Greatness is not measured by what we have achieved, but rather, by the things we overcome. Stanley Ming; a philanthropist, former politician and motor racing enthusiast is the embodiment of such a saying. And in this 25th Edition of the Guyana Inc. Magazine, we will peel back the intricate layers of this all-around-good guy and redoubtable being who has defied all the odds and emerged as one of the most successful businessmen in Guyana.
Born in Georgetown, in 1951, Ming spent his early childhood years in a rented house at the back of Lot 61 Public Road, Kitty, as the eldest of six children. He remembers well, his father Cyril, who worked as a clerk at Lall’s Camp Street Bazaar, which was located where the Demerara Bank on South Road and Camp Street now sits. His father and mother, lrene, both struggled daily to make ends meet. He recounted, however, that no matter how hard life got, or how bad things were growing up in a “tenement yard”, it was always home and the bond of the family was what trumped any feeling of despair. According to him, family means everything and home will always be where the heart is. “I was the eldest, and five of us grew up in that home. We were all delivered by a mid-wife whom I remember until now. Her name was Nurse Wason and she lived a few yards away from us.” As it relates to his schooling life, Ming said that he attended kindergarten school at “Teacher Modest” in William Street, Kitty. He would later attend the Walkers’ Under-12 Primary School in Barr Street, also located in Kitty. He recalled during this interview that his parents made every possible sacrifice to give him and his siblings a sound education at various private schools, even though they could least afford it. Ming eventually wrote and passed the Common Entrance Exams, now called National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA), and earned a place at the prestigious Queen’s College located at Thomas Road and Camp Street, Georgetown. He was rewarded for his great work with a bicycle. “They bought me a new Rugde bicycle from Hack’s Cycle Store. Wait, I remember the cost of that bike. It was $112 and I don’t think you can buy a hamburger now for that price!” Ming said chuckling. By this time, his family had moved from Kitty to a home his parents purchased in Campbellville, with a mortgage loan from the New Building Society (NBS). This kind-hearted fellow was always moved and inspired by the efforts of his parents. And so with the help of his mother, Ming learnt
to improvise and contribute to the household at a very young age. “My mother taught me how to rear chickens and how to plant and tend a kitchen garden; which was a necessity, not sort of like a hobby. It was a means of survival. In Campbellville, from the time we moved in there, we had quite a large garden at the back of the yard where my brother, Colin, and I planted everything under the sun; bora, pakchoi,
tomatoes, calaloo, boulanger, ochroes, peppers, thyme, squash, corn, sugar-cane, cucumbers – you name it. I also became known in Campbellville as one of the best persons who made covered buttons and buckle-heads for women’s clothing and I also learnt to sew on buttons and make button holes on women’s garments. I also did quite a bit of cobbling,” Ming said. A little shop, Ming recalled, was started on his mother’s initiative in
the front section of the family home. The shop, he said, sold everything that was necessary in a typical household; including rice, sugar, flour,
salt, potatoes, onions, garlic, bread, margarine, butter, lard, kerosene etc., and a full range of haberdashery. He added that the shop, in some way, was the stepping stone for him; since it taught him the basic business practices and techniques which propelled him to become the successful businessman he is today.
“My mom also taught me how to make sugar-cake and fudge – which I would make on weekends to sell in the shop – and I still can make it now – but I don’t do it anymore. I would do it if I feel like eating my own fudge, and I have since showed our domestic assistant how to make it. She now does so in the same way as I would,” Ming said chuckling. (Ming has promised to share his secret recipe with Guyana Inc. and we’re holding him to that!) His thoughts trailed off again before continuing, “Oh, and I also know how to wash my clothes by hand, using a wooden scrubbing board, but now we have washing machines. Ha! I remember, in those days, we had a one-burner kerosene stove and a box oven that was placed on top of a fireside, but now, there are four-burner gas stoves with ovens built in.” After completing High School, Ming said that he had to sacrifice furthering academic education because he desperately wanted to continue assisting his family, especially his mother. Soon enough, he began working at T. Geddes Grant on Main Street, Georgetown, in 1972, as a Yamaha Motorcycles salesman. His earnings at that time exceeded that of his father’s due to additional commissions he earned on the sales of motorcycles. His determination to have his mother no longer maintain the shop was realised shortly
thereafter, and it was closed. The businessman pointed out that it was the job at T. Geddes Grant that increased his passion for motorcycles and motorcycle racing.
