Your True Shade Cosmetics – Fusing Science And Nature

The global cosmetics industry generates billions of dollars each year and Jamaican Dianne Plummer, owner of Your True Shade, a healthy cosmetic line manufactured in her homeland, is hoping to get a slice of that market.

The first Caribbean cosmetics beauty line to be certified by Cruelty Free International in the United Kingdom; Your True Shade is recognised as a green skin care and clean cosmetics brand. Your True Shade was created out of necessity by Dianne while studying sustainable energy and chemical engineering in Sweden and Finland. During that period, she found it difficult to find makeup that offered ideal coverage without irritating her sensitive skin and causing eczema flare ups.

Using her engineering background, Dianne hand-picked natural ingredients to formulate her own skincare and make-up line. As a result, Your True Shade Cosmetics Limited was born. The line has the distinction of being free from harmful chemicals commonly used in some skin care products. And remarkably, it celebrates the diversity of skin tones found in the Caribbean and beyond.

Though her company is only four years old, Dianne is determined to be a trailblazer in natural skin care in the Caribbean and focuses heavily on innovation, research and development. I’m always trying to make everything better, change formulations and tweak things as we go forward, because innovation has to be at the core of the business, she said.

She added that the old way of doing things was not a sustainable business model, but that a revolution was needed. In her opinion, what separates the outstanding entrepreneur from the average Jane or Joe is the ability to bring something new, never before seen or done, to the market. “In an already saturated market, like skincare, one must figure out how to do it differently and be innovative, Dianne stressed.

She does this by fusing technology, science and nature to deliver a safe, efficacious product, thereby successfully changing the narrative surrounding beauty by making it synonymous with health.

Your True Shade cosmetics is known for its ability to conceal and minimise imperfections, as well as promote healing and repair through the locally-sourced, natural, anti-inflammatory and hydrating herbs, spices and plant extracts used to formulate the line. In essence, it’s makeup with skincare benefits.

Your True Shade will be at the 4th CARIFORUM-EU Business Forum being organized by the Caribbean Export Development Agency at the Union Halle in Frankfurt, Germany from September 26 to 28. Together the over 60 Caribbean suppliers, the event organized in collaboration with the European Union and Deutsche Gesellschaft Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) aims to improve trade between the Caribbean and Europe.

Find out more about True Shade Cosmetics: and join their community on Facebook @trueshadecosmetics and Instagram @yourtrueshade.

The fashion start-up poised to take Caribbean style to the world

Vincentian-born, Trinidadian-raised and a citizen of the Caribbean, Kimya Glasgow, the CEO and head designer of her self-named clothing and lifestyle brand, aims to bring a modern version of classic Caribbean style to the world.

Encouraged by her mother’s side of the family to express herself creatively, Kimya convinced her dad that instead of pursuing law as he did, she was destined for a future in fashion.

She studied in Barbados, worked in the British Virgin Islands, qualified for a micro business loan, and with it began the process of bringing her dream to life.

“That’s how I stepped into business, and looking back, I should have been a lot more scared than I was,” she said.  “But when you are young, tenacious and driven, you believe you can move mountains.”

We’re all gifted, and capable of making a difference

Undaunted by numerous mistakes made along the way, Glasgow said a goal-oriented attitude enabled her to learn and grow from them.  She credits her primary school teachers with fostering this mindset.

“They encouraged positive thinking from the get go, instilling in us that we have a special place in this world.  God has given you gifts, they’d remind us, and you have to figure out how you will use them to positively impact others, even if in a small way,” she said.

Glasgow’s gift is creating beautiful things, and while running a fashion startup is challenging, she feels giving up, would be like burying her talent.  Instead, she plans to share it with the world. Her high-quality resort and swim wear pieces are currently delivered to Caribbean-based customers via LIAT Quick Pack or couriered by willing travelers.  But she’s focused on building a sustainable production model to enable greater Caribbean presence, and gaining a foothold in the US, UK, EU and Dubai where she has captured the attention of buyers.

“… We have exceptional talent in St. Vincent that often does not go beyond our shores.  So I’m working on raising the capital to enable me to partner with local artisans.” she said.

This will enable Glasgow to increase production so that she can fulfil larger orders from overseas buyers.

The takeaway for women in business

Know your worth, she says.  Women in business have a great deal to offer their communities and the world.  It’s time we diminish unnecessary obstacles on their path to success.

“And when I say that, I’m not talking about just the legal side. It’s the invisible things we do and say every day,” Glasgow said.  “Boys are never asked to set aside their entrepreneurial ventures to help mop the floor, or wash the dishes.  But if a woman is baking cakes and making a living doing it, it’s seen as a hobby.”

Instead, she said, with vision, and the appropriate support, some so-called hobbies can be developed into profitable business ventures.  Glasgow credits programmes such as Women Empowered through Export (WE-Xport) with creating a space where women can access the mentorship, technical and financial support needed to grow their businesses.

Through the programme, she successfully scaled up her business and is getting export ready.

