Nikele Davis – Living It. Loving It. Locing It

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by D.J.Simmons

As you step into her space there is an aura of respect that resonates. Seldom do you encounter the combination of skill, passion and professionalism in such an inspiring youth. Dazzle is therefore proud to introduce you to the determined drive behind Mocha Hair Designs, the beautiful Nikele Davis. From a young age, Nikele possessed the initiative to succeed and build the foundation for her financial future.

Having major responsibilities is not new to Miss Davis. Living on her own from age sixteen and managing her life, which she refers to as her First Business, taught her many important lessons and values that inspired her entrepreneurial enterprise. She always had natural hair and developed the talent for palm rolling and creating her own styles. While she was little, she sported short curly hair however, like most little girls she wanted long pretty hair. The broadcasting of straightened Caucasian hair being the image of beauty was not shared by young Nikele, so she embarked on the campaign of showcasing another vision of beauty to share through natural hair and locs. And she was good! This landed her her first job at the tender age of fifteen. While working at Hapi Loc Groomers, often she would be advised to continue her education at the Barbados Community College which at times deflated her spirit. However a strong resolve taught her she did not have to follow in others footsteps, but developed the path to her own happiness. Her consistent dedication to the evolution of her brand and business led to the advantageous position while most of her friends where finishing UWI and now looking for jobs, she had already branched out on her own with a strong start to her own business. That business: Mocha Hair Designs; the prime place for natural hair and locs styling, hair health and maintenance for women, children and in Nikele’s words, the “beautiful black man!”

Her appreciation for the black man was the motivation behind her establishing the brand “The Grooming Bar”. This focus was dedicated to taking care of the male clientele, who generally would feel uncomfortable coming to have manicures,  pedicures and hair styles done based on society’s negative perception of these habits. After the Mocha experience however, men carry themselves with well-groomed confidence. And instilling confidence is all part of the package, especially from the roots. Nikele loves working with little girls hence the reason she introduced ‘Braids, Babies & Beads’ the little ladies section at MHD. She admits while she enjoys making her little ladies hair look gorgeous as always, her true intention is to make them feel good about their hair and in the process teach them to be in love with what they see in the mirror at their tender age.

Through MHD, Nikele imparts knowledge with her clients regarding how mothers should care their children’s hair and advising against the use of artificial products and straighteners that are damaging to the hair and scalp. Nikele encourages her clients to consume healthy foods and to drink lots of water because good hair is healthy hair.

One of the main challenges most entrepreneurs encounter is having the perfect location, and while Nikele was forced to move from previous locations for her business to grow, she shared that due to her strong and loyal customer base developed over years, they have no problems finding her. She therefore highlights the importance of consistently marketing and using social media for promotion and communication.

A perfect way to sum up Nikele Davis and her business is its slogan: “Living It. Loving It. Locing It.” She practices what she preaches in her everyday life, and sacrifices had to be made to maintain a successful business over many years of being in the industry. But she loves it. And locing it, well simply put, that is what she does! And very well. Many happy customers can attest to that.

Although Nikele is a serious young lady her vibrant good nature definitely shines through. She proudly supports other entrepreneurs including Tiyi by Design, Polish Nails by Liz, LUSH the Brow and Lash Studio, IDS Creative Inc, and Art by Akin-yemi. Akin-yemi has also supported Mocha Hair Designs by contributing some beautiful visual art designs which help to even further enhance the calm, comfortable interior of the salon. Nikele is very appreciative of her support team of mentors and social media mangers. All concepts behind Mocha Hair Designs however, come from her own creative mind. Including the upcoming Black and White Affair and knowing her, every male should be looking forward to that with excited anticipation.

