He’s the millionaire businessman who gave supermarket bosses food for thought – by introducing them to the Jamaican patty.
Entrepreneur Wade Lyn, 60, began his journey in Jamaica but his real story starts right here in Birmingham.
His booming business Cleone Foods produces Island Delight, the biggest selling patty in the UK – sold at most major supermarkets.
A culinary staple in the Caribbean and likened to Cornish pasties, patties are stuffed and spiced with various delicious fillings such as beef, lamb, shrimp and vegetable.
Wade’s Hockley-based company now turns over £4.5 million a year and employs 55 people.
But the road to success was at times a rocky one.
Not all supermarkets were initially sold on the patty idea when it was pitched by Wade, who arrived in Britain in the 60’s with his Jamaican parents.
Wade said: “We had to convince them that patties were for a new audience.”
The entrepreneur says he owes his success to being a migrant, the influence of his working class parents, and the power of education, plus sheer determination and hardwork.
“Coming from Jamaica as an immigrant, joining my parents when I was seven, I didn’t really know much of the world,” he said.”
He grew up in Marshall Street in Smethwick, an area where American civil rights campaigner Malcolm X once visited.
“My parents had a petrol station in the 70’s,” Wade recalled.
“We could have been the first black family to own a petrol station.
“I think my entrepreneurial skills came from there. They (parents) wanted me to run it but I went to University.
“I used to go to senior school at Smethwick boys, then Holly Lodge sixth form college, I did a year at Birmingham Polytechnic, then Leeds Polytechnic to do Design.”
His entrepreneurial flair began at university.
Wade and his friends would DJ and hire disco equipment and lights to other students for house parties for as little as £20 a time.
After university, he became a qualified teacher before later working at a small food company in Wolverhampton as a General Manager.
“I worked for them for three years,” he said.
“The biggest thing they were doing was patties, but they weren’t wrapping them.
“In 1989 I left there and set up on my own and developed recipes.
“One of the recipes we’re still doing now – vegetarian. It’s been the same for 30 years.
“I wanted to be number one at what I did.”
Wade formed Cleone Foods in June 1988 and manufacturing began in 1989 at Alma Street in Newtown.
Initially 5,000 patties a week were produced and shipped mainly to small retailers in Birmingham and London.
As demand rocketed the company moved to Icknield Street in Hockley where it has been ever since, with products selling in stores across the country – including major supermarkets.
There’s no doubt that Covid-19 has had a huge impact on all our lives.
Birmingham has seen thousands of deaths as a result of coronavirus and one hospital trust in the city has recorded higher deaths than anywhere else in the country.
During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it can be hard to know where to turn for the latest news and information.
Well, now you can get it all in one place with our BirminghamLive daily newsletter.
Sign up here or fill in the box at the top of the article, which looks like this:
It’s a free and easy way to follow up-to-date developments on the lockdown restrictions, Government guidelines, shop and restaurant reopenings, track and trace initiatives, development of a vaccine and official details of the number of coronavirus deaths.
So you can check through all the day’s headlines in one place every day.
You can also follow the latest updates on Facebook in our Birmingham – Coronavirus Updates group, where you can discuss what’s going on and share other news you’ve found.
Wade said getting major retailers like Tesco, Sainsburys and ASDA onboard was a key to success.
“My biggest challenge was trying to convince buyers that there was a need for Jamaican patties,” he said.
“You get your knockbacks. I can always remember when I went into Tesco head office. I used to do all the sales work and said: ‘Can I introduce Jamaican patties to you?’
“He (Tesco buyer) said: ‘What’s that?’
“I said: ‘We haven’t arrived yet.'”
But eventually the demand saw rocketing numbers of stores being supplied with the patties.
Wade said: “We started with six stores in London and it grew to 20 stores. From the 20 stores we went to 50 stores in the UK.”
Despite 32 years in business filling the nation’s stomach with Caribbean treats, the owner of Britain’s biggest patty manufacturer has recently been forced to take a step back.
A recent battle with COVID-19 resulted in a three month long stay in hospital, with constant use of a ventilator.
The illness has accelerated Wade’s plans to slow down.
Yet he wants to continue to inspire the next generation of black business owners – and holds onto his mantra of “grasping any opportunity.”
“There was a couple of close turns,” he said of contracting coronavirus, “but because I didn’t have any underlying health conditions it was fine.
“For the last 12 months we’ve been planning for me to not run the business but I wasn’t expecting to have COVID at that stage.
“I look at life a little bit differently. Don’t wait for things that come to you.”
He added: “People who come here as immigrants come to the country that is better than their country. In the Caribbean you have to buy your lunches, pay to go to school.
“For me it is grafting every opportunity that comes. You get the challenges – but you just have to brush yourself off and try again.”