Ming shared that he continued his motorcycle repairs and spray-painting afterhours and also during weekends, assisted by his younger brother Colin, at the back of the family home in Campbellville. “This provided Colin and myself with the financial resources to pursue our love of motorcycle racing, both at South Dakota and at various venues around the country, where we competed in grass-track racing. Colin had a Suzuki A50 which we had modified for grass-track racing, and on which he was the Champion for several years. The motorcycle was famously known as HERBIE, which was painted on the fuel tank.”
Tapping Into The Speed Force
With his love for motor-racing blooming uncontrollably, Ming set foot on the South Dakota Circuit at Timehri, in 1971, with a Suzuki 50cc and during the years that followed, he was very successful on the track. He earned himself the reputation as one of the greatest of all times. His reign spread from the local grounds to the regional scene, where he participated in numerous events in Barbados, Jamaica and Cuba. He held the title as Caribbean Motorcycling Champion for four consecutive years before stepping into the international scene. Ming has participated in racing events in both England and the United States of America. He rode at Brands Hatch, Snetterton, Cadwell Park, and Lydden; all circuits located in England. He has also left his stamp at the Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida, where he competed from 1980-1985, in the 250cc Grand Prix class at speeds in excess of 150 mph.
The need-for-speed Guyanese was the motorcycle grass-track racing Champion in his homeland for several years and from 1971- 1985 he raced at the South Dakota Circuit in the 50cc, 100cc, 125cc, 250cc, 350cc and unlimited capacity motorcycle events, at speeds in excess of 170mph on the long circuit. A brief stint in car racing saw him competing in the Suzuki Swift series in the late 1980’s. He also successfully raced karts in the Guyana National Park, at South Dakota, and even in Jamaica. He was the National Champion for several years. But participating on the circuit is only a part of Ming’s connection with the “speed-force”. He has also represented the Guyana Motor Racing and Sports Club (GMR&SC) at the level of President, during the periods 1987-1991, and again from 2000-2002. During the first four years of his Presidency, he presided over the complete reconstruction and refurbishment of the infrastructure at the South Dakota Circuit, which had collapsed during the energy crises of the 1970’s. He vividly recalls the tour-de-force he led during that period, with the determined commitment and support of a team of young motor-racing enthusiasts. They included Andrew King, Jad Rahaman, Ray Rahaman, Anthony Amres, Michael Correia, Christopher Correia, Kevin Jeffrey, Gem Madhoo, Judy Wong, Chris Ram, Ron Robinson and others, including the ‘Sheriff of Soesdyke’ Bert Carter, who designed and presided over the installation of the Grand Stand in the Gooseneck, which was sponsored by Industrial Engineering Limited and Shell Antilles Guyana Limited. Besides fishing, golf and table tennis, which also rank high among his hobbies, Ming does seem to have a soft spot for home-bred humanitarian organizations like the ‘Special Olympics-Guyana,’ of which he was a committee member for a number of years. Since the early 90’s, he has been both a Rotarian and a founding member of the NGO, ‘Habitat for Humanity-Guyana’ and more recently, ‘The Guyana Foundation.’
After spending two years at Geddes Grant, he joined Eric Vieira in establishing ‘Technical Services and Supplies Limited’ at the corner of Robb and Camp Streets, as the Assistant Manager. The business introduced Yamaha outboard motors and Holder tractors to the Guyana market. Four years later, Ming was on a flight to England – a place, he reflected, that was vastly different from Guyana. Ming said that the winter was something he “really couldn’t handle,” so he returned to Guyana in 1978 and later joined Industrial Engineering Limited, at the invitation of George Jardim, as the Production Manager. Within six months of joining the company, he became a Director and shortly thereafter the Chairman, where he toiled for 10 years before branching off in 1988 to establish his own business, Mings Products & Services Limited (MPS).
