A Jamaican Made Christmas: A hit for all
A Jamaican-Made Christmas, in its fourth year, was virtually free for all involved, with attendees asked to pay $1,200 for entry fee, but got two $500 vouchers to use at any booth, with the remaining $200 for a tote bag as an alternative to plastic bags. (Photo) Marlon Reid)
Grand market came early this year for 100 of Jamaica’s Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) as National Baking Company gave them an opportunity to showcase their products at a mini-expo dubbed, “A Jamaican-Made Christmas, inside the ballroom of the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel.
The two-day event, which took place earlier this week, saw approximately 2,000 buyers taking a stroll through scores of booths that offered a variety of products, including clothing, jewellery, food, crafts, oils and fragrances and books in a section dubbed, Author’s Corner.
The event, in its fourth year, was virtually free for all involved, with attendees asked to pay $1,200 for entry fee, but got two $500 vouchers to use at any booth, with the remaining $200 for a tote bag, as part of the National Baking Company’s support for the local ban on single-use plastic in January.
Booth holders were asked to pay $20,000, which was refunded to them at the end.
According to Connie Wong, who works on special projects from the office of National Baking Company’s Chairman, Gary ‘Butch’ Hendrickson, the event has grown over the years, with Sunday’s attendance of approximately 1,800, almost surpassing that of last year’s total visitors of 2,200.
Wong said, “Every year it grows but I think this year is the most I have seen so far.”
“I think the booth holders are very grateful. We try to choose from a very wide cross-section of merchants as we have had complaints in the past, that we have too much of the same things. So we were very specific about the categories we selected.”
Wong went on to note that local small businesses often find it difficult to market their products, so the baking giant wanted to provide a platform for firms who wouldn’t have otherwise had access to widespread distribution.
The National Baking Company received over 400 applications this year with only 60 booth spaces, but the company was able to design the facility to accommodate 100 businesses, as a result of National’s customer base.
“I really just want to thank our customers. Without National’s loyal customer base, we wouldn’t be able to put on an event like this. Thank you, our customers and I hope you keep buying National so that we can keep putting on events like this," Wong said.
Jamaican-Made Christmas 2018
Click the slider for more photos captured by Marlon Reid.
For entrepreneurs, Brian Walker, Simone Walker-Barrett, Carissa Mears, and author Shelly-Ann Weeks, A Jamaican- Made Christmas, gave them an excellent opportunity to market their products, without having to fork out extra cash.
Walker, whose company, Nutsies Treats, designs new tastes for the regular Jamaican confectionaries snacks, such as coconut gizzadas, grater cakes and drops as well as peanut drops, believes the experience was phenomenal.
With additives, the gizzadas have the taste of almond and pineapple; peanut drops taste like tamarind, chocolate and rum or raisins; and grater cakes are flavoured with strawberry, mint and pineapple.
“It is a good experience. I recommend that every small business manufacturer looks at this event. Coming here is a blessing as we get to meet persons from different walks of life. You get to see different manufacturers that you didn’t even know existed, so it is a good experience overall,” he said.
He said the company is looking to get into the Jamaican Diaspora and have started discussions for distribution in Illinois, Massachusetts and New York as a result of their participation at the event.
Walker-Barrett, under the brand, Chef Walker-Barrett, showcased her line, Froot Silly Preserves, which are made with Jamaica ingredients to produce jackfruit butter, banana butter, cho cho relish, pineapple and chilly pepper chutney, sorrel and scotch bonnet picante and coffee and tamarind caramel.
“This show is wonderful for small entrepreneurs like myself because we didn’t have to do all the advertising. All we had to do was to show up with the products and we had a lot of people coming to our booth,” she said.
Mears, founder of Authentic By Carissa Jewels, which manufactures a Jamaican lightweight black castor oil, believes the attendees to her booth were in favour of the lighter level of thickness, mild smell and the lesser degree of stickiness of her product.
She said that these, along with the fact that the product 100 per cent pure, were major selling points to potential clients at A Jamaican Made Christmas.
Mears said, “the experience has been really positive. It has been a good opportunity for us to showcase our products in terms of building brand awareness and sales. People like that our castor oil comes with a glass dropper because there is no other castor oil that’s packaged like that, so the packaging is extremely nice.”
Meanwhile, Weeks used the opportunity to showcase her two books “It’s My Body: Period” and “I Changed My Diet and Changed My Life”. She also got the chance to raise funds for her foundation, Her Flow, which provides financially destitute teenaged girls with sanitary napkins.
She said, “I sort of saw what was going on from a customer standpoint last year when I came through and saw the different booths and I was really impressed by the fact that they were able to put together all of these Jamaican artists and artisans who have their products to showcase to such a big audience. So I really enquired how I could be a part of that.”
“It has been really fantastic. They really came through and make this great area for us. We are in the Author’s Corner with a lot of persons coming through, lots of people who are interested in reading,” Weeks added.
Patron Audrey Wilson was wowed by the variety of products on display.
“It was absolutely wonderful because sometimes we tend to feel as if everything is going to fall down, but it is not, because what I have seen around here, is some young entrepreneurs who are just budding with ideas,” Wilson said.
“They have such creative ideas. They really are just running with some really novel things and making new products, which will be great on the international market, as well as our local market too. So we are looking at the future of Jamaica and we are very excited,” Wilson concluded.