Fri | Oct 30, 2020

Jamaican-made Christmas gets bigger

Published:Thursday | November 29, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul H. Williams/Gleaner Writer
Sabrina Reynolds, owner, and designer at SMR Leather Design Ja, showcasing some of her products.
Synerna Blake, owner of Antillean Charmer, makers of ceramics items depicting Jamaican birds, flowers, and more, left her full-time job to mind her own pretty business.
Michelle Brown, CEO of REGGAETAW, makers of coal-roasted, spiced and pickled saltfish, looks on as her enthusiastic assistant, Kevan Malcolm, holds aloft bags of her products.
These candles by Laura Alexis have some very interesting aromas.
This patron seems happy with the result of the Wassi Curls solution being applied to her hair.

Christmas came early in Jamaica. For two days, Sunday, November 25 and Monday, November 26, when the Grand Jamaica Ballroom at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel was transformed into a grand pop-up market that sold only Jamaican-made items. Sponsored, organised, and hosted by the National Baking Company (NBC), the event is aptly named 'A Jamaican-Made Christmas', which showcases the skills and creativity of Jamaican artists, artisans, and other small business people. But it is not just about showcasing, it is mainly about marketing and making money.

"We have been lucky to be in a position to give back to small local businesses as we understand the challenges that most small businesses face," Butch Hendrickson, chief executive officer of the National Baking Company, says in his message.

These sentiments were echoed by Tiffany Wong with whom The Gleaner spoke on day two.

Wong, who is in charge of special projects in the office of the chairman of the company, said the platform was created, four years ago to expose the products and services of small businesses and to create marketing opportunities for them. She encouraged Jamaicans to buy Jamaican and support their own. And the support seems to be growing.

The number of patrons on the first day was approximately 2,000, just about the total number that attended over the two days last year. There was also a significant increase in the number of exhibitors this year.

"We managed to once again increase the number of participating exhibitors and will be introducing an even wider variety of locally made products for Jamaicans to browse, purchase and enjoy," Hendrickson says. There were over 59 exhibitors in the ballroom and a few more in the foyer. And this year, there were submissions from about 400 small businesses.


Entrepreneurship on the rise


"This is an indication that entrepreneurs and Jamaica's manufacturing industry is on the rise. It is our pleasure to support these local businesses in any way we can while providing Jamaicans with an opportunity to interact with and support these small-business owners," Hendrickson says.

To get selected, exhibitors have to go through an application and selection process. Once selected, they are required to pay a $20,000, 100-per-cent-refundable fee to secure the space. Patrons pay $1,200 at the gate but are given back two vouchers valued at $500 each to spend with any vendor. It is a "mandatory minimum spend," Wong said.

So, for whatever it is worth, some spending must take place.

To the exhibitors and vendors, Hendrickson, in the said message, implores: "Get ready, use this opportunity to establish relationships with as many customers as possible. Show them what you are made of, literally and figuratively."

When The Gleaner visited late Monday morning, the bumper crowd was not yet in, but the aisles were already teeming with patrons who were giving the exhibitors all their attention. The exhibitors were showing off their exquisite Jamaican-made items and making some early Christmas money, at the same time.