Creating an Iconic Brand: St Lucia’s Meme Bete
by Karen Rollins May 6, 2019
St Lucian entrepreneur Taribba do Nascimento was living and working as a development professional in Ethiopia, helping female entrepreneurs get export-ready, when she was inspired to follow her own entrepreneurial path.
She recalls: “The leather industry is really organised in Ethiopia, and I loved African prints, so I thought African print fabric with leather would produce a beautiful bag.”
She began crafting exclusive handbags and purses and established her company Meme Bete in 2009.
At first the business was a side venture she used to repay student loans, but after becoming a mother, Taribba gave up her full-time job and dived into making Meme Bete a success so she could stay at home with her son.
In 2012, Taribba returned to Saint Lucia and Meme Bete became a part-time venture again as she went back into development work.
Scaling back the business was a strategic move that gave her four years to accrue the capital needed to purchase industrial machines, hire staff and commence continuous production from her very own workshop.
After re-establishing the brand, Taribba’s biggest challenge was convincing people to buy her products.
Despite encouragement from friends and family who were eager to support her venture, there were only so many bags they could buy, so when that initial support dwindled, it was time to develop wider demand for Meme Bete’s bags.
10 years on
In April 2019, Meme Bete celebrated its 10th anniversary. Taribba is now focused on increasing the brand’s visibility, as well as incorporating more personal stories in the hopes of inspiring others.
Meme Bete is intentionally small and focused on exclusivity. Taribba does not want to replicate prints, which means the colour scheme for each bag is unique, and two bags are never the same!
Her aim is to be that thing people ‘must get’ when visiting Saint Lucia.
She says: “I want it to be synonymous with Saint Lucia. There are the Sulphur Springs. There are The Pitons. And there is Meme Bete. That’s what I want.”
Taribba hopes to grow her business further after becoming one of 20 female entrepreneurs selected to participate in the Women Empowered Through Export (WE-Xport) programme implemented by Caribbean Export. We-Xport supports Caribbean women in business to start exporting or increase the exports of their products or services.
Fittingly, Taribba took the name for her company from a Saint Lucian saying that means ‘same animal, same beast,’ which is loosely translated on the island as: “There is no difference: We are all the same.”
She adds: “It’s now trendy to buy artisanal products, and people are beginning to understand the need to support local economies. Making it a great time to be an entrepreneur in the Caribbean.”