While in her presence it was easy to be inspired by this charismatic professional as she shared her experience as a young entrepreneur. Just because her business has a small staff, (as of the publishing of this article she is the only hair stylist at her salon), that does not mean Mocha Hair Designs is a small business. Nikele believes the perception of envisioning your business as small only limits its potential. You have to think big even if your staff numbers are small. Miss Davis’ strong faith and commitment to her business have taken her from risk to reward helping this lady to interlock between strong networks, building a successful brand that naturally keeps on growing…

Neil Alvin – Killing it with Style

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 by D.J. Simmons

Most persons when they come across one of the main websites dedicated to showcasing black fashion and beauty, are shocked when they learn Blackandkillingit.com is created and managed by a Barbadian. Yes! Some of you are sure to have come across ‘Black Girls Killing It’ via the website, or social media accounts which boasts over hundreds of thousands of loyal followers. Prepare to meet the man behind the brand, Mr. Neil Alvin.

It is appropriate that the story begins from Neil’s own personal website, where he published blogs. Curiosity in other online bloggers steered him to a site one evening highlighting the top fifty fashion bloggers and Neil found it fascinating that none of them where black. Admitting to not having a background in fashion, Neil was inspired to develop his own blog dedicated to black fashion using his education in literature. Recognising persons weren’t likely to search ‘neilalvin.com’ for fashion, he left it up to public voting to select a name for the site. In 2011 blackandkillingit.com was born.

After tedious and dedicated searches Neil discovered a source where he could compile the material and post the photos of black models and celebrities along with photographer credits. The dynamic site evolved even more when Neil opened the avenue for girls to submit their own photos. Starting out slow from just two or three submissions a week, Black Girls Killing It is now so popular that Neil’s inbox is filled with over one hundred entries per day! He will never forget the elation of his first submission however.

As the site developed along with photos, persons also submitted questions and queries relating to fashion advice. Neil saw the opportunity to build this section on the site, and brought in carefully selected persons to reply to the queries. While these additional members of his BGKI team would provide most of the answers, Neil has been known to chime with some of his own whimsical comments. Now not only could people admire the models and fashion, they could also receive personal tips on their own clothing styles and options.

Through careful analysis Neil was able to decipher that generally women came to his site to learn about fashion. He then launched two new sections on the site dedicated to interviews of the models and tutorials. Over fifty interviews, conducted also by Neil, are logged on the site where the public got to learn more about their favourite models. No section was as popular though as the tutorials. Neil linked his network to many examples of creativity well within an affordable budget. Another popular area on the site was the voting area where persons can choose their favourite outfits based on two options. As Neil observes a demand on the site he fills the need.

He doesn’t just have a talent for recognizing beautiful black women though. Neil designed and maintains the website on his own and possesses advanced Photoshop skills. All responses to the pubic questions and every photo post have to meet his critical approval first before being published. When asked about the vision of Black Girls Killing It, Neil shared the potential is limitless. The range includes from branching out to becoming a modelling agency, network hub for designers, to even becoming a clothing line. There also exists the combination of designers creating specific clothing lines working with particular models. There may even be the potential to develop black and killing it to extend its reach to highlighting black prowess in athletics and academics as well. The possibilities really are endless.

Most of the traffic coming to the site was predominantly made up of shoppers and therefore stores started to notice. Blackandkillingit.com was then approached to run ads for various shops ad while Neil was eager to accept the business he did not want to compromise the sleek look of his website. He was able to find the balance however developing “Shop BGKI” where users could explore various online shopping options.

Although the site is growing the one thing that disappoints Neil is the lack of support he receives from his fellow Barbadians. While he has attempted to reach out to some local designers to be a part of the market place, and many Barbadians follow the brand on social media, he rarely receives any local photo submissions or vendor requests. Here’s hoping some of you readers are inspired to take full advantage of the opportunities Black Girls Killing It provides and we showcase Bajan beauty to the world!

Neil strongly believes black models need more exposure to take advantage of opportunities with major agencies and no longer will we hear the excuse “We could not find any black models.” Basically all Neil Alvin desires, is when people visit the site they discover how beautiful black girls are. And they are not just beautiful; they are downright killing it out there.

