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WeXport Archives - Caribbean Export

Curing the Caribbean one cup of tea at a time

Sophia Stone founded Caribbean Cure in 2015. The Trinidad-based tea company was borne out of her passion for using nature to promote health and wellness.

“I wanted to honour the long standing tradition in the Caribbean of using herbs and bush teas,” she said. “And backed by science, my goal was to make these healing remedies more efficacious, convenient and attractive to today’s consumer.”

Bombarded with ideas and wondering how she could turn some of them into a profitable entrepreneurial venture, Sophia quit her full-time job, to focus on the full-time pursuit of her dream.

But her initial line of eight herbal supplements failed to garner the success she’d hoped, and after depleting her savings, Stone was faced with two very clear choices, pack it all in and quit “dreaming”; or, find another way to make the dream work. Like any true entrepreneur, she chose the latter.

Sophia’s new plan was to curate tea blends using the ingredients from her supplement line, but virtually all of her family and friends rubbished the idea, advising her to go back to her 9 to 5 – all but one.

Stacy Seeterram, a friend, and confidant, believed in Sophia’s idea, so she asked Stacy to partner with her in creating this new venture.

What helped to make the Caribbean Cure dream a reality, and what kept you motivated?

With five tea blends currently on the market, and the approval of family and friends who indulge in their curative, feel-good concoctions, Seeterram says their approach to business is one of their greatest motivators.

“We try not to worry about being successful,” she shared. “What we do is work toward being significant.”

In addition to keeping them excited about turning up for work each day, this approach won them international recognition as producers of world-class teas.

An opportunity to honour family traditions also keeps the duo laser-focused. There’s a little bit of history brewed in each cup of Caribbean Cure tea. Island Breeze, a delicate blend that includes cardamom pods and white tea, is a tribute to Stone’s Afghan/Canadian heritage, and borrows from one of her family recipes; while Carnival Oasis with its inclusion of cinnamon, clove and mauby bark, transports Stacy – a Trinidadian, with roots woven throughout the West Indies – back to her childhood, as it conjures memories of her grandmother’s “magical” blends.

What’s next for Caribbean Cure?

Caribbean Cure’s short-term intention is to increase production capacity and efficiencies to enable greater access to Caribbean markets. Through the Women Empowered through Export (WE-Xport) programme, they have forged key partnerships with a strong CARIFORUM trade agenda.

In July 2018, Caribbean Cure, unveiled new packaging, beautiful tea tins, adorned with designs created by a local artist.

The team is now set to enter into the next phase of tea export negotiations with their partners in the EU, Canada and Japan, and feels poised for an upward swing in the company’s development. They’ll be participating in the 4th CARIFORUM-EU Business Forum and Authentic Caribbean Expo hosted by Caribbean Export on September 26-28, 2019 in Frankfurt, Germany.

A few takeaways for budding & aspiring entrepreneurs.

Sophia and Stacy share that one of the most valuable lessons they’ve learned on their entrepreneurial journey is the importance of releasing emotional attachment in order to facilitate growth.
“Do not fear mistakes,” Stone advised. “Regrets are far more difficult to deal with than mistakes. You walk away from a mistake having learned something, but a regret is a missed opportunity,” she said. “Even if it seems beyond your reach, try. You will amaze yourself with what you are capable of.”

Find out more about Caribbean Cure: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn – @caribbeancure and by visiting their website www.caribbean-cure.com.

How a Haitian Designer Turned Her Side Hustle into Major Jewellery Brand

It’s safe to say that Daphnee Karen Floreal, accidentally stumbled into business by doing what she loves.

In 2005, while studying for a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, making jewelry was merely a hobby for the Haitian entrepreneur. It was a creative outlet that provided a sometimes much-needed break from academia. Daphne unwittingly became her best advertiser, as the unconventional pieces she crafted for herself captured the attention of friends, fellow students and others. She was initially giving them away but started to sell them below market value to earn pocket money.

Visibility Transformed a Side Hustle into the Main Gig

She dreamt of being a designer, but believed it was impossible to earn a living doing so in Haiti. Two years after she started crafting her pieces however, a breakthrough came with the inaugural Artisanat en Fete, a craft tradeshow that brought greater visibility to the country’s artists and artisans.

“It is one of the events that I think gave me more exposure and helped me gain regular customers,” Floreal said.

Her work was innovative, and as the youngest designer trading at the show, she garnered media attention giving Bijou Lakay the publicity it needed to transform the young designer from a hobbyist, to the CEO and Creative Director of her own company.

Debbie bracelet with Zing earrings

Haiti Fashion Week followed, providing another opportunity for Daphnee to showcase her work, this time, bigger, more expressive pieces – literally works of art.

Results-focused Business Strategies Key to Sustainability

As a graduate in Business Administration Daphnee understood that in addition to her creativity, running a successful accessories start-up required business savvy and strategic thinking. She needed to always be on the lookout for opportunities to gain visibility, and capable of producing new, exciting designs and advertising concepts that keep customers interested and attract new ones.

“Positioning is key,” she said. “Photoshoots utilising models have helped to increase sales, because they show potential customers how to wear the pieces.”

