At a very young age, all the odds were against him. He watched his mother, Nyleptha Charran, work untiringly to make ends meet and put food on the table for him and his brother Derrick.
With unconditional love and an appreciation of her sacrifices, he joined the world of work the first chance he got. He endured numerous sleepless nights to break through the chains of poverty in his Riverview, Ruimveldt neighbourhood. And breakthrough he did.
Today at age 52, Dennis Kerpaul Charran is easily considered the leader of Guyana’s mattress industry. Reflecting on his rough beginnings, the shrewd but humble businessman said those obstacles only made him a stronger, more dynamic and principled individual, who is ready to surpass any future challenge with finesse.
Delving into the details of his life story, Charran shared that the core teachings, which served to transform him into the upright man he is today, can be traced back to his very humble childhood days.
The astute businessman recalled living with his mom and older brother in a time that was filled with difficult circumstances. He shared that one of the most disheartening realities he had to deal with as a child was when his father just one day opted to walk through the door and never looked back. It was heartbreaking for him.
“It was a very saddening experience for me and my brother. Of course, we wanted our dad to be there for us and to be there for our mom. But even though he made that decision to leave, it did not deter my mother from her role for one second. Instead, she worked hard every day to ensure we had all that we needed. Her strength was admirable and she was there for us every step of the way.”
Charran said, too, that he admired in particular, his mother’s insistence on his acquiring an education. He said that daily, she would insist that he should equip himself with all the tools that would enable him to build a brighter future.
The business leader expressed, “I attended the Carmel Roman Catholic School and from there, I went on to the Government Technical Institute which was also known as GTI. Throughout that period, my mom was always my biggest supporter. She was stern and ensured that I always got my homework done and got assignments completed on time. She was caring and pushed me to always believe in myself and never doubt my capabilities. I can safely say that she gave all the guidance and teachings I needed to not only be a great son and a husband, but a supportive and dedicated parent.”
Charran also shared with Guyana Inc that his mom, who worked as a Clerk, instilled in him the importance of being patient, disciplined, kind and respectful to elders. He stressed that these very qualities are essential to any successful business.
The factory owner said, “My childhood was indeed tough, but I would say that the teachings of that time of my life were really instrumental in shaping my mindset and the road I chose to walk. In fact, the most important lesson I have from my childhood is the fact that in those days you had to do what it took to survive.”
The entrepreneur explained that in those days, he experienced the hardships of a political era that was led by the late President Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham. Charran recalled that in the “Burnham era”, certain products were banned. As a consequence, the citizenry he said was forced to “make life from what was produced domestically.”
“We were living in a political era which saw many having to grind rice to make flour, or eating provisions every day. But the hardships of that time did not break me, my brother or my mother. In fact, it transformed us into innovative people; a people who were stronger and self sufficient because you had to make life. You had to think, you had to push yourself to make it.”
Charran recalled however, some happy moments during his childhood which were shared with his friends in Albouystown. To date, he still visits his favourite spots in that community to reminisce about the old days, play friendly card games and “have a few drinks with the boys for old time’s sake.”
“I always enjoy the crazy fun in that area,” Charran expressed with a warm smile.
MY TRUE LOVE
The businessman also spoke of his undying love and appreciation for his stunning wife of 28 years, Sabita. Being the romantic that he is, Charran said that his happiness is only complete when his wife is a part of all that he does. “She completes me,” he asserts unashamedly.
“I still remember that fateful day we met in Albouystown. That’s where she grew up. At that time, I was only 21-years-old and she was 18. She was a gorgeous gem then and years later, she is the most prized diamond I can ever hope to have.”
Charran said that he met his first and only true love during a visit to his relatives in Albouystown.
“I met her in Albouystown where I had relatives living at the time and she and I would often meet there for lunch. She lived in that area too. When I met her, I just knew that she was going to be my world and just about six or seven months after, we got married on May 13. I just knew she was the one.”
The young trader at that time said that he and his wife after tying the nuptial knot moved into a family home in Waterloo Street, Georgetown, where they shared the first few blissful years of their marriage.
Charran said that marriage was and still is, a fulfilling experience. He expressed gleefully that he is one of the luckiest men alive to have found his soul mate.