In 1989, Ming married Michele Phang, an Optometrist/Ophthalmic Optician. Their union produced three daughters – Stacy, Siobhan and Serena – and one son, Stanley (Jnr.) “I vividly remember the day and place when I met Michele for the first time. I had just returned, the night before, from a snow-skiing trip in the USA. My close bachelor buddy, Joseph King, and I went on one of our customary Sunday motorcycle rides to the South Dakota Circuit, and on the way back to Georgetown, it was routine that we stop in at the Swims Club for a thirst quencher. The club was located on the East Bank of Demerara, at Coverden.” Michele, who had recently returned to Guyana from England, having obtained her B.Sc. Degree and professional training, was there with her uncle and aunt, Clarence and Jean Da Silva, boating on the river. Ming and Michele started dating shortly after that day. “We were very fortunate to be able, over the years, to provide our children with the opportunities to attend private schools, which included Mae’s Under-12, Marian Academy, The Georgetown International Academy and School of the Nations. They also participated in a wide range of extra curricular activities, including athletic sports, swimming, badminton, squash, lawn and table tennis, karate, scouting, hockey, playing the piano, basketball, volleyball, cricket and, of course, riding motorcycles, all terrain vehicles and water vehicles and driving karts, from a very young age,” the proud father said Ming said that his family has since graduated to hot-air ballooning, zip-lining and skydiving; and over the years as a family, they have traveled to several countries on vacations together; gaining an education in diversity, different cultures and customs. “My wife is the academic and disciplinarian in the family, while I am the fun parent, responsible for most of the extra-curricular activities.\ In the past, I dared the children. These days they are daring me to participate in adrenaline sports. I don’t intend to chicken out!!” Ming said chuckling uncontrollably.
Building A Dynasty
Ming’s Products & Services Limited is Ming’s most successful venture to date. It was founded, in 1990, by his wife and himself. He recalled that when the company made its debut, it did so with only three employees, including himself. Today, the company is over 60-strong and has become more like a
close-knitted community, where everyone coexists as a diverse multiracial family. He singled out a few colleagues for special mention, such as, Audrey Ford-Director, Colin Ming-Director, Fazal Azeem-Supervisor, Michele Ready-Macintosh-Supervisor, Janis Chee-A-Tow-Supervisor, Dindiyal Rambarran-Supervisor and Ramdularie Narine (Sugan)- Supervisor; all of whom have been with the company for over 20 years, and more recently, John Chin-Director/Operations Manager. The company is the sole distributor of the entire line of Yamaha products, including outboard motors, motorcycles, generators, water pumps and water vehicles, manufactured by Yamaha Motor Company. He said that the company is also the sole distributor for the entire range of motor vehicles manufactured by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation, along with a range of construction hardware, which are manufactured and supplied by Advanced Drainage Systems (ADS), Tensar International Corporation, and Shore Guard. Several years ago, as a result of a Yamaha Motor Company assessment, it was documented that the staff body at Ming’s Products and Services ranked number one in the world in terms of their efficiency, friendliness and quality customer service. Ming said that this was all his staff’s accomplishments and not his personal doing. For just over 20 years, Ming, who had established a very successful partnership with a Dutch group of businessmen, headed by Renger Van Dijk, was also the Chairman and a shareholder of ‘General Equipment (Guyana) Ltd.’ and ‘Farm Supplies Ltd.’ These two companies are the exclusive distributors in Guyana for ‘John Deere’ tractors and a wide range of heavy equipment, manufactured by ‘Komatsu’ of Japan and ‘Doosan’ of South Korea. Having a glimpse of Ming’s early life, he was asked how his exposure to poverty has impacted his business psyche. Ming said, “Coming from absolute poverty and trust me, I mean real poverty – I’m not ashamed to say it – has given me and my siblings a very good grounding.” Today, having been reasonably successful in business, Ming said that he appreciates what he has acquired. He added that this was only made possible through hard work and with the dedicated support of his wife, Michele, and the team of people who surrounds him. “They have all made what I have achieved possible – I didn’t do this alone,” Ming said. Ming stated that his main customers are, and has always been, the Guyanese public. He added that the company has never relied on or tendered for too many Government contracts – it has always been the Guyanese public that his company aims to deliver the quality goods and services to, hence the company slogan, ‘The Quality and Technology People.’
