children take a break among the craft items.
of the artwork available.
Hat Queen Cheryl-Ann Johnson checks one of her creations.
Photos: Wesley Gibbings
The term CSME will hardly ever arise in a conversation
with The Hat Queen, Cheryl-Ann Johnson, but her experience
as a premier manufacturer of woven caps and hats is known
throughout the Southern Caribbean as part of an export thrust
that thrives despite the faltering integration project.
Over the past eight years, Johnsons favourite markets
have become St Vincent and Grenada. Her frequent forays almost
always yield 100 per cent in sales involving at least 100
hats per trip. Hows that for a sales record?
Like many entrepreneurs featured at the Trans-Atlantic Expo
2006, which was hosted by the Emancipation Support Committee
(ESC) at the Hasely Crawford Stadium from July 27 to August
1, the Arima-based entrepreneur may also not belong to a high-profile
business grouping, but she has a lesson or two to teach about
creativity and resilience.
Johnson designs and assembles the hats and caps, manages the
accounts and does all the marketing and sales. Her only wish
is that available, affordable outlets should be constructed
throughout the country to ensure more widespread exposure
to her products.
Once a street vendor, Johnson said constant police harassment
eventually helped move her business to another level.
Being female and African, she told Business Guardian, has
never been a disadvantage for her. Its a
question she quite readily dismissed.
Shoemaker, Roland Warner of San Fernando, who has teamed up
with Johnson also has his eyes set on an international market.
is definitely scope overseas, he said of his shoe, sandal
and leather-craft business.
Operating in a saturated business, further challenged by recent
Guyanese competition, Johnson said the creativity bar is constantly
being raised. If you have to compete, you must be the
best, he said.
Such a designation is aptly claimed by Jesse Samuel of Caribbean
Pottery. Samuel is a self-taught artist (I born with
this) who has teamed up with Vivica Yearwood to create
an outstanding array of ceramic ornaments from scratch.
The ten-year-old, Caroni-based enterprise manufactures high-end
ceramic products commissioned by local art lovers and retail
outlets in St Vincent. The work produced by this operation
is comparable with anything like it anywhere in the world.
A Web site is currently being developed to promote the company
and its work in international markets where Samuel believes
the future action resides.
think Caricom has opportunities, Samuel said, but
we are also looking at the rest of the world.
Janice Kelly-Thong of Petrose Designs of Morvant knows the
story well. After 15 years in the arts and craft business,
the company launched into the Caribbean African
garment industry and it has been smooth sailing so far.
Petrose Designs has exhibited at trade fairs in the United
States, St Kitts and St Lucia and Kelly-Thong believes that
the only assistance required from anyone is in the area of
She lamented the fact that official agencies here focus almost
exclusively on access to financewhich is understandable,
she saidbut that not enough accent is being placed on
creating marketing avenues for small, local entrepreneurs.
and large, Kelly-Thong however said, we saw the
potential and we are doing this on our own.
Kelisha Heywood, who assists in managing Pets African
Store together with her mother, Petronilla Heywood, also had
Business has been excellent over the last two
years. Pets specialises in African wear imported mainly
She said the exposition provided a good opportunity to showcase
the company and reported that sales were at least as good
as the 2005 edition of the event.
The exposition originated from an ESC decision in 2000 to
establish a series of symposia focused on business and
economic development to coincide with the annual commemoration
of emancipation in the Caribbean, according to its Web
idea is to transform this region that was once the core of
a notorious triangular trade into an axis of economic growth
capable of meeting the challenges of globalisation, empowering
indigenous entrepreneurs and creating more equitable societies.
Entrepreneurs exhibiting at the Trans-Atlantic Expo are not
inclined to use such language. Their performance appears to
speak loudly enough.