Sacha Walters-Gregory, Staff Reporter
Dorrette Ubanks has crafted a new business from a combination of leather, courage and faith.
The former human-resource vice-president was made redundant after working at a real-estate company in Miami, Florida.
"The real-estate market went down and they sent me around to lay everybody off. I laid off about 1,700 people and one morning it was my turn," Ubanks said.
The 59-year-old was not quite sure where she wanted to go professionally, but she knew the corporate world was no longer her calling.
With a combination of chance, nightly dreams and persistence, Ubanks stumbled upon creating leather sandals, which would eventually become her company D'NexStep, Sandals and Accessories, makers of handcrafted leather accessories.
Ubanks sought the help of various shoe manufacturers in the United States, who gave her advice on making shoes, something she knew little about. But she kept at it, aiming to create a comfortable sandal. Ubanks, who designs but doesn't make the sandals, has found great craftsmen, to execute her designs.
"It's just as if God has blessed it, and whenever I say I'm going to throw the towel in, something happens to put me back on track," Ubanks said, who had initially tried to distribute the sandals in the United States but withdrew after this was unsuccessful. She also struggled to get to a comfortable place where the production of the sandals are concerned.
Today she employs two persons full time and one part-time who make each slipper by hand.
She said her team is integral in the creation of the sandals, and they hope to grow even further.
"I've come a long way in a short time," she explained as her production area has been housed since last October in a small two-room set-up within her uncle's business place.
She says her inspiration for her sandals come from all over, and currently she is working on two new lines: one called Simple, which is self-explanatory and Wild Out which includes sandals embellished with animal-print fabric and studs.
"We try to make you have more comfortable shoes," she said, explaining that the insoles are leather, and the inside of the sole is padded.
"What also makes us unique is the fact we make bigger sizes. We do up to size 14, but, of course, those are custom-made designs and cost more," she said.
The shoes are available in Kamit Revisited in Little Premier Plaza in Kingston, Things Jamaican (Norman Manley International Airport) and Heel It (Shop 53, Ocean Village Shopping Centre, Ocho Rios)
The slippers range from $4,000 to $8,000.
Contact: 295-4689/574-1114, website: www.dnexstep.com, facebook: dnexstep.