The businessman was asked how he intends to have his company evolve to accommodate new avenues that are being created where they never existed before. He replied, “I often tell people that in a country like Guyana, where our population is not growing, it is in fact declining; if 10 percent of the
population can presently afford the goods and services that you have to offer, the only way you can grow the company is by working towards the 10% being increased to 15% then to 20%, etc.” “To do that, I need to invest in creating opportunities for the lesser privileged to be better educated in order that they can realise their full potential, so that in years to come, they can afford to buy the goods and services we have to offer. When we invest in people’s development, we invest not only in the community, but in Guyana and in the company’s future growth prospects.” Ming reiterated that the Guyanese public has been extremely supportive over the last 25 years and he considers himself and his company blessed. “Because the people of Guyana have been good to myself and the company, we have, over the years, tried our best to show our appreciation by doing things for various communities around the country – Tiger Bay, Agricola, Bartica, Buxton, the riverain communities along the Berbice, Demerara, Essequibo and Pomeroon rivers and several other communities, by contributing primarily to their welfare and educational development. It has paid significant dividends,” Ming said.
During 2011, when sections of the company’s Urquhart Street premises and some inventory were destroyed by a huge fire, what transpired, Ming said, was a clear demonstration of mutual respect and concern by the entire Tiger Bay community.The fire was started in the Guyana Transport and Harbours Department property. He said that that night, the members of the community advised the Police who were present that they were taking charge of the situation. They had organized themselves into teams and emptied all the offices and showrooms of their entire contents and took them over to the School of the Nations yard. When the dust settled and the equipment and inventory were replaced and checked, Ming said that not a single item was missing and the only damage was a tiny dent on one of the new Mitsubishi vehicles when it was pushed out of the premises. “I happened to be on a cruise ship in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Alaska, with my entire family when we got a telephone call telling us what was happening. I distinctly remember telling my wife very calmly, that l was quite confident that the people of Tiger Bay would take care of our interests to the best of their ability. So said, so done. My decision to set up my business in Tiger Bay, and engage the community over the years is, undoubtedly, one of the best business decisions I’ve ever made. It has been a mutually beneficial and satisfying experience,” Ming stated. The businessman said that he is a staunch believer that education is remedy to cure all societal ills. With this in mind, MPS has used this as a base on many of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) exercises. Throughout the years, the company has engaged in many other activities to promote education, including partnering with Banks DIH and Shell Antilles Guyana Ltd to provide school children, living in the riverain areas surrounding Bartica, with a brand new fiberglass boat, a Yamaha 75 HP outboard engine, life-jackets and fuel for a year, to ensure that they could attend the secondary school located in Bartica. Ming said, “Education is the solution to numerous problems currently facing Guyana and other developing countries. The success stories of today – most of which are in the South East Asian countries (ASEAN) – have been based on providing easily accessible and affordable educational facilities. By providing universal quality education, you pre-empt a series of other potential societal problems.” The company has also contributed significantly to the development of sports and in areas of infrastructure development in various communities.
Ming The Politician
Ming also dabbled in politics for a while, but lost interest in it and quit. Describing himself as a pragmatist by nature, he said he was associated with the main opposition party, the People’s National Congress/Reform (PNC/R), up until he tendered his resignation from its Central Executive just before the 2006 National and Regional Elections. “I did not go there with my Reform colleagues to be just another set of politicians. We joined the PNC, to become the PNC/R in a very formal alliance, to see how we could have assisted in improving the old political culture and contribute to enhancing the country’s future. However, we subsequently realized that we were having limited success, so some of us decided to resign from politics, since we believed that it would be better to help people in communities achieve some of their goals, in a more direct way, and that is what I will continue to do as long as I am around.” He added, “Spearheaded by Supriya Singh, along with Eric Phillips, Nadia Sagar and myself, we established ‘The Guyana Foundation’ in 2012. This NGO has been receiving significant support and contributions from both Guyanese and foreign well wishers
worldwide, and has significant numbers of local volunteers countrywide.” “The unfortunate thing about Guyana, and I say this often, I am not concerned about being politically correct, but Guyana came out of a very unfortunate history; we all know about slavery, we all know about indentureship.” “The people who presided over us, during the colonial days, used to play the two major ethnic groups against each other and we have allowed that unfortunate scenario to continue, even as some of the current politicians in their ruthless self-interest, are attempting to perpetuate it even more, which is very sad.” “We urgently need to educate our children and ourselves, about the facts such as that, during the days of slavery, all the major canals throughout Guyana were dug manually by the African slaves using shovels. After the abolition of slavery, the Africans were replaced by East Indians, who were brought as indentured labourers to continue the back-breaking work of manually cutting sugarcane and loading punts up to this day.” The staunch political activist at the time said that both major races have made very significant contributions to Guyana’s National development over the years, and should recognize and respect each other for so doing, and not allow partisan politics to create divisions and distrust.
