While the international business community appears to hold its collective breath in anticipation of the undoubted financial damage COVID-19 has done, Ecofarms, an ambitious Jamaican-based social enterprise, looks set to demonstrate the value of the support its receiving from Caribbean Export Development Agency. Caribbean Export sources finance from the European Union to help Caribbean businesses trade in Europe and is the only regional trade and investment promotion agency in the African, Caribbean and Pacific group. Established in 1996, it serves 15 Caribbean states â€“ Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname plus Trinidad and Tobago.
Caribbean Export is supporting Ecofarmsâ€™ quest to identify routes to the international market for its new immunity-boosting Cold & Flu HoneyStix. Infused with natural products â€“ including ginger, turmeric, nutmeg, tamarind, cinnamon and honey â€“ the HoneyStix are poised to make a timely entry on the world stage as health authorities champion the merits of healthy immune systems while grappling with the mysterious deadly virus. Headquartered in rural Mandeville in central Jamaica, Ecofarmsâ€™ honey blend has been found by university researchers to be more effective than the more expensive Manuka honey in breaking down drug-resistant bacteria. Currently retailing in 50 stores across Jamaica, including coffee chain Starbucks since autumn 2018, the HoneyStix are produced by vulnerable local people â€“ its entire staff are all single parents and/ or have disabilities that would limit their opportunities to secure alternative employment. Ecofarmsâ€™ investment in its workforce of six seemed to have been returned with interest, as its founder Grace Foster-Reid explained: â€œWhile COVID-19 began to spread and employers looked to furlough workers or let them go altogether, we kept ours on, paid them a full salary and even took on two new beekeepers.
To continue doing business during this time, it seemed likely that we would have to use up our reserves of honey. That looked to be a certainty when Jamaica experienced a drought in April and honey production fell. Amazingly, we had a bumper crop â€“ we didnâ€™t need to use any of the reserves. â€œIt was an act of faith to keep with our workers. I am a woman of faith and I believe the bumper crop was a blessing from God. It is easy to feel sorry for ourselves when we hit trouble, but the important thing is to get back up from a fall and believe that in every crisis, there is opportunity. Personally, I am convinced that the bigger the crisis, the bigger the opportunity.â€ Ecofarms itself emerged from a crisis, when Grace, an engineer and MIT graduate, found herself out of work after the closure of the two bauxite factories in Mandeville. Recognising the economic potential that lay in Jamaicaâ€™s rich natural resource, honey, before long, the seeds that grew into her progressive social enterprise were sown, taking on and overcoming the numerous obstacles in its path, including staffing issues, lack of capital and funding, plus low profit margins. The HoneyStix now form part of Ecofarmâ€™s immediate targets: to boost its income through online selling and, in keeping with its societal mission, to continue creating employment for people from at risk and disabled communities while paying attention to the wellness of the planet and its workers. It will expand operations to the Jamaica Deaf Village, where they will mostly employ the hearing impaired â€“ two deaf youths are currently training as beekeepers. Ecofarms will also strive to make its operations carbon neutral.
Tracing Ecofarmsâ€™ success back to Caribbean Exportâ€™s early input, Grace added: â€œI was fortunate to be one of 19 Caribbean businesswomen in its inaugural programme in 2018. We gained business insight to help us develop our products and services but also a sisterhood that gave us mutual support. Ecofarms is about people, which are among our KPIs â€“ profit is secondary. â€œWe appreciate what Caribbean Export has done for us, and we will carry this ethos as we progress to trading overseas. We look forward to its support during our next phase â€“ with our intellectual property, expert coaching from an export specialist and with marketing.â€ Anthony Bradshaw, Officer in Charge at Caribbean Export, said: â€œWe embarked upon the Women Empowered through Export (WE-Xport) programme with the specific purpose of supporting women-owned businesses that had the potential, to commence exporting or increase their exports. â€œTo see this come to fruition for Ecofarms is indeed a rewarding experience for both Ecofarms and the Agency. Mrs Foster-Reid and the other businesses in the programme worked diligently and whilst this period of uncertainty has left many exposed, itâ€™s encouraging to know that some of the tools learnt during the programme have been leveraged to maximise opportunities. Her success has demonstrated the important role that Caribbean Export plays in private sector development in partnership with the European Union.â€œWe will continue to assist SMEs such as Ecofarms to increase their competitiveness and leverage available opportunities to increase their exports.â€
This article was originally published on The Voice as part of a series featuring Caribbean entrepreneurs and businesses sponsored by the Caribbean Export Development Agency.
