Caribbean Creatives: Elann Lewis, Owner of ‘Rocks By E’
by Karen Rollins May 1, 2023
Teenage entrepreneur Elann Lewis was raised in a creative household in Barbados and has always enjoyed entering art competitions and making various items out of cardboard boxes.
Elann started hand painting rocks in the summer of 2020 as another form of creative expression and initially offered them to members of the congregation at her mother’s church.
As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, Elann’s mother suggested gifting the rocks to frontline workers as small tokens of appreciation. This idea proved popular, and eventually led to the launch of Elann’s micro enterprise ‘Rocks By E’.
Yello asked Elann to tell us more about her life as a fledgling small business owner in the Caribbean.
Describe yourself in one sentence.
I am introverted, but adventurous, love to laugh, determined and creative.
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I was born and raised in Government Hill, St Michael with my mother and brother. I attended Charles F. Broome Memorial Primary School, Deighton Griffith Secondary School, and Barbados Community College where I pursued an Associate Degree in Business Studies.
I was brought up in a very creative household where my mother would encourage, and invest, in my artistic ideas as well as give me guidance when I needed it. I was encouraged to enter NIFCA (National Independence Festival of Creative Arts) competitions, along with any other art competitions that were advertised.
So, you have always been a creative person?
Yes, from the time I was very young. Whenever I left home and saw boxes anywhere, whether in a shoe store or supermarket, I would always want to bring them home so that I could make something.
I loved to make gumball machines, dollhouses, and furniture for my LPS (Little Pet Shop) toys to live in. I also liked to make desk organisers with toilet paper/tissue paper rolls.
I just love experimenting with art. I have never said this out loud before, but I would have to say that being creative is my passion!
What were your initial career plans?
To be honest I never really had any set career plans but being an entrepreneur was one of them.
When / why did you start hand painting rocks?
I started painting rocks in August 2020. It was just another one of those areas of art that I wanted to experiment with, and eventually it turned into a business.
Please tell us more about your business ‘Rocks By E’.
My mother asked me to do a few small takeaway rocks for her August 2020 Singles Ministry Session which was based on the church’s monthly series ‘GO’. She wanted rocks with the word ‘GO’ on them for each participant.
She then suggested doing a big rock for the person who does the end of month sermon, as well as some takeaways for each member of the congregation. The feedback from everyone who received a rock was very encouraging, so they became a regular end of month feature.
Then COVID came and my mother suggested painted rocks as a thank you gesture for frontline workers. The rocks brought happiness to everyone who received them.
Someone else then suggested that I sell them which was the start of something new! ‘Rocks By E’ officially began on 13 March 2021 when I created an Instagram page to display my art.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced since starting the business? How have you overcome it?
The biggest challenge is persons not paying and collecting after I have completed their order. My remedy to overcome this is to start taking deposits before beginning an order. This is something that I should have done from the inception, but it is all part of the learning experience.
Is there anything you wish you’d known before starting the business?
I wish I had known how to efficiently and effectively organise and plan the content for the Rocks by E Instagram page. Then I could be more consistent and active on the account.
Describe your typical ‘Rocks By E’ customer.
Rocks by E customers are very excited persons! If they are not sure what they want, they start by checking out my page to get ideas, then they communicate with me about the colours and elements they’d like to use and trust my artistic ability to do the rest.
They are all quite happy when they receive the finished product.
What is the unique selling point for your business?
I try to create unique, one-of-a-kind rocks, so every rock is different. The possibilities are endless because they can be used in so many ways for special occasions, for birthdays, friendships, weddings, baby showers, and as house markers and keepsakes.
How do you plan to develop the business over the next 12-18 months?
I plan to keep improving my art skills. I would also like to be more active and engaging on the IG account by creating more quality content. I also want to experiment more with the rocks and create new marketing ideas.
Which local / regional / international artists or entrepreneurs inspire you?
What advice do you have for aspiring small business owners?
If you have an idea that you love and you think people will love as well, go for it, don’t wait for any specific time to start your business, the time is now!
What three things do you love about Barbados?
I love our crystal-clear water and beautiful beaches; they are so relaxing and therapeutic.
The setting of the sun is also very beautiful to watch.
I also love the variety of local experiences available in Barbados like Harrison’s Cave, St. Nicholas Abbey’s Heritage Train Ride, and the Atlantis Submarine, which are just a few of the activities that we get to enjoy.
Barbados has a lot of beauty that we often overlook.
What is your philosophy / approach to life?
Follow your dreams and heart’s desires and find joy in the simple things in life that truly make you happy.
Treat yourself because you deserve it and just live life to the fullest.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
It would be teleportation because I could be in Panama, Canada, New York, or Miami with the snap of my fingers!