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10 Guyanese Women Launch Businesses During the Pandemic

Shafeena Milton
8 min read

“You will get to the empire that you dream of someday, but you need to start with the little that you have now, no matter how small it is.” — Alicia Obermuller, Founder of Fuego Box 

While COVID-19 has taken its toll on the world, entrepreneurs were forced to remain home and find new sources of income. In this piece, 10 Guyanese women used creativity to launch and monetize their brands that are growing.

1. FuegoBox

FuegoBox specializes in the distribution of organic and cruelty-free holistic skincare products, such as shea butter bar soaps in turmeric and lavender, among others. The brand was launched on Nov. 23, 2020, by Alicia Obermuller, a law student at the University of London who took a risk and, almost overnight, created her business.

 

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Coming from what Obermuller describes as a “very humble background,” she is the first one of her siblings to finish high school, attend university and start her own company. 

“It is a dream I never thought would have come into fruition because of all of the issues that you have growing up and the inability to acquire certain things. Looking back at my younger self, I would say to me, ‘thank you for making those decisions – to finish school, to get educated, to be the pusher as I always have been to get certain things done.’”

A diagnosis of endometriosis propelled the entrepreneur to source products to treat the side effects of her condition. There was a need to be conscious about what she places on her body and in her hair. 

Referring to her customers as friends, Obermuller expressed her goal is not to sell products but to offer help to other women in Guyana who have been suffering from endometriosis.

“Guyana doesn’t focus much on endometriosis. We don’t even have a specialist here but there are many young women that are suffering from this illness. It’s a major reproductive health issue, so I think more should be done for it.”

Despite the hardships associated with the pandemic, Fuego Box’s products have been in demand resulting in her opening a second location. 

To learn more about Fuego Box check out their Facebook page.

2. Galaxy Book Hub

Shafeena Milton is a third-year Pharmaceutical student at the University of Guyana who recently launched an online bookstore called Galaxy Book Hub. As an avid reader, Milton’s aspiration was always to own a bookstore. 

“I was just by myself and I jokingly decided to plan what it would be like if I had a bookstore, and then and there I decided the name, the theme, the slogan, and what I would sell. It was wishful thinking then because, in reality, I didn’t have the courage to pull it off.” 

As part of her New Year’s resolution, Milton reflected on the COVID-19 death toll. She accepted that life would be this way for a while and yet created a reading outlet through it all.

Milton’s interest in mental health is reflected in her company’s mission statement, Reading is medicine for the soul.”

Aside from wanting to provide therapy for persons in need through science, I was also able to channel my feelings of wanting to help persons reduce anxiety and stress through simple actions. I feel quite strongly about mental health and healthy coping mechanisms.”

To see special events and promotions head on over to their Facebook page.

[Read Related: 5 Indo-Caribbean Influencers who Will Spruce up Your Newsfeed]

3. The Lil Blondie Bakery 

Currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Literature and Linguistics at the University of Guyana, Chantal Jagoo officially launched The Lil Blondie Bakery, in January of this year. Jagoo specializes in making and selling blondies, which are blonde brownies made specifically out of white chocolate. 

Jagoo explained that during the first few months of the pandemic, she became interested in baking brownies and asked her mother to buy some chocolate chips for her. What Jagoo deemed “a happy accident” occurred when the grocery store only had white chocolate chips available. 

“So, I went ‘okay, I know about these things called blondies, I’ll try them.’ They came out so good and my friends told me I should sell them.”

Jagoo was hesitant to start her business but is happy to have done so after seeing the demand for her treats. She experimented with different recipes and now offers her blondies with Oreo, M&M, peanut butter, and red velvet, among other flavors. 

“I don’t think it would have even crossed my mind. Before the pandemic, starting a business was something that felt very out of reach for me. It just felt like something I wouldn’t or couldn’t do. But, the pandemic definitely changed my mindset on that.”

Check out Lil Blondie Bakery on Instagram.

4. Art and Adriel

Earlier this year, 19-year-old Adriel Lachmansingh launched Art and Adriel, a brand that creates embroidered canvas art.

Quarantined and following emerging trends on social media, Lachmansingh encountered canvas embroidery which is not widely practiced in Guyana. 

“Without the pandemic, that trend never would’ve happened and I never would have heard of canvas embroidery. I’m definitely here because of covid.”

 

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Lachmansingh posted finished pieces on social media and soon found that her friends kept expressing a willingness to pay for her art. She soon realized there was a market for the product.

“When I start over on the new canvas, I have the old one to look at and I come up with new ways to rejuvenate this old canvas. It kind of proves that beautiful things can come out of something old or used.”

Stay updated on Adriel’s latest creations by following her on Instagram!

5. Dav’s Designs

 

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Dav’s Designs, a custom personalization business, was created by 20-year-old Davonna Bess. The University of Guyana student was looking for a job that could align with her class schedule, however, due to the pandemic, jobs were scarce. 

“Everybody says a 9-5 job is the goal, but it’s really nice working with yourself. You can make the time to focus on your mental health which is, I think, a big problem for those who work for people and can’t control their schedules.”

Bess was always a creative and despite her small business beginning as a bit of a hobby, she hopes to continue on this path for as long as she is able. Dav’s Designs features greeting cards for every special occasion. Bess also sells coffee mugs and bottles and is currently venturing out into trinkets such as key chains. 

 “Our slogan is ‘creating your curiosity,’ because it is basically in the customer’s hand. Whatever they want, I can do it. They have the option to customize every part of the product.”

Given that Dav’s Designs is online, Bess explains that despite the pandemic, her business has been profitable since most consumers resorted to online spaces for goods.

