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Yello Interviews: Marissa Carter, Founder of Potted Strings

by Karen Rollins May 9, 2022

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Marissa Carter

Marissa Carter started learning the art of macramé four years ago when she gave up her nursing career to start a family.

Marissa did not intend to sell her creations, but after her husband suggested she advertise her plant hangers on social media, people began placing orders, and Marissa launched her micro enterprise Potted Strings.

Since then, Marissa has expanded her product line and now produces wall hangings, bags, cushion covers, earrings, and keyrings from macramé cord.

Marissa chatted with Yello about her life as a wife, mother, and small business owner.

Describe yourself in one sentence.

I am more resilient than I thought!

Please tell us a bit about your childhood.

I was born in Queens, New York. I grew up there for a little while, and then my family moved to Barbados.

We lived in the country, on the border of St George and St John, in a little quiet village where everybody knew everybody. It was a great place to grow up because my twin sister and I got to run around, climb trees, pick fruit, and play cricket. It was a fun childhood.

I went to Lodge School, which was a stone’s throw from where I lived, and then onto Barbados Community College, where I studied nursing.

What were your initial career plans?

I always wanted to do nursing, but I have no idea why, and when I got into it, I realised that it’s a lot!

I just always had a caring personality and was very empathetic towards my siblings, friends, and animals, so I went into nursing to take care of people.

However, when I went to community college right from school, at the age of 16, nearly 17, it was a huge culture shock because there is so much more to nursing than just taking care of people!

I left community college after four years and went straight into working at the Geriatric Hospital. Then I worked at Sparman Clinic and Sandy Crest Medical Centre before going to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where I eventually specialised in gynaecology.

I left nursing to start a family, but it is something I’m still passionate about, even though it’s not the career path I stayed on. After my first baby, I just decided to be a stay-at-home mum.

Were you always a creative person?

I would say yes and no. I was creatively resilient, so for instance, if I had a dress that I wanted to wear I would change it up, alter it and add something to it.

I liked drawing, painting, and colouring. I was also into cheerleading and gymnastics and took dance classes but being creative was never harnessed when I was young, so I never saw that kind of talent as being potentially lucrative.

Then, when I was in nursing, I was in a dance company and a production company which helped let my creative side loose. Taking part in shows was my main creative outlet.

I’ve also always believed that work should never be your entire life, and that’s why, when I got older, I used my free time to do something for myself, even though it was hard to fit it all in around shift work.

How did you get into macramé?

When I was at home looking after my first child, I started looking at things to occupy my mind, and that’s when I first saw macramé plant hangers. The macramé was so beautiful, and I told my husband that I really needed it, and he suggested that I do it myself.

I didn’t think I could do it, but I started researching it, got some cord from eBay or Amazon, and started to try something.

I learned and then I had to unlearn, relearn, and unlearn again! Then I put it down for a little while and then I took it back up.

It was definitely a lot of trial and error and not perfect at first, but now it’s pretty good in my opinion.

I was just doing it as a hobby and not thinking about turning it into a business at all. I was just making plant hangers, but my husband said that because I loved them, maybe some other people would as well.

I put some pictures on Facebook Marketplace, and my first customer was someone who lived around the corner, and she asked me to make eight of them. That was my first ever sale, and I felt so good about being able to share my talent with others.

How did you develop your business ‘Potted Strings’ after that first order?

The first sale came at the end of 2017, and the next year I decided to take part in Agrofest. I started my Instagram and Facebook pages, and I only had about 20 followers, but I was so excited to share my passion for macramé.

Agrofest went surprisingly well, and I felt good because not only did I get to showcase my work, but I also got to connect with people.

Since then, I’ve become even more creative and moved from one aspect to another and tried not to become tied down with people’s expectations of me and what I should create.

I am always willing to try something new and different, add another product to my list, just think outside the box and go beyond what’s expected.

So, I started with plant hangers, then I went onto wall hangings, cushion covers and bags. I just did so many things that I didn’t even know were possible and I’m so glad that I really put in the work and can see the business flourish.

