So just like that, the world has changed. The new coronavirus, COVID-19, caught us all off-guard didn’t it? Many brands and businesses all over the planet including Barbados are in a lurch right now.
So this episode is a little different. First I’ll share some perspectives from a few of my previous interviewees to hear what COVID-19 means or has meant for their businesses. Then I'll talk about what brand marketers should keep in mind now as a result of this global pandemic.
Jasmine Evelyn, the Founder of Mindful Movement Physiotherapy and Yoga Practice is my guest on this episode of Backstage with Bajan Brands. I've been following this young physiotherapist on Instagram for about a year now. A few things appeal to me. She has a background in dance, which I have, she practises yoga, which I do, she specialises in physiotherapy for pelvic health, which I find fascinating, and she just really seems to enjoy doing what she does.
This is the first time that I’m interviewing a guest via Skype and of course it’s because I’m practising physical distancing as a result of COVID-19, so if the quality is a bit wonky at times I apologise but there’s a whole lot to learn here so stick it out and listen to the end.
They make cheese in Barbados?! That’s the response my next guest on the podcast gets when she shows up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at international cheese events. That’s the response she got from me when I first sampled her products at a very popular all-inclusive event during Barbados’ Crop-Over festival 4 years ago. Andrea Power isn’t shy about her love for dairy. She grew up milking cows with her dad, who was the consummate DIY guy, always culling things together to make something new. So it’s probably no surprise that his daughter’s love for a little experimentation landed her on a product that has now morphed into the Hatchman’s Premium Cheeses brand.
In November 2019 I saw an ad on Instagram that I’ll admit got me pretty excited. Part of the caption read - “Living Bliss Barbados is the first and only furniture retail company in Barbados to offer you a full 3D image of your furniture online. We also offer customization options online and a price is generated right at your fingertips.”
So, of course, I had to find out who was behind this new Bajan brand and luckily I found her. Ashlee Joseph-Ifill is the owner of and the brains powering the Living Bliss Barbados furniture retail concept. Ashlee is my guest on this episode of Backstage with Bajan Brands. Listen to the conversation.
It was 2017 and I was preparing for a big company opening event. I wanted each guest to leave with something special, something local, something beautiful and something almost everyone could enjoy. In my search for that special thing, I came across Jem’s gourmet chocolates.
I made the call to Melissia Batson the founder of Jem’s and with her guidance decided on a few custom options to include in the swag bag. When they arrived I was so impressed with the presentation and packaging and the chocolates themselves were beautiful and delicious.
Fast forward to 2018 as I browsed a supermarket shelf and was pleasantly surprised to find Infusion dark chocolates, a brand from Jems in really playful and appealing packaging.
I’m fortunate to share with you the wonderful conversation I had with Melissia of Jem’s gourmet chocolates on this latest episode of Backstage with Bajan Brands. Listen in.
My guests on this week’s episode have created a Street Food brand using a new take on an old sidewalk favourite in Barbados - corn on the cob. Traditionally it’s heavily roasted or steamed and bathed in butter. But Halley Franklyn and Rachael Kennedy the co-owners and life partners behind Cobz Street Corn are doing something a lot different with corn these days. While they’re still located street side both the corn and the experience are night and day compared to the customary way. It all began with a trip abroad and a taste of a Mexican elote - grilled or steamed corn on the cob with flavourful toppings.
The Cobz visual branding, quirky social media posts, and colourful corn photography first put this brand on my radar. Halley and Rachael somehow found time in their hectic week to chat with me. Listen in.
Nichole Murray had a health scare some years ago that sent her digging back into our Bajan bush tea roots. She’s better now and her resulting Naturinda’s brand of teas is quickly evolving into diverse lines of health-focused beverages. You’ll want to listen to Nichole, she’s engaging, emphatic about her mission, and completely open about the challenges of her business and the brand-building process. We had a fantastic chat over guess what...tea of course. Listen in.
Melinda Belle is an intriguing lady and entrepreneur of 7 years. Starting out with her company Astrape Finance offering accounting and financial management for small businesses she's now also known for the Money Matters with Melinda community and the ImageUp Summit. When it comes to building a personal brand in her niche, she's killin' it! Well known large financial services companies in Barbados have noticed her influence too and they seek her out to connect with customers and employees. So it was such a treat to interview her for Backstage with Bajan Brands and I hope listening to the chat Melinda and I had will be a treat for you too.
