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Businesswise | From crisis to opportunity: How chik-V kick-started a new business

Published:Sunday | February 7, 2016 | 2:00 AM
Gianna Fakhourie poses with her products.

At a recent business networking event I came across the most fascinating example of how one entrepreneur transformed a personal crisis into a business opportunity. What was even more intriguing was that in the three months since launching what she describes as a "fun and happy business to be in" she has out-earned her annual teaching salary. That's not to say she's getting rich overnight, as her earnings aren't profits and her salary was already quite modest to begin with. However, her accomplishments to date are nothing short of commendable and inspiring.

Like many Jamaicans, Gianna Fakhourie contracted the chikungunya virus in 2014, and unfortunately, developed further complications and suffered chronic and debilitating pain for most of 2015.

The pain drove her to explore several alternative medicinal approaches, one of which was the use of healing gem stones.

She created an armful of colourful gemstone bracelets, infusing different beads and trinkets to add visual interest and style. Surprised by how attractive they were and proud of her handiwork, she posted photos of her creations on Facebook and Instagram, and was overwhelmed by the requests from friends to purchase similar bracelets.

"Yaneek, when I went out people started buying them off my hand, literally. I wasn't even ready to price them before they were sold," shared Gianna.

Encouraged by the demand and motivated to boost her earnings to help cover her rising medical and physiotherapy costs from chik-V complications, she decided to launch her new business 'The Original Arm Candy by Gianna Fakhourie' in September 2015.

It's not just the circumstances which led to her finding this business opportunity that are intriguing, but also that she was able to start with no formal training in jewellery making and the barest of human and financial resources.

With just US$350 worth of raw materials, a few hours watching tutorials on YouTube, and the drive to capitalise on the demand for her bracelets, her business was born. Gianna didn't start with a single employee, investor, formal workspace, or any assembly machinery.

Now, almost fully recovered from chik-V, she spends hours on end making product, promoting her bracelets, and taking orders on social media, and selling via pop-up displays and expos in Kingston. She created a men's line, and has scores of wholesale and retail orders lined up for Valentine's sales.

Gianna has also moved swiftly to expand her distribution by inking deals with 6 retail stores in Kingston, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, which all now carry her products.

With a strong background in retail and design and multiple international business connections, her sights are now firmly set on global wholesale and retail opportunities, starting with our major trading partners, the USA.

CAPITALISING ON ELECTIONS

Gianna has also sought to capitalise on election season by producing bracelets made from green and orange rubberised glass and wood, with accent beads representing the victory signs for the respective political parties.

Some of the beads for her election bracelets were handmade by one of her former students, as she insists her immediate plans include sourcing as many inputs as possible from Jamaica.

Later this year she plans to hire and train staff, launch a website from which she can sell directly and expand into other product lines such as handbags, bow ties, scarves and other accessories.

When asked what advice she had for anyone who dreams of starting a business but is daunted by the fear of failure and limited resources, she offered this:

"My advice is to explore all opportunities, you never know what will be a hit. If something doesn't work, rework and try again, don't give up. Some people say they have bills to meet and no money is coming in, but if you focus on bills, that's all you will see and have. What you give focus to is what grows, so focus on earning and start doing the best with what you have."

One love!

Yaneek Page is an entrepreneur and trainer, and creator-executive producer of The Innovators TV series. Email: yaneek.page@gmail.com Twitter: @yaneekpage Website: www.yaneekpage.com