“She is a fantastic mother and wife and I praise her every day for her strength, love, support and for all that she has done for us. Her love for me holds me together as well as the family. I am so grateful for all she does. She has made me a better person.”
THE BIRTH OF COMFORT SLEEP
The former student of the Guyana Technical Institute expressed that he got involved in the trading business in his early 20s.
The entrepreneur said, “I started trading out of Suriname in my early 20’s. I imported items such as chowmein, soap, flour, and toothpaste and I sold it in Guyana. Starting out at the time was a challenge for me but that did not deter me from ensuring that I got the job done. Many times I slept at the wharf because I could not afford a room to stay in at a hotel or so.”
Eventually, his relatively young merchandise businesses saw expanded relationships with companies in Trinidad and Tobago.
Charran said that when it came to his trading relations with the Twin-Island Republic, this led to the exportation of unique pieces of clothing and the profits from that venture were used to purchase car parts and pharmaceuticals. These, he explained, were brought back to the Guyanese markets and sold.
“Eventually, I got involved in importing foam sheets and mattresses and from the profits made, I was able to open a store in La Penitence in 1994, retailing the foam and mattresses, household appliances, among other items,” Charran related.
He shared, however, that he was forced to close his first store due to several internal issues.
Having imported a lot of foam from Trinidad, the entrepreneur said that the regional company decided to open an operation in Guyana in 1995. And having been a good customer to them, Charran said that the company representatives gave him the distributions right for the company.
“That venture however, only lasted for about eight years and due to some internal issues, they decided to close shop in Guyana. With what little I had, I offered to buy their machines and they agreed to sell them to me and boom— that led to the birth of Comfort Sleep on August 1, 2003.” The company’s Head Office is located at 49 Eccles, Industrial Estate, East Bank Demerara (EBD).
The successful businessman stated that Comfort Sleep offers the best mattress in Guyana, and he is proud to say that.
“And I am not saying that because it is my company but on a daily basis, my company receives hundreds of calls from our customers who express nothing but love and satisfaction with their product and that is what drives me. I know the value of a good night’s rest and the importance of sleeping in comfort. Also, we value people’s hard-earned money so for me, giving them quality is priority.”
Charran shared that his mattresses can be found in, Linden, Essequibo, Bartica, Berbice, Lethem, Port Kaituma, and Georgetown; pretty much just about all across the country.
The shrewd businessman also stated that alongside providing international and high quality products to his customers, he believes in the power of customer service and appreciation.
“Building a relationship with your customers, letting them know that you care , that you are genuinely interested in helping them find the best product to suit their needs, goes a far way and that is something I keep lamenting on to my workers. A customer’s loyalty is not only bought with high quality products, but also with how you treat them, and I firmly believe in this.”
One of the biggest and perhaps most devastating challenges Charran has ever faced was back in 2013, when a fire completely destroyed his factory; this included all of his machines, stocks, records, etc., with the exception of two trucks.
“I would say it was my biggest challenge in life, but with the Grace of God, my dedicated staff, loyal and dear customers, suppliers, friends and my family, I was able to re-build and open the Comfort Sleep doors in eight months time, which was in July 2014.”
Though Charran may be required to keep a stern face in the business world, he has a soft spot for children. He simply adores them and it comes as no surprise that he is involved in numerous charity activities on an annual basis.
He said, “I started my humanitarian work over 18 to 20 years ago, but for the past eight years, I have been involved in a lot of school feeding programmes, feeding about 500 children. We feed the less fortunate kids during the school year. We also supply monthly groceries to Ruimveldt Children’s Home and Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Centre.”
In an effort to give back to society, and as part of assisting the less fortunate and disabled, Comfort Sleep some years ago embarked on a programme to assist the Ptolemy Reid Rehabilitation Centre.
Charran said that for the past 18-20 years Comfort Sleep has been rendering assistance to the rehabilitation centre, and on a yearly basis, a Christmas party is held for the children housed by the centre and also those visiting for therapy.
According to Charran, the company would also assist the centre with whatever they need during the course of the year.
Meanwhile, as it relates to the feeding programme in Malgre Tout, West Bank Demerara, he explained that the company commenced the programme through the Malgre Tout Catholic Church, which receives groceries each month and the church staff prepares the meals.
