NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Johnell Curry’s entrepreneurial journey is a tale of unexpected loss followed by triumph.
After acquiring Computer Creations from its original owners, she managed the store steadfastly – until Hurricane Dorian struck Abaco and destroyed her storefront and all of its inventory.
Still, a determined spirit led her to apply for an Access Accelerator grant, and with their assistance, she was able to get Computer Creations out of the rubble and running again.
“Computer Creations has been in Abaco for more than 20 years,” Curry said.
“I was not the original owner. I was a partner for seven years before acquiring the business three years ago. After Hurricane Dorian, we lost everything and had to start from scratch. Nothing was salvageable. I was hurt, saddened, and completely hopeless.”
Curry vividly recalls the moment she knew her storefront was destroyed. Though she lived on the opposite end of the island, she saw the catastrophic storm’s damage to Marsh Harbour, where her computer store was located.
“I saw a Facebook live video that captured the devastation before the Internet service went down,” she explained.
“I saw a building flooding and people fighting for their lives, and I said, ‘Oh wow, that’s my store.’ When I saw how high the water was, I knew everything was destroyed.”
The gusty winds of Hurricane Dorian further destabilized Curry during an already difficult period. She describes that time as “one of the hardest seasons of her life” because her mother was gravely sick in the hospital, and she was also “dealing with a lot of personal issues,” in addition to the storm’s aftermath. Still, she did not allow her circumstances to dictate her future narrative.
“I heard about the Access Accelerator when I returned to Abaco after the storm,” Curry said. “I saw them on social media and heard about the programme on the news. I decided to sign up, and after I applied, I received a $40,000 Disaster Recovery grant.”
Curry said she was “extremely grateful and excited” when she learned that her grant application was successful and used the funds to purchase all the computer and office supplies she lost.
“I was given emergency funding after the storm to get my business back up and running as soon as possible,” Curry explained. “It would have taken a much longer time to be where I’m now without the Access Accelerator’s help, so I appreciate all of their assistance.”
Today, Curry operates Computer Creations from a mobile trailer adjacent to the commercial space she rented before Hurricane Dorian. She said while the storm was a black cloud that brought devastation and despair, a silver lining appeared on the horizon after the hurricane passed.
“We’re a full-service technology center that offers computer sales and repair, network design and installation, printing, office, and school supplies, so we’ve been even more helpful after Hurricane Dorian,” Curry said.
“My store has been busy because many people lost their computers and printers during the storm and needed to use our services to get their devices restored and make copies of their important documents.”
Curry said her biggest challenge now is adjusting to a 6′ x 12′ trailer after being accustomed to a 1,200-square-foot commercial building. To overcome this challenge, she has turned her garage into a warehouse for her inventory and transformed her home office into a printing station for her print jobs.
Curry said she has plans to purchase property to build a new office with extra units she can rent out in the future.
“In 10 years, I want to expand Computer Creations’ services and products and be in a building with more space,” she shared. “When I managed Computer Creations as a partner, I was asked if I was interested in buying the company out. After Hurricane Dorian, there wasn’t anything left to buy, so the original owner wrote the business over to me.”
“Growing up, I always liked fixing things, and it was natural for me to put together anything that needed to be assembled. The storm may have destroyed my store, but I’m great at fixing things that are broken, and I know with time, I will build back up even bigger and better.”