Born in Jamaica before coming to the United States in 2000, Melissa S. Smith, MSM, started as a home cook, making food for her neighbors and community, prior to embarking on her career as a restauranteur. On one particularly memorable occasion, a general from the local Air Force base tried her food and thought it was so good that she should open a restaurant, a sentiment that was echoed by many others. Living in an area where there was no Caribbean food or culture, she took a chance and established Island Delight Caribbean LLC, the first Caribbean restaurant in Montgomery, Alabama. Since its opening in 2002, Island Delight has flourished as a beloved local restaurant and is still going strong two decades later, something Ms. Smith cites as the highlight of her career.
Not long after Island Delight opened, Ms. Smith sought to bolster her expertise through higher learning opportunities and joined Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in human resource management in 2007, followed by a Master of Science in management in 2008. As she looks toward the future, she hopes to see the continued growth of her restaurant. She has already opened a second location, and her ultimate goal is to franchise the business. Currently, Ms. Smith is looking to hire more staff members so that she can devote more time to her managerial duties and giving back to her community.
Ms. Smith attributes much of her success to her customers, many of whom she has seen grow up and raise families and who have watched her and her family grow in turn. She is deeply grateful for her customers’ loyalty and proud to have been asked to cater a number of life events, including baby showers, high school graduation parties and weddings. In particular, she considers her customers from the local Air Force base, who were some of her earliest supporters, to be like an extension of her family. For her excellence, Ms. Smith has been presented with several honors and accolades over the years, including being featured in the Montgomery Business Journal. Island Delight has also received the Small Business of the Year Award from the Small Business Administration.
An active member of her community, Ms. Smith has long been focused on working and supporting youth. She is a youth leader in her local church and is currently developing plans to found an organization in support of teenage mothers. Her hope is that this organization will provide these young women with support along with the tools they will need to excel both as mothers and emerging leaders. An avid writer as well, she is presently working on writing a book, which she intends to finish and see published within the next five or so years. Living her life by the motto, “Whatever the mind can conceive can be achieved,” Ms. Smith considers her greatest inspiration and motivators to be her two sons. She has always sought to set an example for them and show them that achieving one’s dreams is possible.