 

Dane Saddler – The Slim Chef

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by Tracy Highland

It’s not every day that a local chef gets picked to audition for a major Food Network show, but at 32 years old chef Dane Saddler can say he knows what it feels like. He also knows what it feels like to build a successful company from the ground up. His brainchild, Caribbean Villa Chefs, has become a regional go-to for personal chef and catering services. Last year, his face made its way into the homes of Barbadians as a finalist on the TV show Bank on Me and now he is fueling a healthy eating movement with his new initiative to provide nutritious prepackaged meals for busy professionals across the island. Dazzle got the chance to sit down with Dane for a colourful chat about career, family and of course food.

Did you always want to be a chef?

I never really thought about it as a child. When I was at Queens College I chose to study Home Economics. Truthfully, it was a process of elimination. I was not interested in Accounts, or Science or any of the other stuff and the idea of a desk job never appealed to me. I thought Home Economics was the easy way out, plus, they were a lot of girls in the class.

At what point did you realise it was your passion and could become your career?

I went to on to do the Culinary Arts programme at Barbados Community College and after graduation my parents pushed me to go overseas to further my studies. It was at Johnson and Wales University in Miami, Florida that I realised I had a natural talent. I would be in class and others would be struggling with things I could complete with relative ease. I was at the top of the class and it seemed effortless. It was at this point that I began to think it was something I could do long term.

How did you make the transition from the classroom to working in actual restaurant kitchens?

I got some experience working in a restaurant in South Beach before my return to Barbados, but after I moved back it was tough. I had earned two degrees from a prestigious university, so I thought coming back home I would be picked up quickly. That didn’t happen. I graduated in March and got a job in October, but as a butcher! It was a struggle. I began to question if I had pursued the right thing. Then I landed a job as a sous chef at Southern Palms, followed closely by a job at Sandy Lane Hotel. The job at Sandy Lane really opened my eyes to opportunity that existed in the field for personal chefs.

Did you start seriously thinking about a business then?   

Even growing up I used to try to make my own money. When I was 14, I had a job selling newspapers which my father, who passed in 2008, would help me with. I would even sell the lunch my mother made for me to take to school.  So I’ve always been business minded. I knew I would eventually start a business. It took a few years working in the industry and moonlighting as a personal chef before Caribbean Villa Chefs became a fulltime thing in 2011.

 

Who are some of the most interesting people you have cooked for?

When I left Sandy Lane, I went to work in Mustique. There I cooked for the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Tom Ford and Mick Jagger.  I came back to Barbados after that and was running the Grille Restaurant at the Hilton. It was during those years that I became determined to officially launch my business. In my downtime, I got a 10-day personal chef assignment with a visiting businessman and made more in those 10 days that I could make at my day job in a month. It made me hopeful that I could earn enough on my own to make a good living.

What makes Caribbean Villa Chefs unique?

When I did my research, I realised there was no company in Barbados you could call to provide private chef services. That’s the core service of Caribbean Villa Chefs but we have expanded to include private cooking classes, chef placement services and catering. The catering aspect has really picked up. We catered for the private boxes at the Top Gear Festival. We’ve done the Reggae festival here and the Food Wine and Rum Festival. We’ve recently joined forces with the Organic Growers and Consumers Association in promoting healthy lifestyles and creating prepackaged meals.

With such a hectic schedule, how does your family fit into the picture?

I’m very close to my family. My mum is very supportive. My other half, Tammy and my kids Tyler, 6, and Taiema, 4, are very understanding. It’s tough sometimes, especially around Christmas time. I haven’t been home for Christmas for the past three years. We try to have Christmas early each year so that the kids don’t miss out. I also Skype them every day when I’m away on a job.

What is your advice to other young entrepreneurs who may read your story?

Don’t try to copy what you see done, take an idea and try to better it. Do your research. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and stay humble.