While Daphnee is in the business of art, she reminds other creatives that the key word is ‘business’. She therefore sets targets and produces reports detailing successes and failures of her product lines, allowing her to make the pivots necessary for continued growth like any other corporate entity.

“I studied management, and am now working towards my MBA, so my professional background definitely features in Bijou Lakay’s day-to-day operations, and is integral to its success,” she said.

Social Impact, the Greatest Achievement of all

In 2018, Forbes identified Daphnée as one of ten innovative Haitian entrepreneurs changing the narrative. This and other strategies have enabled Floreal to gain international recognition and Bijou Lakay is now available regionally, in Europe, North America and online.

Joutte collection 1

But as she works to expand Bijou Lakay’s international footprint, Daphnee remains focused on what’s most important, strengthening the brand’s social impact.

“My primary goal is to make a difference in my community,” she said. “We have more than eight artisans who work for us, who, without this work, could not afford to send their children to school.”

“Whenever I feel discouraged, I think about the artisans, and it’s one of the things that keep me motivated,” she shared.

Fusing Cultures in Bijou Lakay’s Future Plans

A primary goal for 2019 is therefore to increase the number of crafts people working with the company.

“We’re particularly focused on Africa and Latin America,” Floreal said. “We will still be a handmade line from Haiti, but these collaborations will facilitate a fusion of cultures through design, and I think that’s exciting.”

Visit the We-Xport booth at Bmex in June 2019 to see Bijou Lakay’s unique and exciting jewellery collections.

Follow Bijou Lakay’s progress, catch a glimpse of their pieces and/or make a purchase at: bijoulakayhaiti.com, and @ BijouLakay on Facebook and Instagram.

Willemsberg, the Surinamese Legacy Proving That Embracing Change is Key to Longevity

This Surinamese company first opened its doors in 1960, and at the time, Willemsberg founder, Leo Willemsberg imported white sugar. But when Suriname started producing its own sugar, Leo needed to find an alternative import, and opted for shelled peanuts.

By 1980, the next generation of Willemsbergs were at the helm of the company, and keen to start a more creative, entrepreneurial venture.

Willemsberg Managing Director Susan Tjong A Hung
Managing Director Susan Tjong A Hung

“My brother said why don’t we produce our own peanut butter; so instead of continuing to import peanuts for other peanut butter producers, we started our own factory,” Leo’s daughter, and Willemsberg Managing Director Susan Tjong A Hung shared.

They started with two varieties, first a creamy version, and then crunchy with chunks of peanuts in it. Next came a hot variety with pepper, and finally, diet versions were added.

Today, there are six varieties of Wippy Peanut Butter. The preservative free nut butter consists of 95% peanuts, is sold in over 1,500 shops and supermarkets across Suriname, and has grown to become a trusted, recognisable brand and a huge favourite with the Surinamese people.

How increased competition spurred exports
As more companies across Suriname started producing peanut butter, Wippy’s market share fell from 65 percent to 35. Whilst working on reclaiming five to 10 percent of the market through increased marketing events, such as supermarket tastings and health and wellness campaigns in schools, they have also turned their attention beyond Suriname’s shores to capture more sales.

“We have an excellent distributor,” Susan said. “They are the sole distributors for Coca Cola in Suriname, and they are doing a great job at pushing the Wippy brand.”

Distributor Fernandes has already taken Wippy into Guyana and is currently working on expanding their presence there.

With assistance from the Women Empowered Through Export (WE-Xport) programme, Willemsberg is now also looking to Europe to boost sales.

WE-Xport provides technical assistance, grant funding and training geared toward preparing women-owned Caribbean businesses for export.

Fosten Peanut butter. The Wippy brand is marketed as Fosten in The Netherlands.
Fosten branded peanut butter

“We had a lot of help from our WE-Xport coach, and this enabled us to export to The Netherlands,” Susan shared. “The coach guided us through the process and researched the documents and other requirements needed to export to and promote our product in Holland.”

Unable to sell in The Netherlands under the name “Wippy” because of its similarity to internationally-known peanut butter brand “Skippy”, the Willemsberg team registered the name “Fosten” – a reference to the traditional way of making peanut butter in Suriname.

With the necessary paperwork done and registration complete, Willemsberg exported their first palettes of over 6,000 jars of Fosten peanut butter to Holland where they are focused on the Surinamese diaspora of approximately 400,000.

Flexibility and teamwork, key to Willemsberg success

Willemsberg production personnel
Willemsberg production personnel

The ability to read and respond to market trends has played a crucial role in keeping Willemsberg in business for almost 60 years. But the true credit, says Susan, must be given to her 34 members of staff.

She offered up this nugget for other small business owners.

“Do not be afraid to trust and count on your management team and employees. Give them the opportunity to help, and to express their ideas,” she said. “Invest in your employees, guide, coach and always be honest with them, and you will see that this will reflect positively in your company’s performance.”

Visit the We-Xport booth at Bmex in June 2019 to learn more about the Wippy brand.

Find out more about the Willemsberg story and Wippy Peanut butter at: www.wippypindakaas.com and on Facebook and Instagram @wippypindakaas.