Sun | Dec 5, 2021

Final-year UWI chemistry student pushes craftwork

Published:Monday | March 22, 2021 | 12:19 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston/Gleaner Writer
Craft items produced by Shane Miller, a final-year student at The University of the West Indies, Mona.
Craft items produced by Shane Miller, a final-year student at The University of the West Indies, Mona.

Shane Miller, like many young persons living in Cottage, St Elizabeth, felt hopeless. But rather than sit idly on the street corner and complain about the lack of opportunities, he took a chance and applied for available scholarships and grants, which have assisted his tertiary-education endeavour. Today, he is a final-year chemistry student at The University of the West Indies, Mona.

But shortly after he started university, he launched a handicraft business, specialising in straw craft by using raw materials such as dry coconut leaves and thatch.

“The brand goes by the tagline: ‘The ultimate place where your curiosity will be crafted’. As such, Stevos Weavos offers a wide range of products, and these include handbags, baskets (clothes, fruit, picnic), bowls, bread trays, hats (beach, farm), mats (floor, table, round, long), coasters, baby bassinet, and so much more. It is a business that encourages potential customers to come with their curiosity, and I will just craft it for them,” he shared about the business that he said his friends, after seeing his talent, encouraged him to pursue.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has made life difficult for many entrepreneurs, Miller said his business has thrived. Now, in 2021, his goal is to expand and push the business to the wider public. While he believes that his craft business will someday be super successful, he said his parents never saw it as a viable career path for him. He confessed that he initially did it as a side hustle, and so only did it for the season it was in demand.

“My parents envisioned me in a teaching or a medical career. Therefore, doing craft is not a shock for them, but at this point in my life, they see it as a side business. But they do support my career choices if I am keeping it honest and it makes me happy,” he told The Gleaner.

Family tradition

Alongside pursuing his chemistry studies, the young entrepreneur is nurturing his craft-making business, as Miller said he believes in having multiple sources of income.

“This type of art is a part of my family tradition for over four decades. As such, I have decided to continue its legacy by moving it to be a more online based and promote it to a wider audience. My family did not see it as a business, but as I see it now. With the proper marketing, it can be made into something more than a business, a company,” he shared.

Pointing out that it is not the average career job for a university student, he said he finds the straw-making business to be a very lucrative and fast-growing one.

“I can say that not many people out there are doing weaving and more so, a tertiary-level male student. So, that goes to show that not many are offering the products that I am offering,” he shared, pointing out the environmentally friendly aspect of his products. He said it promotes recycling as he utilises dry coconut leaves, plastic bags, thatch – raw materials that are free.

Still, the business doesn’t come without challenges, the main one being delivery of the products for clients.

“I use the postal service express shipping and that has worked well with me, thus far. Parish-to-parish shipping has also worked, but some persons complain that their products were damaged or mishandled,” he said.

Miller said he is encouraged by the responses from clients who are amazed at his products that are made from raw materials.