|Juan Jose Hernandez
Ambergris Caye provides many great opportunities for entrepreneurs wanting to make a living in beautiful San Pedro Town. In order to make a business a success though, much hard work and perseverance are always needed. This week, The San Pedro Sun is proud to introduce a man who possesses these qualities and more – Juan Jose "Joe" Hernandez of Joe’s Bike Rental.
Joe was born on June 24th, 1963 in the scenic town of Punta Gorda, located in Belize’s southern district of Toledo. The fourth of 14 children (seven boys, seven girls) born to Alberta and Bernardino Hernandez, Joe grew up building sandcastles on the seaside and playing on the farmland that surrounded him.
Joe attended classes at San Isidro School but every afternoon and weekend, he helped his father with his job, clearing pastures. At the age of 12, Joe went to work with his father to help with the household expenses. "I remember working very hard from sunrise to sunset," Joe recalled.
As Joe grew older, the economy in Punta Gorda began to decline, so he looked for other options to earn a living. In 1979, he decided to look for work on Ambergris Caye where his older brother was living. Luckily, Joe found a job as a laborer, and gradually learned to assist the contractor. After working in the hot sun for four years, he went to work for El Pescador Resort as a maintenance worker. His responsibilities included maintaining the beach and working as a handyman for the resort.
In 1984, Joe took a very big step – he bought a piece of land and built his first home. Investing in his future, Joe then secured a loan from the bank so he could build additional rooms and apartments to rent. "My prices are not high at all. Some people think that I should raise my rates, but I tell them that these people are trying to make a living just like me. I want them to be able to have the same opportunities that I have had," he said.
In 1986, during a visit to a cousin who lived in Belize City, Joe met the love of his life, Edita Ho, and the two began dating. Today, they are the proud parents of three children: Juan Jose Jr. (17), Sheri Lee (11) and Selena (5).
Some time after, an approaching tropical storm forced Joe and his wife to seek shelter in San Ignacio. They remained on the mainland for a week waiting for the storm to pass. However, upon returning to the island, he found himself without a job. Searching for a way to earn a living, Joe applied for a baker’s position at Seferino Paz’s bakery. He got the job and for the next four years, he worked a twelve-hour shift, which started at seven in the morning. Due to job-related health problems, Joe could no longer work at the bakery and found himself, once again, without an income.
Joe next went to work as a bartender at the Barrier Reef Hotel. After six months, he found this was not his niche, so he went to work for Larry Thorpe. For the next four years, he assisted Mr. Thorpe’s contractor in every possible way. "It was hard, laboring all day in the hot sun, but it’s a job, so you do it to the best of your ability," he commented.
Searching for another line of work, Joe met Chris Allnatt who offered him a job doing maintenance work. The following year, when Chris Allnatt opened a bike rental business, Joe was given the responsibility of maintaining the bicycles – keeping them in "tip-top shape." Three years later, when his employer decided to sell the business, Joe grasped the opportunity to become his own boss and made a financial agreement with Allnatt. In 1999, he became the proud owner of Joe’s Bike Rental.
Five years later, Joe still makes a living renting bicycles. He services the bicycles while his wife manages the finances and all of the paperwork. "She has the mind for business," he commented. "I am very pleased with what I have accomplished, especially being able to provide my children with a sound education. I am very grateful to Chris Allnatt for giving me the opportunity to have my own business," he continued.
Joe’s plans for the future include establishing another bike rental business on the south end of the island.
In his free time, Joe enjoys spending time with his family and taking strolls along the beach. He also assists the community whenever he can, contributing to the San Pedro Branch of the Belize Red Cross, the San Pedro SeaHawks football team and several local events. "I try to do my part for other people in the community because someday I could be the one who needs help," he ended.
Through hard work and determination, Joe has maintained an environmentally friendly means of transportation for the tourists and residents of San Pedro Town. Juan Jose Hernandez has also found happiness along the way and is truly a fine example of the many entrepreneurs who "pedal" the streets of "Our Community."