Check Dav out on Instagram to stay updated.

6. The Book Cub

Another online bookstore, The Book Cub, owned by siblings, Shivanie and Lakanad Singh began offering a wide selection of books to avid Guyanese readers in August of 2020.

Initially, a book review site, Shivanie received numerous inquiries regarding the accessibility of the reviewed novels.

“The pandemic was a catalyst for it [the business]…and it’s been good because it turns out a lot of people are reading right now. We really didn’t expect this sort of response.”  

Shivanie and Lakanand, who are 24 and 27 years old respectively, have returned to their full-time jobs that were previously in furlough. This has created a bit of a challenge in terms of time management, but it doesn’t deter them from operations and servicing their regulars. 

Integrity and quality service is key for us, it is what keeps us going and why so many of our “cubs” enjoy the conversations and interactions we have. We are building a family, not a business, and it brings us much joy to see someone’s smile and excitement as we deliver their books to them.” 

 

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Carrying the slogan, ‘Therapy for the soul and mind,’ The Book Cub is here to stay, even when the pandemic eventually passes. 

Learn more by checking out their Instagram.

7. Handmade by Hema

Influenced by the encouragement of her friends and family, the 20-year-old Hema Persaud opened Handmade by Hema in July of 2020. Persaud’s business specializes in handmade and personalized cards, bookmarks among other gift items. 

“I love when people give me little themes or reminders based on inside jokes or memories, or the likes of the person they’re gifting them to because the card would mean more to them than just a folded piece of paper.”

Persaud is committed to the feeling that accompanies satisfying a customer’s demand, rather than the money that might come from it. 

“It may seem small but it’s actually what I look forward to most when I create an order – the expressions of my customers when I give them their cards really motivates me.”

 

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Persaud also explained that she often felt anxious about other people’s opinions or critiques of her work, which initially almost prevented her from selling her handmade products. However, it is because of her business that she was able to become more comfortable and confident in herself.

Stay updated by following Handmade by Hema on Instagram.

8. Ready Set Boutique

Carrying the slogan, ‘Where Fashion is Made Easy,’ Alisha Hurt has fused convenience with fast fashion and is fit to serve busy women and working mothers. Hurt, who is of Guyanese descent, currently resides in Atlanta.

The 30-year-old mother of two, who holds a bachelor’s in Health and Business Administration, launched Ready Set Boutique on Nov. 22, 2020, with the encouragement of her husband.  

“I became a stay-at-home mom and I knew that I needed something that I loved doing, but didn’t require me to go back to a 9-5 job…I started feeling like I was losing myself and I didn’t shop like how I used to. I knew other women were feeling like this as well.”

Photo Courtesy: Alisha Hurt
Photo Courtesy of Alisha Hurt

Hurt sells trendy women’s clothing, including matching sets, jumpsuits, and dresses. Her goal is to make the task of shopping easy through e-commerce. 

At times operating a small business can be overwhelming, Hurt reminders herself that the growth takes time. She expressed that she often has to tell herself that things will work out in the long run as long as she remains “consistent, works hard, and continues to stay passionate.”

“It’s really about helping every woman know that they can feel beautiful even with two kids or even if they’re super tired from work. There’s time for you as well.”

Check out the boutique’s items on their website or Instagram.

9. Phoenix Line

Currently based in Virginia, Ashona Gomes is responsible for launching Pheonix Line a company that specializes in hand-poured candles and coasters.  The 31-year-old launched her business on Jan. 31, 2021. Gomes also expressed COVID-19 didn’t have a negative effect on her business, but rather helped her.

“I think everyone had so much time on their hands because they had to be at home. This was the perfect time to start a business.”

Gomes shared that she does “a little bit of everything.” Her products are of a wide variety consisting of all handmade items including candles, wine trays, ashtrays and more.

Phoenix Line on Etsy

Gomes works with resin and anticipates expanding her business very soon to include resin coffee tables, also body butter, and face scrubs. Eventually, she hopes to produce her very own homemade wine. Phoenix line products can be customized.

“I’m all about catering to my customers, trying new things, and expanding my craft. If you want something specific, I can do that. I customize it to your liking.”

Gomes’ hopes to one day own a physical boutique where customers can physically shop for her products and attend her candle-making classes while sipping on some wine. 

You can find items from Phoenix Line via Etsy.

10. Indo Caribbean Bride Magazine

Founded on Oct. 21, 2019, Indo-Caribbean Bride Magazine is a digital publication dedicated to highlighting wedding vendors, beauty and wedding planning for the Indo-Caribbean community.

The 23-year-old founder Shivane Chandool, expressed that a classmate’s three words of, “just do it” combined with a desire to place a spotlight on her culture were what motivated her to actually go ahead and start her business.

“I am a person that’s very passionate and I was sort of saddened by the lack of media representation on the Indo-Caribbean community and about us in general. So, I really wanted to make that a priority, and I thought weddings were the perfect thing to showcase.”

The pandemic was a major setback for the magazine as it severely affected the wedding industry. It also resulted in her decision to create content that involves posting brides and grooms and giving out advice to those reaching out to the platform. The young founder is looking forward years after.

Shivane Chandool
Photo Courtesy of Shivane Chandool

To learn more about Indo Caribbean Bride Magazine visit their website here.

The common theme among these women entrepreneurs is that an idea or passion can turn into a monetized business. After thorough research, talking to peers and experts and executing a plan, these women took the leap. It takes perseverance and as Obermuller stated, “you will get to the empire that you dream of someday.”

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