The 2009 Caribbean Fashion Awards winner has shown at fashion weeks in Miami, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, St. Kitts and St. Vincent.  Mustique, Bequia, Grenada and New York have also featured her collections.  As she gears up for more meaningful export in 2019, the Kimya Glasgow brand is shaping up to be one to watch.

Visit the We-Xport booth at Bmex in June 2019 to view the Kimya Glasgow lifestyle brand.

Follow Glasgow’s fashions online at: and @kimyaglasgowinc on Facebook and Instagram.

Benlar Foods, the experiment that turned into a successful entrepreneurial venture and social enterprise

Founded in the land of wood and water, this social enterprise is transforming lives by offering healthy, nutritious foods, sharing knowledge and empowering other members of the community.

CEO Craslyn Benjamin established Benlar Foods in 2014, while working as a strategic forecaster with Jamaican food giant, Grace Kennedy.  It was initially an experiment intended to troubleshoot a supply shortage Grace Kennedy was experiencing.  Benjamin was contracted to grow scotch bonnet peppers, and with two acres of land, she rolled out a fully organic, best practice set up.  The experiment proved to be several times more bountiful than imagined.

“It was amazing,” she said.  What I made in three months of reaping, I was making in a year of salary at Grace, and they paid me really well.”

Inspired by her success, Benjamin resigned from Grace to run Benlar Foods fulltime.  She strategized on how she could increase yield, and grow produce efficiently, and she shared the knowledge gained with other farmers in her community, eager to ensure they too could reap her level of success.

“I wanted to increase the availability of authentic Jamaican products,” Benjamin said.  “Sometimes you hear, oh, I am not getting the authentic jerk seasoning anymore from Jamaica.  I have an issue with that because our country is known for its food and spices, so I feel the need to protect that,” she said.

After a year in business, Benjamin landed a major contract with Burger King.  It proved to be the stepping stone toward developing a sustainable business model.  She scaled up production, created new products and launched Benlar-branded spices, all with a view toward strengthening brand Jamaica.

Scaling up and going global

With four years of business under their belt, and six major contracts, what’s next for Benlar Foods?

They have just incorporated an e-commerce platform, which facilitates trade by enabling them to drop shipments in different countries.

Organic prepared foods are next on their list of offerings, and they are setting up an agro processing facility to facilitate this.  It will allow them to control freshness along the supply chain, add value, and meet customers’ preference for convenience.  It will be one of the only facilities in Jamaica offering a service of this kind.

They are also pursuing a Safe Quality Foods (SQF) certification, which will allow them to export to foreign territories like Australia and Sweden.

“This is really big for us, in terms of taking us to the next level where food safety and traceability are concerned,” Benjamin said.

Mentorship, training and an international outlook, keys to success

“Research programmes and organisations focused on training and mentorship,” Benjamin said.  “This is key to continued learning and evolution.”

The knowledge she gained through her enrolment in the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, and her selection for President Barrack Obama’s Young Leaders of the Americas initiative and Caribbean Export’s WE-Xport programme have been priceless and she continues to reap the benefits to date.  The programmes exposed her to how top US conglomerates manage fresh produce and distribution across several states, assisted her with developing a strategic action plan, and exposed her to a network of over 245 entrepreneurs from Latin America and the Caribbean with whom she exchanges ideas daily.

“You must network with entrepreneurs across the region.  Study how countries, like Cuba, Venezuela and Haiti do business differently, and see what elements can be beneficial…to your operation.  “We don’t operate in a vacuum,” she said.   “A global approach will be key to your success.”

Visit the We-Xport booth at Bmex in June 2019 to view the Benlar Foods’ product range.

Find out more about Benlar Foods, how they assist other farmers and empower the youth in their community.


Facebook and Instagram : @benlarfoods

Doing Business In Cuba

A market of over 12 million people is nothing for Caribbean exporters to thumb their noses at. That’s the kind of market from which any company in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) would benefit. So when CARICOM and Cuba signed a reciprocal Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement 15 years ago, it provided exporters in the region with access to millions of potential customers. The reciprocal agreement, which focused mainly on trade in goods, gave duty-free or duty reduced entry to Cuba of specific goods such as fruit juices, sauces, condiments, seasonings, and clothing from the CARICOM region. While the agreement is now, more or less, inactive, several established companies have taken advantage of the opportunity of access to the Cuban market, though not without having to overcome several hurdles.

Baron Foods Limited, a St. Lucian manufacturing company with a Food Safety System Certification (FSSC) 22000 V3 certified product range of 165 condiments and beverages is one such company.

Five of its condiments and sauces have been approved and accepted for sale in the Cuba market and the company is awaiting a confirmed order from TRD Caribe, one of the largest food and beverage distributors in Cuba. It’s also eyeing the hotel and tourism sector and retail stores.

Chief Executive Officer Ronald Ramjattan says it would have been remiss of his 24-year-old company, which is already in several other markets in the region, not to have looked at Cuba. Cuba is a new and emerging market with over 12 million inhabitants sharing a similar culture and food preference with the rest of the Caribbean people, he says. The Cuban market is similar in many aspects to the rest of the Caribbean, even though the Spanish influence does have its fair share of difference from us.

