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Bajan candles on world stage

by Barbados Today Traffic
5 min read

Tamara Gibson, the Managing Director and Chief Chandler at Native Caribbean, a candle store offering unique handmade gifts and home décor fragrances, is an entrepreneur on the rise.

Her unique candles and their authentically Barbadian and Caribbean fragrances, previously shipped to individuals worldwide, have now broken through to markets on the US Eastern Seaboard.

Native Caribbean brand, based at Shop #12 in Pelican Village on the Harbour Road, has also landed an important contract with the upscale home décor store Dwellings in Trinidad and Tobago.

The story of her brand began in 2020 and coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most traumatic periods for businesses and the Barbados economy, in recent memory.

Launched at Girlfriend’s Expo in February 2020, Native Caribbean began operating a kiosk at the Grantley Adams International Airport a week later. However, it was just two weeks later that COVID-19 reached Barbados and the airport’s retail activities were among the first to be affected.

Gibson moved operations to her home and though shuttered there, her products were still being talked about by those who attended the local expo earlier in the year and demand still existed, despite the pandemic’s impact.

In November 2020, she opened her first store in honour of her grandmother Hyacinth Norris who was the inspiration behind the business.

“After I made a pivot from a very corporate career. . . . I had intended to go back to school but when I discussed it with my grandmother, she thought it was absolute foolishness and encouraged me to use my hands to make a ‘dollar bill’ as she termed it,” she recalled.

Her granny, who passed away three months before Gibson opened her first store, inspired fragrances such as Barbados Rum, East Coast Road, and the latest, Warm Sweetbread, which has been a big hit.

Her collections are dedicated to Bajan sayings such as Day Does Run ‘til Night Catch It and Taking Time Aint Laziness – refrains she often heard from her cherished grandmother.

Gibson is one of the success stories of the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) initiatives to assist small business owners.

While starting a business requires some basic financing, a great deal of self-confidence, a strong business plan, and a support system as a fallback if the unforeseen arises, many small and micro-businesses often lack all these elements in their toolboxes which can undermine their chances of success.

In the creative and cultural industries, the challenges can be even greater because these enterprises are often in non-traditional and emerging segments, with few benefactors and financial institutions willing to take a chance on them.

That is where the NCF, in partnership with key agencies such as Export Barbados and the Caribbean Export Development Agency, has been seeking to fill the breach and shore up fledgling small and microbusiness owners in the “orange economy” for greater success.

It is doing so through programmes that provide critical training and exposure for these special micro and small enterprises (MSEs), some of which have broken into the export market with their products and services.

Recently, the NCF successfully staged its Accelerate to Export Symposium 2022 targeting MSE artisans in three growth areas of beauty, spa and wellness, the home and accents segment, as well as fashion and accessories. The expansive session exposed participants to the foundational requirements for exporting.

In addition, it supported the participation of two MSEs at New York NOW 2022, one of the United States’ largest trade expositions at which new and up-and-coming brands, trends in fashion, and custom designs expected to hit the market are showcased.

Gibson was one of those that benefited from the New York NOW experience and saw business expand to the United States and neighbouring Trinidad.

Her resilience as a woman in business has become a marker for what can be achieved when development agencies like the NCF help to tip the scales in their favour.

Of the role being played by the NCF and its Business Development Department headed by Senior Business Development Officer Andre Hoyte, Gibson observed: “To me, the NCF is unparalleled. I don’t think there is a grant that is available in Barbados right now from a Barbadian institution that gives as much support as the NCF does.”

She emphasised the importance of such programmes to help micro businesses move to the next level of expansion.

“The banking system is set up to grant you access to funding based on your history, but grants can fill that space where history now needs to be created and then a business can be graduated to the banking system,” Gibson said.

For more information on the National Cultural Foundation’s programmes to assist small and micro businesses in the cultural and creative industries, contact the Business Development Department at 417-6649 or email andre-hoyte@ncf.bb or ramona-grandison@ncf.bb.

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