Jamaican wood company launches crowdfunding campaign
A ‘Brand Jamaica’ ambassador is appealing to the public for support to help unemployed youth while keeping Jamaican merchandise authentic.
Bartley's All in Wood Managing Director, Lacy-Ann Bartley, has launched an online crowdfunding campaign to grow her business to supply the demand for Jamaican craft in the hotel industry and employ more young men. Based in Mandeville, the 28 year-old 'woodpreneur' told The Gleaner: “Bartley's All in Wood is appealing for help because crowdfunding is an excellent way to get the community involved in social enterprise. It is also difficult for an SME with little collateral to get a loan. We have an increased demand for our pieces but they are required to be engraved. With this increased demand, we can hire and train more people however, we need the engraving machine to meet the demand."
The company is hoping to raise US$3000 in the next two weeks in order to buy the machine and restart its training programme for at-risk rural males.
“I grew up in the woodwork shop with my father and many apprentices. I saw how he helped them and the difference learning a skilled made in their lives, which helped fuel my desire to help. I want to expand the business into a large factory and train and employ more young people," said Bartley.
She noted lack of jobs and crime are real issues that gravely affect youth. Jamaica has the highest number of youth convicted of crime in the region, according to the UNDP Caribbean Human Development Report 2012.
“Here at Bartley’s’ we offer hope, skills, purpose and an alternative to crime. Not only are we helping stem youth unemployment, but we are also a community business, which means the income we earn is distributed throughout the community,” she said.
Using the motto, 'Outta Many One Wood', Bartley adds: “Young people who have taken the step to educate themselves with a vocational skill, should be rewarded with employment opportunities and I want to help. Change is not about talk only, but action; touching young people’s lives requires getting involved in a real way”.
The University of the West Indies graduate, who recently completed a masters, said it had always been her dream to take over the family furniture business, spearheaded by her father Stanford Bartley.
“Over the last four years, Bartley’s has evolved from a fledgling furniture shop into an eco-friendly wood work business in Jamaica with major corporate clients," she said. Today, it is a known name in wood work and a member of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association."
Bartley works with an array of genuine Jamaican wood types and said their custom made furniture and jewellery is hand-made and feature both contemporary and traditional designs.
"We have different colours, different shapes and another opportunity is local craftsmanship. I want to showcase this in our products,” she said. “I want to manufacture with my customer in mind. My lines will include household and office items such as bowls, kitchen utensils, pen holders and promotional items made by Jamaican youth.”
Bartley believes it's important to keep Brand Jamaica authentic because tourism is the main income earner.
"It is important we offer an authentic and truly Jamaican tourism product. Why should a guest come to Jamaica and get a souvenir stamped 'Made in China'? With an engraving machine, we can emboss our pieces with the hotel’s logos, Jamaica and other Jamaican motifs faster and easier and ensure tourists who visit our island get Jamaican gifts made by Jamaican labour from Jamaican wood”.
A Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship participant, Bartley concludes: “I believe there is an opportunity for Jamaican furniture to win an international reputation because the industry is valued at J$107 billion. However, there is so much room for growth and together we can all make a difference.”