Through this business, I’ve met so many people, had some amazing experiences, and it has taken me places that I never thought I would be.

What do you like about macramé?

I’ve been doing it for about four years now, and I would say that I love how macramé allows you to express yourself in your own way. Just being able to interpret macramé and use my own creativity is what I like most.

So even though macramé is very popular now, it is still individual, and that individuality shows up in the work.

What was the biggest challenge you faced starting the business?

My biggest challenge at the beginning was under-pricing my work and not feeling like I was good enough to ask for what I deserved.

This is my first business, and initially I had a timid business personality, because I am quite easy-going and not cutthroat at all. So, I did undervalue my work and my price match, which brought down the worth of my products and my work, and that’s something I learned the hard way.

Who is your typical client? Where do they find your products?

My typical clients are persons who have an appreciation of art. They are creative, trendy, and modern and want to own something that is unique. Macramé has been around since the 1970s, but my clients understand that what I make has a modern interpretation and twist. My pieces make a statement!

Right now, you can find my work in the Pink Mango boutique at O2 Beach Club & Spa in St Lawrence Gap and Mystique Pop-Up Boutique at Lanterns Mall. I am also currently working on adding another location in Sunset Crest.

I am also reachable on Instagram or Facebook, so anyone can send me a direct message or give me a call via WhatsApp.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

I would say at first my aesthetic was light, bright and airy. I was into beige, ivory and white and really stayed away from colour.

Then, as I went along, people started asking me for colours and during the past year or so, especially with the pandemic, white and beige got a bit depressing. People wanted something lively and with a spark that made them feel good.

So, I added more colour and more of the island vibe, because the Caribbean is vibrant and bold, and colour is part of why we stand out, so that’s more my aesthetic now. Colour adds something extra.

What inspires your designs?

When I’m creating a piece a lot of things can inspire me. Photos, music, the beach and the waves or even just everyday life. When I’m making a bag, for instance, I usually think about where I want to take it and how I will wear it. So, I use my own life experiences to inspire my projects.

What are your business plans over the next 12-18 months? 

To be honest 12-18 months is so far away, and things are changing daily in the world, so I’ve learned especially during COVID-19 to pace myself.

In terms of business, I usually just go a week at a time, and think about what I can add, recreate, or reimagine that will inspire my clients and bring them joy.

What advice do you have for aspiring Caribbean entrepreneurs?

I would say go for it. If you have a skill, passion, or talent just start. You’ll never know the response or support you’ll get until you start.

The other thing I would say is that it doesn’t matter how many other people are doing what you are doing, they are not you! Your interpretation will always be different and you holding back means that the market is missing something and that something is you.

Potted Strings

What do you love about Barbados? 

I love that Barbados has a homely vibe. The people are warm and friendly. You can have a rapport with everyone you meet even if you don’t know them.

I also like the weather and how you can just pick up and go to the beach. It’s a great place to bring up children because they can play outside a lot.

What do you do to relax on a day off?

I love to read. I am a book enthusiast, so escaping reality with a good book is great.

I also love going outside, taking a walk, going to the beach. Experiencing nature is a nice way to rejuvenate and unwind.

What’s your philosophy / approach in life?

I have a few philosophies. Firstly, I definitely give thanks and am grateful to our creator because without Him we would have nothing.

I would also say I like to give everything a try because you never know what you’re going to be good at unless you at least try.

I also think that nothing is gained without hard work. You must put in work to see results and that’s true for business and life.

I also believe in having a work / life balance. Take moments for yourself to rest, sleep and get back your focus.

If you could go back and talk to your teenage self, what advice would you give?

I would tell myself not to listen to other people’s opinions about what I should or should not be doing.

At that age you are impressionable, you want to fit in and be with the cool kids, and sometimes that hinders you from following your true passion.

So, I would tell myself, put your fears aside, try everything, and seize all of life’s opportunities because you never know where it’s going to lead.

See more of Marissa’s ‘Potted Strings’ macramé creations on her Instagram and Facebook pages.