Innovation was the buzzword at this year’s Barbados Manufacturers’ Expo (BMEX).
In fact, organizers and exhibitors of the three-day event, which is being held under the theme ‘Fortifying Linkages and Saluting Manufacturing Excellence,’ say they are impressed with the level of innovation they have seen among entrepreneurs.
Admitting that the current economic climate was still a cause for concern, some exhibitors told Barbados TODAY they had to be constantly innovating in order to keep their businesses afloat.
At the same time, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has expressed satisfaction that the manufacturing sector was beginning to show some favourable signs of improvement, as entrepreneurship grows in Barbados and business operators become more innovative.
The observations were made yesterday, day-two of the annual BMEX at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
During a short break from touring the facility, which attracted over 100 exhibitors and hundreds of patrons, Stuart told reporters that he was convinced “a quiet revolution” was taking place in Barbados when it came to the manufacturing sector and entrepreneurship.
And acknowledging that the manufacturing sector has not been contributing as much as it used to, Stuart said he believed the sector was beginning to show “some very positive signs and we think it can only get better”.
“I am quite impressed with the creativity evident among Barbadians. I know we used to have a very vibrant manufacturing sector in days of yore. It passed through some difficult challenges, but it is evident that we are on the way back. I see old things being done in new ways, I see new things being done in old ways, and I see new things being done in new ways,” he said, adding that it was “all indicative of the commitment to innovation and creativity” of the entrepreneurs.
“Also very evident of course is the enthusiasm of the manufacturers. They are very proud of their work and are committed, it seems to me, to ensuring that they [rival] the best across the Caribbean and across this Hemisphere,” said Stuart.
President of the Barbados Manufacturers Association (BMA) Karlene Nicholls, told Barbados TODAY that she was impressed with the exhibitors and the support of the annual expo.
Singling out the new product showcase, Nicholls said she believed BMEX was a great opportunity for local manufacturers to be given exposure for their new items.
“ We do have a lot of talented people in Barbados,” she said.
And she said that while the opportunity was there for local enterprises to expand and export their products, it would take time.
“It is not going to happen overnight. There are people who have the experience and they need to get that exposure and that is why we have different agencies that can actually help,” Nicholls said.
“There are opportunities and if people are interested they just need to come and they need to ask questions and they will be pointed in the right direction,” she added.
Commenting on the tour with Lady Loretta Belgrave in the morning on day two of the event, Nicholls said Lady Belgrave was impressed with what she saw.
First timer to the exhibit, Jalisa Maynard of Exotica Make-ups and Extensions, told Barbados TODAY that a number of people have been visiting the booth enquiring about their range of products.
She said that given the stiff competition in the cosmetics industry the focus was always on innovation.
“We still have our loyal customers and we have to keep up in the game,” she said.
“When the season changes the colours change . . . This year has been a bit shaky because we don’t get as much customers as we usually get but if they have big events, like the Reggae Festival for example, that weekend was exhaustive,” she said, adding that being at the BMEX showcase was a way of promoting the business.
Meanwhile, managing director of Ashlar Designs, Sharlene Maynard, said she too was keeping up with the changes in the business environment and the demands from customers.
She sells a range of jewellery, bags and clothing.
“You have to look and see what are the trends in the world and try to get up to date on the trends and yet put your own island flair and twist to them. That is how you would try to stay above it and not experience the major set backs that you would have associated with any business such as this,” she said.
“Business has been up and down; there have been good times and bad times, but in the end you do what you have to do to keep your clientele happy and to get new clientele . . . You have to keep up with the trends. You just have to do it differently. You can’t do it the same way that everyone else does it,” she said.
The one issue some of the exhibitors in the western side of the location said they had with the event was the lack of signage to encourage more people to visit that area of the exhibition. (MM)