 

Ieashia Browne – She’s got talent

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By Ryan Wills

Walking into the lobby with her circular designer shades she already easily stood out in her punk rock styled attire.  I introduced myself and she politely said “my mom is parking the car”.  Meet 16 year old Ieashia Browne, an upcoming singer who is beaming with confidence. Ieashia would have taken part in the just concluded Honey Jam Barbados concert which features aspiring young ladies who want to further their singing careers.  A student of the Springer Memorial Secondary School she has been making waves on the scene as an Alto within her school choir and has also performed at the Pommarine Hotel. We sat down with this Ieashia who immediately let us know she could sing by teasing us with a song by one of her favorite artists, Ariana Grande.

How did you get into Honey Jam?

Honey Jam 2013 was the first time I ever auditioned for singing. One of my mother’s friends told me about it and said I should join.  I had major stage fright and the song I sang was “Man Down” by Rihanna which incidentally Shontelle co-wrote and who came on stage and sang it with me.  The experience was great, from the workshops to the actual performance.  I was actually the youngest person to audition at the time; this year I’m not sadly.

 

What’s the process like for auditioning?

It’s pretty simple, you register by paying a small fee and submitting a song, then fifteen girls are chosen by a panel who then perform in front of a crowd. I have auditioned before just not for singing. I entered the Barbados Talented Teen Pageant where both males and females participate in various elements such as talent and Q&A.  I didn’t place in the competition but won the most prizes.

 

What is your style of singing?

I’m into R&B, pop and R&B Soul, so artists like Jhené Aiko appeal to me.

 

Where are you taking your career from here?

I see myself receiving all the BET awards (cracking a big smile).  But the process I know is a lot of hard work.  Currently I am working with Darren Grant of Underground Studios who is helping me produce some music.  I have some people writing for me and I am working on some songs right now.  My mom will be there by my side and I would love to make it mainstream in the next 2-3 years. In addition I want to become a Forensic Pathologist.  I like biology and learning about the human body, so from here I need to make sure I get all of the relevant CXCs and go to University to further my studies.

 

How do you prepare before you hit the stage?

One thing that happens to me before I go on is that I cry, of course not in a bad way.  Once in front of the crowd I am focused.  I see myself as a perfectionist and I have a strong personality which I get from my mom.

  

What else is on the cards for the near future?

I will be participating in a pageant called the Miss Eastervall‎ in Union island, St. Vincent next Easter. Outside of that I will doing studio work and continuing my studies.

 

How do you see entrepreneurship as a driving force?

As a singer I already consider myself an entrepreneur. They are a lot of singers out there trying to do their own thing and I believe that at this stage I would be focusing first on pursuing my career in the forensics field while working on my singing.  I want to thank Ebonnie Rowe on behalf of my mom and I for providing a platform such as Honey Jam.  I have already seen girls such as Debbie Reifer making strides from the exposure they have gotten from it.

Amanda Reifer – The Business of Revelling

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To say she is a people’s person is an understatement. Amanda Reifer’s business IS people – over 600 beautifully costumed people in her Crop Over band, Fantasy. This year the theme is Great Empires of the World. The colours are vibrant. The designs are bold, confident but still warm – a reflection of the woman behind the concepts of this band that has stood the test of time.

At first, Amanda’s kind, welcoming demeanour and sunny smile seem at odds with the kind of shrewd business acumen you would expect of someone who has been in the business for 11 years.  After five minutes of talking with her, you realise she is a quick thinker, refreshingly candid, passionate about her band and ambitious enough to propel the steady growth Fantasy has been blessed with over the years.

She is a “business woman with a heart”, a perfect combination of the quiet resilience of her now deceased father John Forde and the outgoing personality of her mother, Beverley Griffith, a former Physical Education Teacher at Amanda’s alma mater Queen’s College.

