PIONEER: Rita the great, securing the nation’s future

Danae Hyman
Danae Hyman

March 8, 2020

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Motivated by her drive to see other female entrepreneurs succeed, Rita Hilton continues to lead by example, paving the way for her younger counterparts.

The chief executive officer of Carita Jamaica, formerly Marketing Developments Limited, came to Jamaica from Kenya in 1963 and stayed when she discovered love, not only for her significant other, but for the country.

Hilton said she then kick-started her career as an educator, but later branched off in 1984 to start her own business as she wanted to give her children the opportunity to attend university and was unable to afford the tuition on a teacher’s salary.

However, she said she will always remain a teacher at heart because that is her true passion.

Carita Jamaica’s main mission is to access the marketing opportunities in the fresh produce and processed foods sectors. The company has grown from a one-person operation in the first year to a team of 40, serving the Jamaican Diaspora in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Cayman Islands and the Virgin Islands.

She said her business will also be expanding into a line of more ready-to-eat products.

“My workforce is 80 per cent of women; most of them are from single-parent families and are raising their kids. We try to assist them with school programmes, we try to provide opportunities to increase their level of education and what I love to do is to train them and lift them from the level where they are. My husband thinks I am a little crazy but I am not. I am very passionate about the work that I do and I want to continue to bring Jamaican food to the world. I think this market is huge and we are only contained and limited by production, and I want people to buy into this vision, go into farming and expand our business to the world,” Hilton said.

The almost 80-year-old entrepreneur said she is motivated by the fact that she has positively impacted numerous persons, and feels a thrill to do even more when they succeed.

She said she always aims to share her knowledge and empowers and encourages women because of the challenges she experienced while starting her company and throughout her business life.

“I am self-motivated, my mantra is, ‘age is just a number, let’s not be contained by it’. I want to see women succeed, it is still a man’s world and so with whatever connections I have I try and help women to scale up their businesses,” the pioneer said.  

She added: “I want women to be independent, I want them to feel confident in their ability. I want them to feel that they can direct their destiny that they can and must ask for support and never feel that they are less than they are. That is what I want for women – confidence.”

 The philanthropist said she currently belongs to a women’s support group and she, along with her teaching staff from the 1970s, donates to students in need and offers scholarships for students unable to afford community college.

Combined, she shared that they have helped to approximately 100 persons, lift from certain levels of poverty and enable them to afford the necessities in life.

Hilton said she hopes to work hard for the next two years so she can finally take a step back and spend the remainder of her time with her family and learn yoga.

Story by Danae Hyman

danae.hyman@gleanerjm.com

Photos by Gladstone Taylor

gladstone.taylor@gleanerjm.com

Danae Hyman

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Danae Hyman

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