthusiasm. From this stage, I was introduced to handling the accounts, taught Customs brokerage, purchasing and procurement of merchandise, and was eventually taken overseas to purchase goods and meet with the suppliers. I was taught every aspect of the business from a very young age.
Mommy Gen and Daddy were visionaries. They probably saw that I was inclined to be technologically-minded; and sent me off to Las Vegas, after I had finished school, to study and learn everything about the games, which we operated at the Arcade, including slot machines. I also went to Oklahoma to pursue a course in Technology and Electronics. Therefore, a few years later, when our company expanded to include a Technical Department, I was poised and ready for the head position.
There was no prompting or admonition for me to work in our family-owned business, because I was already there. I never left! However, I was groomed for take-over without actually being aware that I was being groomed.
According to Mommy Gen’s advice to me (one of her old time sayings) – “one match stick is easily broken, but many put together are hard to break.” Simply put – a family that is united cannot be torn apart. Love and respect for family was very important to my parents – a legacy I have inherited and shall pass on.
Kennedy ‘Ken’ Francis, the family business namesake is the 7th of 9 children of Glasford (Big Daddy) and Pauline Francis (Mommy Gen). Starting at an early age, we all had a part to play in the family owned business. “Whether it was after school hours, weekends; there was always work to be done and forget vacations! Not at our house.” Despite this, our parents did not make us feel compelled to work for the company but instead provided opportunities for us to learn by involving all the children in the every-day running of the business. Not only did they instill the lesson of hard work but a sense of pride in being part of something that is 100% Antiguan. To think this all started as a Tavern in Liberta.
The first official position I held in the company was that of cashier. Over the years, I served in many other capacities now holding the post of HR Officer. However, there was always a deep rooted passion for boxing. I recall speaking to my late mother about an opportunity to become a certified coach. She always believed in self-empowerment; and that one should take their academic studies or skill to a higher level. She encouraged me to pursue the course in Budapest, Hungary and I became a Certified Boxing Coach. Incidentally, my interest in amateur boxing has served our sports bars well.
Mommy Gen, often reminded me that my first word was “up” and used to add that I must get up there and stay up there. I will remember her words and continue to elevate myself as a decent and productive citizen of the land, as well as strive to maintain the high standards of our company. I am also reminded of Mommy Gen’s unfailing love and moral support for all of her children, and hope to be as good a parent to my children as she was to me.
Kennedy’s has been the fiber that keeps the family together. Yet the cycle continues. I was pleased when my daughter, Keanna, had interest in getting involved in the family business. She is still in school but works with the company during school vacations. Apparently, it is the natural order of things with the Francis’ children. The dynasty lives on. •