Locally, there are several emerging handmade soap producers operating mainly from home. One of these has named her young brand “Dawn by Nature” and it has become a personal favourite of mine. Two of the products quieted the terrible itching caused by an allergic reaction I had earlier this year that resulted in a breakout on my arms, chest and legs. Continued use also visibly reduced the splotches that were left behind. I spoke with founder of 'Dawn by Nature' , Dawn-Dew Thompson, for this first episode of season 2 of Backstage with Bajan Brands.
Real Estate development company Apex Construction Inc. started operations in 1988 in the midst of a middle-class home building explosion in Barbados. Today 30 years on the company is still intensely focused on the market it wanted to serve back then -. the typical middle-class Barbadian family with dreams of owning an affordable and finished home. In this week’s episode of ‘Backstage with Bajan Brands’, Managing Director of Apex, Benjamin Niles, talks to me about how they intend to keep driving the cost of homes down to keep serving that market. Talk about holding a position.
If you’ve ever shopped in the commercial centre of Barbados’ capital Bridgetown, you may be familiar with the two often contrasted and most popular streets. Broad Street, considered more ‘high brow’ and Swan Street, known for one-door bargain shops.
Well, Harmony a small ladies clothing retail store was an anomaly on Swan Street when I discovered it a decade ago with its attractive storefront, walkable layout, carpeted dressing room, knowledgeable and attractively uniformed store assistants. It was like high street retail that didn’t yet really exist on the high street in Bridgetown at the time.
So I was excited to sit down with the co-owners Shyam and Varsha Mahtani just a few weeks after the launch of their second store at Sheraton Mall in Christ Church. It’s been a busy year for the husband and wife team with the new store, renovations to the main store, a 50th anniversary celebration and a rebrand. In this 5th episode of ‘Backstage with Bajan Brands’, they walk me through what has kept Harmony thriving.
Multi-media consultant Rachelle Mayers founded Mayers Media Inc. 7 years ago in Barbados after a whirlwind run in the entertainment industry in Jamaica. Rachelle is a tech head, a creative and a solopreneur extraordinaire. She’s expanded her personal skill set in videography, film-making, editing and directing and has established strong professional partnerships to create exceptional content for mainly corporate clients.
You’ll usually find Rachelle behind the camera or directing a team or working with a client to develop concepts. You’ll even see her in front of camera conducting interviews or occasionally hosting. But in this episode I catch Rachelle in her office working on a Saturday and put her in the ‘Backstage with Bajan Brands’ hot seat to tell the Mayers Media brand story.
In Barbados the name Nicholls is synonymous with bread and more specifically salt bread, a Bajan (Barbadian) favourite for tummy-filling sandwiches we call cutters. Harold Nicholls founded Nicholls Baking Co. in Antigua in 1958, but then relocated to Barbados where the business has been operating since 1967. There’s no question of its longevity, but it’s the corporate brand’s most recent moves that have caught my attention. Before 2014, when I heard the name Nicholls I’d just think ‘old-fashioned’, now, the “traditional bakery, fusing modern equipment with yesteryear baking skills” (company Facebook page) has decisively upped its brand game. And it’s done this by owning that position of tradition and building on it. In this 3rd episode of 'Backstage with Bajan Brands', Melanie Springer of Brownest Eye Productions, the company tasked with the 2017 Nicholls Baking Co. rebrand shares a bit about that process.
In this second episode of Backstage with Bajan Brands I chat with husband and wife team Empress Zingha and DJ Simmons. They founded Gine On?! the online magazine, 2 years ago to feature upcoming arts events in Barbados, along with the artists involved in them. Pretty much a round-up of what's going on in Barbados, or as we locals say "Wuh Gine on". From an online magazine, Gine On?! has now become an online media outlet and is growing beyond their expectations. We talk about where they started, how they see Gine On?! the brand growing and what else is in store.
Brand and Design Consultant Ann-Marie King was the lady behind the incredible development of Barbadian agribusiness brand, Carmeta's. I recently wrote a Linkedin article on why Carmeta's with its range of gluten-free flours, flour mixes, cookies, cakes and desserts, all processed from local produce, and its seasoned meats, is one of my favourite Bajan brands.
On this first episode of Backstage with Bajan Brands, Ann-Marie shares her thought process during the development stages Carmeta's. We also talk about how she got into the marketing profession and what's next for her and her business AEK Consulting.