Look Ahead to BMEX: Haitian Jewellery Company Bijou Lakay
by Karen Rollins Apr 15, 2019
Haitian entrepreneur Daphnee Karen Floreal accidentally stumbled into business by doing what she loves.
In 2005, while studying for a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Daphnee was making jewellery as a hobby, a creative outlet that sometimes provided a much-needed break from academia.
When fellow students and others started noticing the unconventional pieces Daphnee crafted for herself, she unwittingly became her own best advertiser. Initially, she gave a few pieces away to interested persons but then started to sell them below market value to earn pocket money.
A dream come true
Daphnee dreamed of being a designer but believed it was impossible to earn a living as one in Haiti.
Her breakthrough came two years after she started making her pieces with the inaugural Artisanat en Fete, a craft trade show that brings greater visibility to the country’s artists and artisans.
“It is one of the events that I think gave me more exposure and helped me gain regular customers,” she says.
Daphnee’s work was innovative and attractive and as the youngest designer trading at the show, she garnered media attention which gave her business ‘Bijou Lakay’ the publicity it needed. She was soon transformed from a hobbyist into the chief executive officer and creative director of her own company.
Haiti Fashion Week provided Daphnee with another opportunity to showcase her work. This time she created bigger, more expressive pieces – literally works of art.
Focusing on growth
As a graduate in Business Administration Daphnee knew that in addition to her creativity, running a successful jewellery start-up required business savvy and strategic thinking. She needed to always be alert for new opportunities to gain visibility, and capable of putting together new, exciting designs along with conceptualising advertising ideas that keep customers interested while attracting new ones.
She adds: “Positioning is key. Photoshoots utilising models have helped to increase sales, because they show potential customers how to wear the pieces.”
While Daphnee is in the business of art, she reminds other creatives that the key word is “business”.
She focuses on setting targets and produces detailed reports charting the successes and failures of her product lines. This business acumen allows her to make the changes necessary for continued growth like any other corporate entity.
“I studied management, and am now working towards my MBA, so my professional background definitely features in Bijou Lakay’s day-to-day operations, and is integral to its success,” she says.
Making a difference
In 2018, Forbes identified Daphnee as one of ten innovative Haitian entrepreneurs changing the narrative of the country. This recognition, and other strategies, have garnered further international appreciation and Bijou Lakay has been able to grow into new markets within the Caribbean as well as Europe, North America and online.
But as she works to expand Bijou Lakay’s international footprint, Daphnee remains committed to also strengthening the brand’s social impact.
She explains: “My primary goal is to make a difference in my community. We have more than eight artisans who work for us, who, without this work, could not afford to send their children to school.
“Whenever I feel discouraged, I think about the artisans, and it’s one of the things that keeps me motivated.”
One of Daphnee’s main aims for 2019 is to increase the number of craftspeople working with the company.
“We’re particularly focused on Africa and Latin America,” Daphnee says. “We will still be a handmade line from Haiti, but these collaborations will facilitate a fusion of cultures through design, and I think that’s exciting.”
Visit the WE-Xport booth at the Barbados Manufacturer’s Exhibition (BMEX) in June 2019 to see Bijou Lakay’s jewellery. The WE-Xport programme is an initiative of the Caribbean Export Development Agency.