Coffee break chat: Entrepreneur Celia Collymore
If you looked up the word ‘enthusiasm’ in the dictionary you’d probably see a photo of Barbadian entrepreneur Celia Collymore, the founder of fitness, lifestyle and event management company ‘Bajan Fusion‘.
Celia is passionate about everything health-wise, and this is the drive behind all of her projects, which are designed to get as many people as possible taking care of their minds and bodies through dance, aerobic and adventure activities.
Celia, who is also a basketball player, shared her fitness mission with Yello and revealed why she’s so determined to get as many people as possible on the path to good health.
What inspired you to come up with ‘Bajan Fusion’?
I was living in America for 13 years and one day a colleague told me about his fitness class at New York Sports Club, where the instructor was starting a movement which played soca and reggae music, and he invited me along.
After taking part in a flash mob to promote the brand, where I had a blast, I went to an actual class. I had a great time, but I realised there weren’t many people there who looked like me but they were enjoying Caribbean music.
I was excited by the energy of the class and decided that I needed to bring the concept to Barbados, because I could see it as an avenue to get people to visit the island, while also promoting fitness and dance.
I met up with the instructor to discuss it, and she was excited about coming to the Caribbean. I didn’t know where to start but I was sure the concept could work.
I came up with the name Bajan Fusion because I was fusing my Bajan roots with different cultures.
What happened next?
I moved back to Barbados a few weeks later. At the end of October 2011, I attended a networking conference held by the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation, to spread the word about my idea and make sure people knew about me and what I wanted to do.
I connected with Jerry Blenman, who saw the value of my idea for the local population, and he asked me to write a proposal. I sent everything over to him, in terms of what I wanted to do, and he put something together for me.
Then I reached out to various organisations to secure sponsorship but it was difficult to get anyone interested because people didn’t really know me. I got told ‘no’ a lot of times between November and May.
Eventually I got financial support from ICBL, which covered the logistics of the first event, but I had to invest my own money to pay for the instructor to come over. The project eventually came off in June 2012 but because of all the setbacks the number of interested people from New York dwindled from 80 to about 10.
After that I had to stop working with the instructor because she started making demands which I couldn’t meet, and that was a bitter pill to swallow. It was all such a steep learning curve but I found out who I could work with and who I could trust.
How did you get into offering adventure activities?
I met a blogger who was writing about zip lining in Barbados and when I looked into it I thought it would be a great way to keep Bajan Fusion’s name out there and grow the business.
Between September and December 2012 I planned a hike, zip lining and a trip to Harrison’s Cave. It attracted local people, who are here but had never done anything like those activities before, so I realised I was onto something.
On December 31st 2012 I registered the business and then the work really began, because before that I was really just testing out ideas.
I planned more events for local people, like paintballing, caving and mountain biking, and Bajan Fusion became an adventure company.
At the start I found it hard to get people to buy into some of the activities because they were scared, but I used to say ‘just try it’, because it was all new to me as well. I learnt along with everyone else, so people saw that you can only grow when you challenge yourself.
And now you teach fitness classes too?
It really bothered me that my business was not exactly what I envisioned and I really wanted to go back to the dance element. One day my mentor just said that if I really wanted to offer fitness sessions then I should become an instructor and choreograph routines by myself.
I was reluctant because I’d never tried anything like that before, but I decided that it would be a good way to challenge myself. I listened to some music and worked out routines. The first wellness session I held was through a friend who was working at Deloitte.
I’m also on the Ministry of Health’s taskforce on physical activity and exercise, and through its ‘Get Women Moving’ campaign I’ve connected with a lot of people, and taught some of them how to plan their own fitness sessions and events for their communities.
In July 2015 I started a dance, fitness bootcamp in my neighbourhood in Checker Hall, St Lucy and a year later in April 2016, I moved my classes to St. Peter and about 500 women have now come through.
Do you have any new projects?
My newest venture is called ‘FITtrepreneur’ which is a spin off from Bajan Fusion.
It’s aimed at helping entrepreneurs get fit for business holistically by finding out how they feel, and giving them support, because a lot of the time no-one sees the challenges and everything you go through.
We want people to come along and have honest conversations about the issues they are facing such as financing, relationships, or marketing, and find ways to fix those challenges and develop new opportunities.
What’s your motto in life?
You’ve got to be in it, to win it! The only way you’ll move forward is if you put yourself out there, because nothing comes to you if you stand still, so believe in who you are and what you do.
I can take care of me but my bigger passion is taking care of other people and helping them get to the next level.
What do you do on your days off?
People are always asking me ‘what do you do for fun?’ but my business is fun!
When I want to switch off I go cycling, to the beach or spend time with my aunt who raised me. When I relax I try not to feel guilty, because I’m always thinking and planning, which is mentally draining.
What do you love about Barbados?
The beaches, the food, the sea. I love my country and I’m very proud to be Bajan.
I think you especially appreciate who you are when you leave home, so moving overseas made me even more proud of my identity, and I always shared what it meant to be from Barbados with people I met.
What’s your hope for Barbados in the future?
We need more leaders who can make the uncomfortable and unpopular decisions but for the benefit of the greater good.
We’re in a slump right now, economically and on every level, but the only way we can get out of it, is if everyone takes responsibility for themselves, their families and their immediate circle.
If you want better you need to do better, think about what better looks like and feels like, not just for yourself, but for others.
We have a lot of potential but we need to dig a little deeper, get out of our comfort zone, and definitely take more risks.
Below are some of the activities Bajan Fusion will be holding from May – July 2018.
Visit the ‘Bajan Fusion’ Facebook page for more information