Necessity, it’s said to be the mother of invention, and when financial constraints necessitated that Nadia Jabour make, rather than purchase jewelry and accessories for her daughters, little did she know her inventions would lead to a fledgling business and living her dream.
Originally from Guyana, Jabour, after living in Canada for 25 years, returned to Guyana in 1994 and then settled in Saint Lucia in 2009, where she turned her jewelry-making hobby into a home business.
I had a day job and worked on jewelry at night and on the weekends, she said. But business started to pick up faster than I imagined, and I knew I either had to quit my day job, or scale back on jewelry making.
Jabour chose jewelry, giving herself one year to turn her part-time home business into a full-time success.
The strides made during that year were remarkable, and while Nadia’s laser focus, stellar work ethic and determination were at the root of the tremendous gains made, she states emphatically that her motivation was fueled by a network of people who saw her potential and threw their support behind her.
It wasn’t just friends who came by to buy my jewelry. They also supported me by telling other people about my pieces and bringing them to my home, Jabour shared. And these were new friends that I had acquired, because I didn’t know anyone in Saint Lucia when I moved here.
This belief that Jabour was onto something special extended even to her landlord, who saw Nadia’s passion and chipped in to help her along the path to success.
I shared my plans with him and he was phenomenal, she said. He said to me you don’t worry, I think this will work. So he gave me rent free for one year. I paid him back in the years that followed, but he allowed me that time to build my business.
Eager to ensure other local artisans could share in her success, Nadia started the Caribbean Network Development group, giving them greater bargaining power with hoteliers, government and other tourism stakeholders, which in turn gave their products greater visibility.
A small store in the Rodney Bay area followed, but in three short months, they outgrew the space.
And that’s how Island Mix came to be, Jabour said of the waterfront property she acquired. My jewelry is in there, and we have over 80 artisans now.
The property also hosts a cafe, an Air BnB, a restaurant and pottery, art and jewelry classes.
A sign outside, with the simple question, have you seen the view from our cafe beckons visitors inside, but once there, excellent service; quality, locally made products and the ambiance keep them coming back.
Island Mix Art Emporium is rated on Trip Advisor as the number one thing to do in Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia.
So, what’s next for Designs by Nadia and the Island Mix Art Emporium? Jabour is currently focused on expanding the AirBnB and is pursuing more meaningful export opportunities for her jewelry line.
Once I post something on my [social media] page, it’s usually sold right away within the Caribbean or the US and Canada. But what I am now working on is finding a wholesaler to buy my product in the UK, and on building a Shopify website to facilitate international orders.
Jabour is working toward achieving these goals with support from Women Empowered Through Export, a programme designed by the Caribbean Export Development Agency, to support Caribbean women to start exporting, or increase the export of their products and services.
Nadia found the mentorship and training offered through the programme to be invaluable and advises that it’s a great resource for Regional entrepreneurs seeking expansion beyond Caribbean shores.
She also shared this nugget for those who have a dream they long to make a reality.
Do your research, she said. Know your product and its market value. Once you do, the most important thing is to believe in it, she said. You MUST believe in what you are doing.
Meet Designs by Nadia at the We-Xport booth at Bmex in June 2019.