She always knew she wanted to run a business and when the opportunity came in 2003 to team up with partner and now husband, former Barbados and West Indies Cricketer Floyd Reifer to start the band Radikal, she ran with it the only way she knew how, with complete focus and determination. Continue reading

Damien Applewhaite – Advantage to Apple

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Let Dazzle introduce you to Damien Applewhaite, founder of Advantage Tennis Services(ATS), better known as Coach Apple. From a young age he knew he wanted to be an athlete. Who wouldn’t? After attempting to play various sports and not naturally excelling inthem, he remembered receiving a friendly suggestion from our very own Ryan Wills. “Apple” then tried a tennis summer camp where he found one of the passions to fuel his future.

During his time at the Christ Church Foundation school, although he started his tennis career later than ideal, Damien was still able to successfully represent Barbados in regional tournaments. After resigning from an accounting post at an insurance company at age 19, Damien began teaching in 2000 since he saw a void in the market and he wanted to bring youth and more professionalism to the art of coaching. After he branched out on his own, he established his business in 2006 and has expanded ATS to include his partner Jeffrey Duncan Evanson, and another senior associate who is in charge of the tennis school. Looking at ATS’s exciting website and hearing “Apple” speak, the love of working with children is evident and includes programs to bring out the Pee Wee Power in all the Tennis Tots. The link between ATS and the Barbados Tennis Association(BTA) is very strong as Damien is also the director of coach education on the island.  He manages the BTA’s social media and also manages their rankings. He was once told never to put his rackets down so let’s hear what they have achieved for Coach Apple: Continue reading

The Pink Elephant in the Room Matthew ‘Fewwture’ Ashby

Matthew 'Fewwture' Ashby

“Entrepreneurship is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle.” That is a great way to introduce you to 31 year old Matthew “Fewwture” Ashby and his brand Dream Real Projects. Founded in 2010, the successful company has evolved into one of Barbados’ leading entertainment agencies and handles event and artist management.  The nickname and image “Fewwture” highlights entertainment and lifestyle. It came from the suffix of his name Matthew and the futuristic beats he created when he first started producing music.  While his plan was not etched in stone, what he knew for sure is that he wanted to be an entrepreneur.

Matthew’s journey wasn’t a straight road. He dropped out of St. Leonard’s School in fourth form. “I wasn’t happy there, I felt like if I was just killing time,” he explained.  He entered the world of work, landing a job at A&B Music Supplies where he was for 2 years. Insistent that he should continue his education, his mother, Marcia, encouraged him to go to the Polytechnic, where he studied Computer Science and Electronics.  “It was the best time I ever had at any school; I was doing something I love and could use later in life,” he recounted.  Continue reading

Kyle Smith – Kicking it Curbside

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Have you ever eaten at Curbside Café?  The colorful food truck in the parking lot at Simpson Motors Warrens serves up a Mexican-American inspired menu of tasty lunch treats with one thing in common – they are all deliciously finger smacking good.

If you have stopped by for lunch, chances are you’ve met the owner, Kyle Smith.  At 23 years old, he and his mom-partner Janice are tackling the food industry in a unique and refreshing way. Since opening on the 25th July, 2013, he’s built a reputation for quick, tasty food and good service. He’s there almost every day, greeting customers, making them feel welcome and turning Curbside into one of the most popular midday eating spots in the Warrens area.  Continue reading

Kimtara Clarke – The Girlfriend Behind the Expo

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Ask about Girlfriends Expo and it would be hard to find someone in Barbados who hasn’t heard of it. The two-day expo, a combination of products, services, art, fashion and workshops geared towards women, is one of the most popular annual events in Bim.

Ask about Kimtara Clarke, the “girlfriend” behind the Expo and you might get a different response. She works tirelessly behind the scenes.  You might not even notice her in her jeans and t-shirt, moving among the exhibitors and keeping an eye on things; but she is there, and central to the Expo’s success.  Continue reading

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