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Christmas in November allows women to network, build brands

BY CANDICE HAUGHTON
Career & Education reporter
haughtonc@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, November 28, 2021

AFTER seeing a number of women owning small businesses but struggling to consistently make a profit, 31-year-old Shaneika Murray had the brilliant idea to organise an event to allow these women to build their network and brand.

The event, called Christmas in November, hosted 18 women from different parts of the country, who were exploring ways to expand their brand.

Twenty-seven-year-old Davia McKenzie, a St Thomas resident and one of the participating women, stocks custom jewellery and savings pans. She told Career & Education that the event was “awesome”, and even though she didn't sell all of her products, she was able to make a profit and build her network.

“My business is Davia Designs. I started around 2018 and it was inspired by my son. I had him in 2017 and I was trying to find something I could do at home while tending to him… something that could make me some money, so I started making savings pans for kids. I personalised them with their names, so from there I branched out in personalised jewellery. The jewellery is outsourced, but the savings pans, I make them from scratch. I use [baby] formula tins,” McKenzie said.

“In terms of growth the event is bigger this year and I had so much exposure and sales. It was not a crowded thing, which is good because of the COVID protocols, but we had a steady flow of people coming in. Shaneika has been that person for us to always try to include women in everything that she does,” she continued, acknowledging Murray's initiative to support women with small businesses.

At the same time, 31-year-old Spanish Town, St Catherine resident Roshaine Rowbryan said the event was a “good initiative”.

“Contrary to what a lot of people may think, I believe there is power in women sticking together and women working together and I think that is the message that she (Murray) wanted to send. So, it's not just an opportunity to make sales, but it's an opportunity to meet other female entrepreneurs and network,” she argued.

Stating that she was able to increase the network for her business, Inner Sanctum, while making a profit, Rowbryan said, “Last year, when my daughter had her first birthday, the cake came from somebody that I met there. I bought my daughter her first piece of jewellery for her neck and that item came from somebody that I met there. For this year additional persons were present, so it was another opportunity for one to make sales, and two, to meet and network with other people.”

Murray went on to say that Christmas in November is important because it is especially for women who are struggling to find a solid footing in the business environment.

“I know that there are a lot of women who go through certain situations in life, they would have started businesses on their own to make a life for themselves,” she said.

Alluding to her experience of being in an abusive relationship and developing the drive to help women in similar situations, Murray also stated, “I met up with some of them from last year [when] I started mentoring other women who would have been in similar situations.”

Being the second staging of the event, Murray also explained, “Last year, I had just seven women and we had it at Kingston Central Police Station, it was a success. This year I took on some other businesswomen, not necessarily women who have been through domestic abuse, but women who choose the path of business to allow themselves to feel as if they are getting ahead in life without depending on a male figure.”

With over a hundred people visiting the venue to shop, Murray could hardly hide her excitement when she said the turnout was “good”.

“We ended up with 18 vendors versus the 15 that we were scheduled to have. People from the military, and police officers turned out. It was very good. Coming from having seven women last year to having 18 and nobody left there empty handed, I mean, some didn't sell off what was on their table but I always encourage them that it's not necessarily about the money, it's about the networking and people knowing about your business. I really had a good time...everybody left feeling good,” she said.