However, over the years the programme expanded and as such, the church has now started to feed four schools on the West Bank – Malgre Tout, La Grange and Bagotsville, ParFaith Primary Schools. These are given lunch three days per week, compliments of Comfort Sleep.
Its other school feeding programme is in New Amsterdam, Berbice, feeding three days per week, the children of Edun-Burg and Friends Primary schools.
An annual Christmas party is hosted for all the children on the school feeding program, Charran added.
Mr. Charran said these Christmas parties are his favourite part of charity work because of the joy and excitement he sees in their eyes and faces.
Guyana’s annual exhibition for trade and businesses of all types usually sees Comfort Sleep as one of the main attractions. According to Charran, the event is one which gives the company the opportunity to explain to the Guyanese public all the intricate details and effort that go into producing quality products for them.
“We try our best to take advantage of that event because we get the chance to really interact with the public on a deeper level. We have discussions about many topics that relate to what we do and how much time and effort we put into ensuring that they are satisfied. We also try to answer as many questions as possible.”
He continued, “From that experience and edification, we are able to better our selves, services, and to continue doing what we do best. Also at that forum, we let them know why our mattresses are of a better quality than the imported ones with the big brand names.”
Charran’s company also takes part in various GuyExpo’s which are held in other parts of Guyana, such as Berbice, Linden, Essequibo, and Bartica. He noted too, that his company takes part in the trade exhibitions which are held in Suriname. Charran said that his company’s products are available there too.”
Comfort Sleep is not only recognized for its commitment to quality products and services within its homeland, but also abroad.
In fact, it was awarded in 2015 for its excellence at the International Star Award for Quality (ISAQ) Convention in Switzerland.
The award came as a surprise to the company even as it was working at the time to recover from hundreds of millions of dollars in losses following two fires at its Eccles, East Bank Demerara (EBD) bond.
The company was singled out for its commitment to ensuring the best quality product that directly impacts lives for the better through its well trained and highly experienced employees.
Charran, in explaining how his company was selected for the award said, “We did not submit any proposal and we did not even think of doing what we do for any award, but we just got a mail telling us that after research we have been selected because we create the best sleep through our comfort sleep brand.”
He shared, too, that the experience was one that was simply astounding. Charran said, “It was truly an amazing experience and being there and walking up that stage to receive that award made me think ‘Wow .. Your hard work has paid off’…It really is a humbling experience when the quality of your work receives international acclaim and I am grateful for all those who were part of the process.”
The Managing Director, expressing elation, said he owes the award to his customers and the hard working and committed employees. His employees, he noted, are dedicated to ensuring people sleep in comfort.
It is through these people that the company has been internationally recognized.
The International Star for Quality Convention is part of the annual programme of BID (Business Initiative Directions) awards, designed to recognize the prestige of the outstanding companies, organizations and businessmen in the business world.
Last year, the International Star for Quality Convention took place in Geneva, from September 19th to 20th and the ISAQ awards were handed out at a ceremony in the Inter Continental Genève Convention Center.
The event was attended by prestigious companies from 74 countries, together with leaders from different business fields, professionals from the worlds of economics, the arts and corporate image, quality experts, as well as academic personalities and representatives from the diplomatic corps.
Charran was the only Guyanese to walk away with the award for that year.
Reflecting on his life, all that he is involved in, and the growth of his empire, Charran says that his family remains his biggest accomplishment. He is the father of NateshaSohan, Namanda, Nakita and a grandfather of two beautiful children; Narissa and Nathaniel Sohan.
Charran said that he thoroughly enjoys spending time with his wife and children. He added that since his family resides in Canada, he would often times have to travel to be with them.
The businessman noted that while he is proud of his company and wants the best for it , he always tries to find a balance between that and his family life.
He said, “My wife and kids are very, very important to me. What I work for is for them. When I’m in Guyana I talk with them every morning, every night, and during the day. I always ensure I’m with them for their birthdays, graduations, and any special and important activity in their life. They mean everything to me.”
Furthermore, Charran said that he has some plans for his business in the future which involves expansion but time, money and some other important factors need to be in place before it can become a reality.
For those who wish to enter Charran’s field, this seasoned business tycoon has one piece of advice; “Work very hard and most of all be honest.”