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THERE IS no question in that the cosmetic industry is growing at an exponential rate which makes it hard not to notice the boom taking place at the perfume and body care counters in major retail stores on the high streets as well as supermarkets shelves across Britain.
Around 50 per cent of British consumers favour cosmetics made from natural ingredients, the highest figure in Europe. In 2018, sales of certified organic and natural beauty products grew for an eighth consecutive year to reach Â£86.5m, up 14 per cent on the previous year.
Because the sector is currently growing at an annual rate of 8-10 percent, this has spurred increasing demand for natural ingredients and it is no surprise that in the past year exports of essential oils from the Caribbean to the EU have grown by 33 percent.
The Caribbean is not only famous for its beautiful beaches and rum but also for the natural ingredients produced in the region and this where a number of innovative Caribbean entrepreneurs are capitalising on a niche in the international market place.
Damie Sinanan, the competitiveness and export promotion manager of the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) said: â€œApart from the health benefits of these essential oils and other natural ingredients many Caribbean companies sell in the EU, they also work hard to make products as sustainable as possible, from production to packaging, with the aim of not generating waste or harming the environmentâ€, comments Sinanan.
Last September, three such companies participated in the Caribbean Exportâ€™s 4th CARIFORUM-EU Business Forum and Authentic Caribbean Expo in Frankfurt, Germany which gave Bahama Spa, Sugar Town Organics and True Shades Cosmetics the opportunity to put their products in front of potential buyers and distributors.
Here we look at these three Caribbean companies, all headed by women, that are making their mark on the natural cosmetic industry.
BahamaSpa products made with love
BahamaSpa, founded by Indira Weech and established in 2004, manufactures luxurious bath and body line of products handmade with love in paradise, inspired by the vibrant culture, beauty secrets and the natural beauty of The Bahamas.
The BahamaSpa brand is sold at upscale boutiques, resorts and spas and the products are made with various edible ingredients and powered by sea salt and ocean water harvested from the pristine waters of The Bahamas.
Indira says the aim of her enterprise is to protect women from harmful chemicals, provide job opportunities and teach new skills to women. â€œWe are a 90% female owned businessâ€, she says.
â€œOur products are made from the very finest from the land and sea. They are perfect for the spa and salon markets and do excellent in retail in the souvenir and gift market as wellâ€¦we are the perfect gift!
â€œOur business was started to provide a sustainable yet upscale gift for the tourism industry. We began our journey with a soap and due to demand we expanded our product offering to become a full line of spa and wellness products.
â€œIn 2020 we expanded and added a subscription box service and a line for hair care and products for the home. We have private labeled products for an exclusive resort,â€ Indira explains.
BahamaSpa has been featured on ABCâ€™s Good Morning America and in international publications. Just this February, BahamaSpa was chosen as an exclusive gift for the celebrities at a 2020 Oscar Awards after show party in Los Angeles, Califormia.
The international exposure for the company is also growing as Indira indicates: â€œWe are also honoured to be chosen as the fi rst product to represent The Bahamas at the 2020 World Expo in Dubai later this year because of our commitment to excellence and our sustainability mandate.â€
Among the BahamaSpa product line are: Mango Sugar Scrub, Ocean Water Soap On Rope, Sandy Feet Soap Scrub, Sea Salt Soap, Island Man Sexy Hand and Body Chantilly Cream, Ocean Bath Bar and Coconut Tart Hand & Body Cream.
Indira said her participation at the Caribbean Exportâ€™s 4th CARIFORUM-EU Business Forum and Authentic Caribbean Expo in Frankfurt, Germany Expo was and outstanding experience. She said: â€œThere are so many people who came to our stand and bought all the products we had and I still get request now from people who wanted to re-order. Many said they were drawn to the stand because of the alluring aroma from the products.â€
Indira is looking to expand her BahamaSpa product line in luxury markets globally, particularly into England, France, Spain and the Netherlands, so she is actively seeking strategic partnerships, distribution and retail opportunities.
