By Leigh- Ann Worrell
Celia Collymore’s unrelentingly Bajan Fusion connects people through adventure in ways often left unexplored by those who call this island home. This fusion also combines two of Celia’s passions: personal development and fitness. The four-year-old fitness lifestyle event management company organizes events throughout the year such as outdoor training sessions, lifestyle workshops, dance fitness and initiatives aimed at reducing the rate of non-communicable diseases.
Even though the 38-year-old lived and loved her work, it has been a winding path of success and setbacks leading to entrepreneurship. The decision to start a business was made in 2011, a few months after returning to Barbados from New York.
Celia moved to the Big Apple on a basketball scholarship to Pace University, pursuing a Bachelor in Business Administration and later, a Master’s in Public Administration with a focus on Non-Profit Management With an increasing interest in human resources, Celia completed the SHRM PHR Certificate course and an internship in recruiting at non-profit agency during summer and was hired a year later as a human resources administrator at the Bank of New York Mellon.
“I loved Human Resources, but I really loved the engagement, training and development aspect of my job,” she recalled via Skype chat.
But a declining economy in the United States meant that non-national employees were in a precarious position on the American job market. This also impacted Celia, whose H-1B visa was not renewed.
“It was very disheartening. I really had planned to stay in New York and focus on development and training, but God had a different plan for me. Everything happens for a reason.”
Celia touched down on the island on October 26, 2011. She set out on the local job market, while ruminating on the idea of a business which stemmed from an invitation to a dance fitness instructor in New York to experience soca music in its purest form.
“I would go out on interviews but the jobs were not landing. . .But even as I was looking for jobs I was still working on this Bajan Fusion thing. I knew I wanted to create an experience for people to come to the island for Crop Over so we can share our music and our culture. . . I also knew I wanted to create something that would connect people and . . . provide holistic personal development.”
Bajan Fusion was established on the final day of 2012, and hosted its first event about a month later. The adventures target around 20 to 50 people aged 24 to 44. Activities include mountain biking, hiking, caving, paddle-boarding and Segway tours.
Initially, Bajan Fusion hosted events every month but scaled back in order to maintain staying power. Five activities were planned last year. The ‘bus a move’ dance fitness tour ended 2016 on a fun-filled, scenic high, as participants dance the day away at three scenic spots on the island: Cherry Tree Hill, St. Andrew; Bathsheba, St. Joseph and Codrington College, St. John.
The admitted dance fanatic also teaches regular dance fitness class three days a week in collaboration with the Ministry of Health through an initiative titled, Get Women Moving.
Already an upbeat personality, Celia became even more excited when she talked about the transformation she has noticed in her loyal participants.
“[They] tell me that they like coming back because of the atmosphere and the positive attitude of the people.”
She shared the experience of one participant who started in the summer weighing 219 pounds, but has since reduced to 185 pounds.
And it was stories like these, or the look of joy when someone has successfully tried something different, that gave Celia the encouragement to persevere.
“I just want to use my leadership skills to empower people. I want people to live their best life . . .,” she asserted.
Building capacity in others has also reaped major rewards for the entrepreneur. She reported that she has also improved skills such as choreography in preparation for her weekly dance classes, as well as bettered her kitchen chops by providing healthier snacks after events.
“Bajan Fusion is certainly adding to my knowledge. There are challenges and struggles but I am growing,” she said. “. . .The business has many moving parts with a combination of anxiety, successes, challenges and disappointments but I love what I do so it never feels like work, just another goal to accomplish.”
The journey has been made easier with the guidance of mentor Lynn Beckles — whom she describes as a “monumental help in the technical side of business” — and the support of family and friends.
Celia continues to work towards bigger and brighter things for Bajan Fusion. She plans to assemble a team and incrementally expand the reach of the company throughout the island.
“I hope to grow from strength to strength by building a brand that does not only maintain, but sustains. My brand is about integrity and working with people who have the same ideals of integrity.”
– Enjoys cooking healthier alternative meals and baking during her down time
– Travelled to Casablanca, Morocco and Jeju Island, South Korea
– Still wants to meet Michael Jordan, her basketball idol
– Wanted to be a bodybuilder and mechanic when she was younger