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100% Bajan store opens with help from NCF

todayDecember 17, 2021 109

Background

There is a new all-local store in Barbados. But, what makes this 100% Bajan store unique is that it also offers local entrepreneurs the opportunity to utilise a space at a reasonable cost in order to push their brand and gain a profit.

Mystique Pop-Up Boutique, located at Lantern Mall, Hastings, Christ Church, was officially opened on December 1, 2021 with the assistance of the National Cultural Foundation (NCF).

Owner and manager Lauren Austin said the idea to open the business was to showcase her brands as well as those of others came to her when she was faced with numerous challenges trying to secure an affordable location.

“For years an entrepreneur, I faced difficulties finding a location for my small businesses for reasonable rent, especially during this COVID Pandemic era. After conversing with other local practitioners, they have reciprocated facing similar complications and I explored solutions towards attaining a sustainable business structure that would benefit us,” the store owner said.

Austin explained that she managed to secure a spot at Lantern’s Mall for the business which offers clothing, swimwear, beauty and skincare products, pre-packaged dessert treats, homemade liqueur, fashion accessories, jewellery, home decor products from over 40 plus local creatives.

“I was approached by Mr. Fredrick George (Lantern’s Mall general manager) for fresh ideas and concepts on restructuring the mall which is the home for my children’s store Sapphire Ray and I saw an opportunity to utilise a large vacant space upstairs the mall to create the haven that would benefit and allow local practitioners to promote and sell their products and/or services with low overhead expenses. That’s how The Mystique Boutique idea was born. The concept of Mystique would allow entrepreneurs to rent a space within the boutique to display their products and share overhead expenses with other local practitioners,” she said.

On realising the full potential of her new business which would serve as a hub for local creatives, Austin reached out to the NCF for help with funding the project.

“The project needed additional funding for the boutique to be launched in time for the holidays which extended way beyond my pockets and I reached out to Andre Hoyte [Senior Business Development Officer] and Ashley Dyall [Marketing Officer] from the NCF and that’s how the partnership with them started. They loved the idea and contributed towards covering rental spaces for local practitioners for the holiday season and are onboard to helping us where they can to make Mystique the best it can be and reach its fullest potential,” the entrepreneur said.

NCF’s Dyall said that after a recent tour of the newly-opened boutique she is more than convinced the Foundation made the right decision to give financial support the venture.

Dyall said: “The NCF is always looking for new and exciting ideas and ways to serve our constituents in the creative sector. Lauren approached us with a brilliant business venture that will serve all local producers well. I am urging Barbadians to come forward and support our local practitioners and give a gift this season made right here in BIM. The NCF is extremely pleased to be associated with the venture. We wish Lauren and her team every success.”

Austin also partnered with local designer Carla Gittens and front desk concierge Shanee Aquilla to assist in the areas she would not be able to handle herself.

“I knew I needed a good team so I reached out to Carla Gittens, who handles the marketing aspect part time. After a few conversations with her, it turned into much more than a space renting to local practitioners.

She added: “We decided to utilise the space to its fullest potential and venture into renting a space as well to an aesthetician/nail tech, teaching sewing, costume design and pattern making courses, where we roped in our in-house tailor Tyreke Nedd as well.

“Carla said: ‘Maybe we should also start a Mentorship program’. So then we initiated the Mentorship & Support Program where we’d give assistance or advice to the local practitioners in-house that would lend towards the growth of their business.”

Currently for the holiday season the boutique is opened seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (PR)

Written by: Toni Yarde

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246-417-6610