For more information visit: www.thebahamaspa.com
Your True Shade just for you
Dianne Plummer is the founder and CEO of True Shade Cosmetics Limited, producers of the uniquely Jamaican cosmetic brand â€˜Your True Shadeâ€™.
It is Jamaicaâ€™s first natural make up line and the company was incorporated in August 2015, but the idea to create the line came from Dianneâ€™s own experience while studying overseas back in 2011.
The Chemical Engineer graduate had embarked on a journey to pursue Masterâ€™s degrees in Sustainable Energy and Mechanical Engineering.
While there, she faced a major issue in finding cosmetic products that both matched her skin tone and was delicate enough to not aggravate her sensitive skin and eczema. In the absence of suitable products, she did what any good Chemical Engineer would do: She made it herself and that is how â€œYour True Shadeâ€ was born.
Seeing the potential in her products, and based on constant requests from friends, she decided not to keep it to herself. What started out as an act of necessity led to a viable profit-making endeavour with Your True Shade cosmetic line which is becoming available at pharmacies and beauty supplies stores in Jamaica.
Dianne says her vision for Your True Shade is to be a trailblazer in natural cosmetics dedicated to creating healthy products of the highest quality.
â€œYTS is manufactured for women of colour and provides the shades that typically women have a difficulty in finding. Whatâ€™s different too is the type of ingredients. We use natural minerals, aloe vera, shea butter, things that people who have sensitive skin can feel comfortable using. We are also certified by Cruelty Free International so people who use vegan products can be comfortable using our products,â€ says Dianne.
Speaking about her participation at the 4th CARIFORUMEU Business Forum in Frankfurt, Germany last September, Dianne said she reached out to a lot of fashion designers, models and other influencers and she was able to establish on going links in marketing YTS products in Germany.
â€œI am really focused on the international market and I have linked up with Sugar Brown Cosmetics in Finland to do private labelling for them and also make-up classes. The market for YTS is for those persons who are having a challenging time in getting make up and skin care products suitable for them,â€ Dianne said.
For more information visit: www.yourtrueshade.com
Sugar Town ventures into food and cosmetics
Sugar Town Organics is an agro-processing company based in St Kitts and Nevis headed by Anastasha Elliot. It was formed in the 2004 to craft edible goods as well as cosmetics, using agricultural produce grown within the Caribbean with a focus on its island home.
The company uses traditional techniques in its formulations to craft unique products inspired by the twin islandâ€™s culture and history.
Anastasha Elliot said the companyâ€™s primary aim is to â€œoffer a unique wellness experience for men and women, with a dedication to providing the highest quality of healthy foods and cosmetics infused by our culture, ingenuity, innovation and originality.â€
Sugar Town Organics currently provides products in four ranges.
Hair care which covers shampoo, conditioner, leave in conditioner, hair growth serum, hair butter and hair oil for natural or processed hair and also for locks. Skin care using herbal soaps, face wash, face toner, face serum, night facial oil, face crÃ¨me and eye crÃ¨me.
Body care comprising lotions, deodorant and perfume spritz. A new baby line has now been added to their portfolio.
Anastasha, who runs the business alongside her mother, says the company is built on a family legacy of healing through nature, utilising food to aid continued health and heal from diseases.
Reflecting on taking part in the Caribbean Exportâ€™s 4th CARIFORUM-EU Business Forum and Authentic Caribbean Expo in Frankfurt, Germany. In Frankfurt, Germany last September, Anastasha said: â€œIt was your first time being that far to Europe and to an event of that nature. It gave me a wonderful insight into what people on the ground are looking for and also gave me knowledge of some of the charges that can be incurred if your products are in plastic instead of renewable packaging. It gave me valuable access to information like that. â€œCaribbean Exportâ€™s help has been quite invaluable for our business as they have given us exposure to different markets which we could not have done on our own,â€ Anatasha said.
For more information visit: www.sugartownorganics.com/
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. â€œIâ€™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,â€ 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. â€œIn an already saturated market, like skincare, one must figure out how to do it differently and be innovative,â€ 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, itâ€™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 fÃ¼r Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) aims to improve trade between the Caribbean and Europe.
Find out more about True Shade Cosmetics: www.yourtrueshade.com and join their community on Facebook @trueshadecosmetics and Instagram @yourtrueshade.