‘No shame in redundancy’ - Former junior architect crafts master plan in soap, candle business after losing job
Jo-Ann Morris stood in the background, watching as her mother tirelessly experimented with ingredients to make natural alternatives after suffering allergic reactions from store-bought soaps.
As she admired her mother’s work, the seeds were being sown for Morris to chart her own path, springing forth a small business which she is hoping will spread its branches across the globe.
“Seeing her experiment with the scents of the soaps and the colours, I decided to carry that over into candles,” Morris said, explaining the genesis of Rachael Lane’s Accessories.
“We were trying for a year with different combinations, giving it to friends and family for them to test it out, and then I went to JBDC to see where it could go, and then a year later, I saw the ad for Design Fusion,” Morris recalled.
The Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) is a state entity creating opportunities for entrepreneurs and small business owners to advance in the micro, small and medium enterprise sector. Design Fusion is one such programme. Launched in 2018, it exposes entrepreneurs like Morris to business development, financial management, product development and market readiness over a three-month period.
Between the application and acceptance period, Morris experienced the unexpected: she lost her job as a junior architect.
Undaunted by her sudden redundancy from the airport when it became privatised, Morris decided to take the business to the next level.
The brand, Rachael Lane, a combination of her middle name and her mother’s, was birthed.
“This is kinda me paying some homage to her. I want her to have something that is ours and, eventually, I want this to be our only jobs because she does ceramics, she paints, and she does soaps,” Morris explained.
Looking back, Morris considers the redundancy perfect timing.
“Even when I was working, I always knew that I wanted to do something for myself, but I didn’t know what it would be. Design Fusion takes place in the week, so I tell everybody that things kinda lined up perfectly, because if I was working, I wouldn’t be able to come,” she said at the 2019 Design Fusion closing ceremony last Wednesday, adding that attendance was mandatory for two days each week.
Rachael Lane’s Accessories specialises in handmade artisan soaps and candles, with its coffee fragrance candle, infused with sugar and cream, being among the brand’s bestsellers.
Overwhelmed by the magnitude of support and wealth of knowledge she gained from the three-month Design Fusion engagement, Morris said, “Whether they said we were a part of the JBDC family or not, I will be here because I need the help.
“It made me go places that I didn’t want to go. I wrote the brand story twice, and both times I tried to cut out the most important part, which was that the only reason I am here is because I lost my job. Doing that exercise, it really brought home the fact that it wasn’t something to be ashamed of, because I was ashamed of it for a very long time,” she explained as she tried to hold back her tears.
Her goal is for Rachael Lane to become a household brand and for locals and foreigners to turn to her products as potential gift items.