As Ramjattan acknowledged, the benefits are significant for any CARICOM exporter. They include having access to a large, regional market that American competitors can’t take advantage of, due to the longstanding US embargo against trade with Cuba. Even though from January 2015, it became possible for Americans to visit Cuba without a specific licence if the visit falls under any of 12 categories, there are still limits to the amount of goods that can be brought into the country in luggage, and shipped by boat from abroad. The challenges to breaking into and competing in the Cuban market, however, are numerous.

Cuba has one of the world’s few remaining centrally planned economies, with the government controlling 90 per cent of the economy. All trade with that country must be conducted through the state. Goods can therefore only be imported into Cuba by government entities and joint ventures holding permits for the goods in question.

The high cost of transportation (both sea and air); legal and institutional differences; and insufficient finance and credit mechanisms are some of the other major obstacles. Added to the strict rules which guide the country’s import policy, language was a hurdle for Baron Foods.

Spanish being the spoken language is one of the main barriers we had to face. Selling terms are completely different as they are looking for three to six-month credit facilities, says Ramjattan.

Kapril Industries, however, did not have the language barrier problem. The cosmetics manufacturing company, established in December 2002 by a group of chemistry professionals in the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic, has been exporting haircare and personal care products to Cuba for the past two years.

The Dominican Republic’s proximity to Cuba, the two having similar markets for hair products, and the fact that residents of both countries speak the same language, proved to be an advantage for Kapril.

The reason for choosing Cuba as a market is that we share similar ethnic groups, being nearby islands and therefore similar characteristics. Also, we share the same climate of the Caribbean region and our products are designed with a tropicalized formula, says Chief Executive Officer Julia Jimenez, who is also the first Vice-President of the Association of Small and Medium Cosmetics Manufacturers of the Dominican Republic (APYMEFAC).

But, just like Baron Foods, Kapril had to go through the long processes required to comply with the country’s import rules and regulations And they both discovered, having an established product was not enough to break into the market.

Food and drug regulations form part of the rigid enforcements. Our products had to be submitted for testing and evaluation via their aboratories, the Baron CEO says. Further explaining the process, Ramjattan added: Firstly, your products must be HACCP certified. Secondly, you have to attend the yearly trade show FIHAV (Havanna International Fair). Once your products are accepted, they have to be sent for evaluation at the laboratory. Once the products are approved we had to select one or more government agencies to be the distributor. Finally, selling terms are finalized with the distributor. Similarly, Kapril went through the process of complying with all the necessary regulations.

FIHAV was vital to both companies making headway into Cuba. The annual event is Cuba’s largest and most important trade fair. It is attended by several key Cuban decision makers and purchasers who negotiate contracts with foreign suppliers, learn about new technologies and products, meet new exporters and strengthen their relationships with established suppliers. Given the importance that Cubans place on face-to-face meetings, it is a worthwhile event for potential exporters to assess the Cuban market and evaluate their foreign competition.

We participated as an exhibitor at FIHAV in 2012 with the support of Caribbean Export. At this event, we received several proposals from different clients; they were attracted by the presentation and characteristics of the products and we were finally selected by one of them as a supplier,says Kapril’s Jimenez who encourages exporters who want to export to Cuba to attend the trade show.

To get to the point of being granted access to Cuba, Baron Foods also attended several trade shows facilitated by Caribbean Export. Within the last two years, the company was selected by the Trade Export Promotion Agency of St. Lucia to actively pursue entering the Cuban market. This venture definitely pays dividends and has put us to the point where we are today, Ramjattan says.

Doing business with Cuba successfully requires a great deal of planning, as is the case for entering any market. Even before starting the export process, companies must assess their export readiness, research and select their target market, have a solid medium to long term strategy with the financial resources to execute it, and have sufficient production capacity and flexibility.

When exporting to Cuba, however, businesses must also determine whether the goods they wish to export are controlled, prohibited or regulated, and if a permit, licence or certificate to export is required. One must be export ready. Packaging and labelling must satisfy the Cuban market and must be able to ship by container loads, Ramjattan adds.

The Oficina Nacional de Normalización (National Standards Office) in Cuba sets regulations for the labelling and packaging of consumer goods. Those regulations are enforced at the port of entry, so products must comply with labelling requirements prior to being imported.

Now that it’s ready for its products to hit the shelves in Cuba, Baron Foods acknowledges the other challenge will be keeping prices competitive, as cheap, Chinese products are very prevalent in the Cuban market.

Kapril has also had to compete with suppliers from more developed countries with well presented and competitively priced products. But the CEO says the company overcame that barrier by improving its packaging and maintaining high quality to expand its market

While it does its part to ensure that the company reaps success in Cuba, as it has locally and in Grenada, Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago, Baron Foods believes regional governments can do more to help exporters access the Cuban market.

Governments can continue working with the Cuba administration to establish protocol arrangements for manufacturing firms within the region, Ramjattan says.

For her part, Jimenez says she wants to see a trade agreement signed between the Dominican Republic and Cuba.

This article was written by Dwayne Parris and first released in the publication Caribbean Export Outlook 2nd Edition