From Hobby to Multi-Faceted Business: Designs by Nadia and Island Mix Art Emporium
by Karen Rollins Apr 29, 2019
Nadia Jabour began making jewellery as a hobby when financial constraints meant she could no longer buy accessories for herself and her daughters.
Nadia could not have envisioned that her pastime would lead to a fledgling business and the creation of a space for other artisans to share their talents.
Originally from Guyana, Nadia lived in Canada for 25 years before returning to Guyana in 1994 and then finally settling in Saint Lucia in 2009. It was in Saint Lucia where she turned her jewellery-making hobby into a home business.
She recalls: “I had a day job and worked on jewellery at night and on the weekends. But business started to pick up faster than I imagined, and I knew I either had to quit my day job, or scale back on jewellery making.”
Nadia chose jewellery and gave herself one year to turn her part-time sideline into a full-time success.
During those 12 months Nadia’s laser focus, stellar work ethic and determination were at the root of tremendous gains. She emphatically states that her motivation was fuelled by a network of people who saw her potential and offered their full support.
She says: “It wasn’t just friends who came to buy my jewellery. They also supported me by telling other people about my pieces and bringing them to my home.
“And these were new friends that I had acquired, because I didn’t know anyone in Saint Lucia when I moved here.”
The belief that Nadia was onto something special even extended to her landlord, who saw Nadia’s passion and helped her along the path to success.
She explains: “I shared my plans with him, and he was phenomenal. He said to me: ‘You don’t worry I think this will work.’ So, he let me live rent free for one year. I paid him back in the years that followed, but he allowed me that time to build my business.”
Nadia was keen to ensure other local artisans could share in her success and soon started the Caribbean Network Development group. The group was aimed at giving creatives increased bargaining power with hoteliers, government and other tourism stakeholders, which in turn gave their products greater visibility.
She opened a small space on the waterfront in the Rodney Bay area for the group to meet, but in three short months, they had outgrown it.
Nadia says: “And that’s how Island Mix came to be. My jewellery is in there, and we have over 80 artisans now.”
The property also hosts a café, an Airbnb, a restaurant and provides pottery, art and jewellery classes.
A sign outside poses the simple question: “Have you seen the view from our café?” to entice visitors in. Once inside the excellent service; quality, locally made products and the ambiance keeps people coming back.
Island Mix Art Emporium has since been rated as the number one thing to do in Rodney Bay on TripAdvisor.
So, what’s next for Designs by Nadia and the Island Mix Art Emporium?
Nadia is currently focused on expanding the Airbnb and is pursuing more meaningful export opportunities for her jewellery line.
She says: “Once I post something on my [social media] page, it’s usually sold right away within the Caribbean or the US and Canada. But what I am now working on finding a wholesaler to buy my product in the UK, and on building a Shopify website to facilitate international orders.”
Nadia is working toward achieving her export goals with support from Women Empowered through Export, a programme designed by the Caribbean Export Development Agency to support Caribbean women to start exporting or increase the export of their products and services.
Nadia says she found the mentorship and training offered through the programme to be invaluable and adds that it’s a great resource for regional entrepreneurs who want to sell their product or service beyond the Caribbean.
She also shared these words of advice for anyone who has a dream they long to pursue.
“Do your research. Know your product and its market value. Once you do, the most important thing is to believe in it.
“You must believe in what you are doing.”
Find out more about Nadia Jabour’s entrepreneurial ventures by visiting the WE-Xport booth at the Barbados Manufacturer’s Exhibition (BMEX) in June 2019. The WE-Xport programme is an initiative of the Caribbean Export Development Agency.