Emerging Entrepreneurs | Khristina Godfrey - Merchandising Jamaica's urban culture
Today, The Gleaner continues its series on individuals, aged 20-29 years, who have successfully started business ventures and are experiencing steady growth. If you know someone who should be featured, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A lover of times long before her own, a 22-year-old past Wolmerian has found her niche at vividly portraying Jamaican culture in her merchandise.
Khristina Godfrey, a holder of a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Edna Manley School of the Visual Performing Arts founded 'HeavyMannaz' in 2015.
"Before the manufacturing of bags, my interest was deeply entrenched in Jamaica's history of politics and how it impacted on violence in Jamaica - which dictates the content of the bags," Godfrey told The Gleaner:
She added: "Most graduates are faced with the infamous 'what next' question, which enabled me to become more innovative in developing as a young creative person while capitalising on the underdeveloped creative industry in Jamaica. So I began the research on numerous international and local brands to understand the market place and draw inspiration in creating my own brand of Jamaican made products. I also taught myself to sew through trial and error."
The HeavyMannaz brand captures the graphic urban culture of some of Jamaica's history in the 1970s and 1980s. At its core is the rebellious aesthetic of the correlation between politics and violence, through a collage of archival information. They produce timely collections of limited edition canvas bags with unique features that illustrate the narratives of this story.
The Portmore resident unearthed her business in 2015 to the start up tune of around $200,000.
"My methodology was very much that of Bootstrapping, so I used income generated from freelancing as a loan to start my business venture."
... Wi have dem under mannaz
Khristina Godfrey currently operates her business from home though HeavyMannaz products are available at Artstock and National Gallery Gift shop in Kingston. Older persons will remember the late former Prime Minister Michael Manley's " Heavy mannaz" and the song made popular during his regime, "Wi have dem under mannaz ... heavy, heavy mannaz..." which was a musical whipping of his opponents.
The witty business prodigy draws on both local and foreign sources of inspiration in her pursuit of creative conquest.
She disclosed: "As a creative entrepreneur, I draw inspiration from every and anything. However, characters from the 70s and 80s era are my biggest inspiration. Korean based creators of IISE Seoul, Supreme, founders and creators of Revvee Jewellery and many creators taking a new approach to niche products. One of my biggest local business inspirations would be Gary 'Butch' Hendrickson his ideologies on business and national development are certainly commendable."
In stating the pull factors to the field, Godfrey cites the earning potential of bag manufacturing on the local and international market along with the cloud nine feeling the each end product brings.
"The marketplace is demanding more unique Jamaican made products that have the same quality or supersedes the sameness of international mass produced products available. Aside from that, Jamaicans love bags and appreciate art that holds substance. Also, the business of creating and innovating gives me an absolute high. You are challenged to create a product that is both functional and breaking the norms. It's a joy to create products that get consumers excited and receive great responses as young creative.
The HeavyMannaz movement is greatly supported by young professionals and older persons who can relate to the depictions from decades past.
In imparting words of wisdom to young business hopefuls, Godfrey told The Gleaner: "For young business persons who are manufacturing in apparel, art and fashion should continue investing in themselves, make a business plan, do extensive research on micro business opportunities that various establishments offer. There are various opportunities available through business and manufacturing corps such as JBDC (Jamaica Business Development Corporation), and large companies such as National Baking Company who support the development of Jamaican made products at the micro level."
- As a young company, the biggest achievement is having products available in two stores in Kingston Artstock and National Gallery of Jamaica's Gift shop.
- HeavyMannaz has also successfully showcased products in two major trade shows, Christmas in July and National Bakery's Jamaica-Made Christmas.
- HeavyMannaz has also been featured on Smile Jamaica Morning time and 'Talk up Yout' radio show where the products received overwhelming responses.
Things to do as emerging entrepreneurs
- Make a business plan: One of our biggest problems is lack of planning. But planning will aid in outlining goals and steer you in a direction of understanding what you intend to do. Making a plan helped me to physically force me to vocalise my vision.
- Network: Networking is a powerful tool in breaking the marketplace, nobody will know about your vision until you start talking excessively about it to other people.
- Invest in yourself: Investing in yourself means using your resources to aid your development, if that may be saving, acquiring equipment and/or an education.
Things not to do as emerging entrepreneurs
- Time-wasting: Time is the only asset that once used, cannot be regained so use it wisely.
- Be patient: Patience is key, fast money gets you nowhere. Rome was not built in a day, Steve Jobs taught me that.
- Doubtfulness: Try not to become dishearten by lack of capital, make a plan and develop ingenious ways to work with low capital.