Ming is convinced that, until all Guyanese learn to respect each other and start working together in national interest – recognizing that Guyana is there for the benefit of us all, and not just a selected few – this beautiful country will not move forward and realize its full potential. Back in 1990, Ming had an interaction with the then President of Guyana, Desmond Hoyte, his wife Joyce, and the President’s Economic Adviser, Dr. Kenneth King, at the private home of Reginald and Cheryl Lopes on High Street, Kingston. He and a group of about 50 young Guyanese, consisting of professional and business persons, had met with the President to air their concerns about the lack of proper infrastructure among other
issues that prevailed around the country at the time. “It wasn’t a pleasant interaction, to say the least. I told him that, as the President of Guyana, the buck stopped at his door and he had to take full responsibility and make the kind of decisions and changes that would allow Guyanese to develop and prosper. It was quite an encounter, during which I was critical of his Government. A lot of people don’t know, but I will say this because it is the truth – When I confronted him about the lack of proper schools and education for the next generation, I told him that the Government had intended to provide free education for everyone, but the very limited resources of the state did not allow that to be possible at a quality level.” At that time in 1990, there were only Government-owned and operated public schools. Ming said that he was persistent in getting his views across. He suggested to the then Head of State that Private Schools should be permitted to be re-established so that those who could afford it could exercise the option. He pointed out to President Hoyte also that whatever resources the Government had could then be divided amongst a lesser number, so that the quality of education in the public schools could be improved somewhat. “I also told him that, at that time, computers and related hardware; which were classified as electronic goods, attracting somewhere around 70 percent taxes, should be zero rated since they were neither entertainment nor luxury items; they are modern tools used for teaching and learning. I remember very well that it was a Thursday night when I had the encounter. In fact, there were many others, including Nigel Hughes and Denise Dias, who are still around and were present that night. I recall the audience being quite silent, during and after my very blunt comments,” Ming said. The former politician said that many who were present told him that he was brave to do what he did. Many also cautioned that he should hold his tongue because the President can ‘lock him up tomorrow and throw away the keys’ because he was being very critical. Ming said that he dismissed these assertions by saying, “Well, it was the truth, so let it be whatever the outcome.”
“At nine o’clock the next morning, I received a call from the Office of the President saying that the President wanted to see me at 3:00pm. That Friday afternoon when I entered the Presidential office, President Hoyte, in the company of Dr. Kenneth King, extended his hand and greeted me with a handshake.” Ming admitted that he was a bit apprehensive; however, after the President called him by his first name, he began to feel that it wasn’t
going to be that bad. Ming said that Hoyte told him, “Last night, Joyce and I went home and we reviewed what you said, and I want to tell you that it was never put to me so bluntly; but you were correct, and I would like you to join and work with me to bring about the changes that you talked about.”
The following day (Saturday), President Hoyte addressed the graduating class of teachers from the ‘Teachers Training College’ and he announced, at that occasion, that private schools were free to be re-established in Guyana. Shortly thereafter, Mae’s Under-12 came into being, and several other private schools began to appear. Early the following week, the taxes on computers and related hardware became zero- rated.
The relationship between Ming and Hoyte began to grow. Ming became one of Hoyte’s confidantes and the duo became close friends and colleagues right up to his death. Ming indicated, “After Mr. Hoyte demitted office in 1992, I used to pick him up at his North Road home in my car, at 5:30am along with two of his security guards and proceed to the seawall at the head of Camp Street. From there, we would walked to the head of Vlissengen Road, five days per week.” Ming said that when Hoyte passed away, his wife asked him to supervise and co-ordinate the construction of his tomb at the site of the Seven Ponds in the Botanical Gardens. Ming said that he felt honoured to do this. “I looked up to him as an exemplary Statesman of unquestionable integrity and a true Patriot.”