It was out of a need to have some pocket money that John Yard started making trinkets and selling to friends while in college some 30 years ago.
Today, he is the proud owner of JY’s Craft, a company that specialises in the production of leather bags, shoes, sandals, belts, bracelets and purses.
The self-taught leather craftsman said in addition to his need for money, his love for the arts and sports led him to pursue his current path.
“The love for it grew on me because it is a sense of achievement to create lovely things and people appreciate them. So, after college, I decided I would continue because people were loving the work and it gave me the incentive to push it even more,” Yard recalled.
His stick-to-itiveness over the years has led him to the point he is now, being able to satisfy his local, regional and international clients.
In 2003, Yard took a break and left the island before returning five years ago. But it was not until about two and a half years ago that the former national volleyball player formalised his venture.
At that time, he moved from operating in a kiosk just outside the Fairchild Street Bus Terminal in The City, to his current
Enterprise, Lower Carters Gap, Christ Church home location.
He said while he has been comfortable over the years, the COVID-19 pandemic which started to affect Barbados in the middle of March this year severely disrupted business.
Yard explained that he has built a relationship with visitors by attending various shows with his products. These clients, he said, would help generate business for him by encouraging their friends to support him when they visit the island.
He is eager to see a rebound in tourism activities here.
“I have a lot of local clients, but I have quite a large contingent of clients from the UK, Canada and Germany,” he said.
Yard relishes his customers’ satisfaction.
“Knowing that they have something local and then people ask them ‘which store did you get that from?’ and they say it comes from John Yard rather than one of the more well-known stores, that is the best part for me,” he said.
He is also delighted when long-time customers see him and inform him that they still wear a product he made for them several years ago.
“That satisfaction means quite a lot to me,” he added.
The 57-year-old businessman said his most challenging experience in his business to date has been working from home and trying to be more focused and creating a balance.
He is also concerned that he is unable to source most of his materials locally on a consistent basis.
Yard explained that while he used some blackbelly sheep leather over the years, it is not the market he could exclusively rely on at present.
“For the future, I am ready and willing to work with local stuff. If we have the access to it constantly then we can go places,” he said.
The recent Barbados Trust Fund Limited recipient pointed out that despite the setbacks he was determined to carry on.
“I tend not to let that get me down. I still press on and still do good work at a competitive price and I am sure that shall carry me through, along with the various programmes and the support from the Trust Fund Limited,” he said.
Sharing advice with aspiring entrepreneurs, Yard said in order to become successful it was crucial to first have a love for what you do and always employ proper business practices.
“It is not an easy road, but if you really do have a love for it, you stick to your guns through the ups and the downs and be honest in your business and with your customers. Sometimes things don’t go as planned but the main thing to carry you through is good work, good customer relationship, honesty and integrity,” he said, warning against a “get rich quick” mentality.
“Some people think you start a business and you make loads of money but it doesn’t work like that. You have to look at the expenses, and of course, there are other challenges. It is not a quick road to making lots of money. So if you have that idea it doesn’t always work . . . but with due care and love for the business, you will take it to where you want to go. So you have to stick it out,” he advised.
Yard said he was confident that Barbados could produce high-quality entrepreneurs to help grow the economy, adding that it was a matter of people taking advantage of the various programmes and training opportunities being made available through government agencies and learning institutions.
“Everyone isn’t self-taught, so I guess if the ministry or schools create certain programmes for people to express themselves then we can achieve something positive with the youngsters,” he said.