AMIDST calls from the Development Bank of Jamaica to look to the microfinance industry to address unemployment and calls from the HEART Trust/NTA to consider skills training as a means of avoiding joblessness, Damien Baddy, Cameca Samuels and Lesley-Ann Welsh have each successfully turned their hobbies into moneymakers.
Recently, the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) released figures which showed an increase in the unemployment rate, that up to April this year stood at 16.3 per cent, when compared to 14.4 per cent for the same period last year. All three have managed to exclude themselves from this net however.
For Baddy, his creative passion has blossomed into him doing professional videography and photography under his LookYah outfit, though he majored in psychology while attending the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, United States of America.
"The first digital camera I had was a cellphone," Baddy told the Jamaica Observer, adding that he got his first taste of the technical aspects of photography through two electives he completed while in college.
"I used my cellphone's camera to take pictures and people were always impressed with the images I took."
The 33-year-old is American by birth, but his mother is Jamaican, so when he decided to relocate to Jamaica in 2005, it seemed a natural fit. By this time he had acquired his first professional camera, a Canon 20D.
"When I came to Jamaica, I had a laptop and a camera," said Baddy. "Originally, I came to Jamaica to start a learning institution, which saw me completing a Diploma in Education Administration at the University of the West Indies. It is still my long-term goal, however, my love for photography soon morphed into videography."
To date, Baddy has done several projects with organisations like Youth Upliftment Through Employment, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, as well as behind-the-scenes photographs and films for artistes like Sizzla and Shaggy. He was also uniquely positioned during Hurricane Dean in 2007, as Baddy told the Observer that several of his pictures were featured on CNN and in the New York Daily News.
He admitted that it has not been smooth sailing, however, but he believes the opportunities to volunteer, network and gain valuable production experience in Jamaica are countless.
"Mi nah guh lie, it is kind of rough in terms of making a profit," said Baddy. "Profits can be made however you have to get your name out there and maintain quality standards, because with the advent of the digital age there are a lot of people with cameras and the right equipment.
"What makes the difference is you knowing how to use it, trying concepts that have never been done, and being fearless when it comes to using different angles and lighting."
Samuels told the Sunday Observer that, after working with Super Plus configuring supermarkets, she developed a love for coordination and project management, and while watching TV shows on Home and Garden TV, she decided to merge what she knew with what she was watching, into a career. She now describes it as her "greatest pleasure".
"I'm an interior contractor/creative consultant. I implement and design interior finishes. I also have a workshop that fabricates the stuff I design," said Samuels, the owner of Living Things. "It's profitable and I have good clients. My work is my hobby so I'm always working. I enjoy seeing spaces come alive.
"It's been an amazing journey," she added. "I've been given surreal opportunities that have made me feel happy to be alive in this time, to think it and then to be able to do it.
"Challenges are a part of life and should be handled accordingly, as part of growth and experience. Keep going, keep getting better amidst shortcomings," Samuels said.
Welsh, the owner of media production and entertainment business Anubis Communications, describes herself as "primarily a storyteller who thrives on creating enjoyable experiences for people". She explains that these "stories manifest in writing as scripts for advertisements or copy for print and online media [campaigns]; sometimes they become live performances or community-based Arts projects". She said that after being recruited as a production assistant for a feature film by her mentor, she "loved the unpredictability and pace of the entertainment business, so I stuck with it and never looked back".
She told the Sunday Observer, "We're steadily building our credibility and portfolio. At the moment, thankfully, we get paid enough to get by, with the help of disciplined financial management."
However, Welsh did not knock a regular nine-to-five before trying it.
"I realised early out -- before leaving school -- that I was not cut out for the 'plantation' life that is the nine-to-five," she said. "I need to be able to work outdoors, have a chance to engage with people and to mix things up to keep boredom at bay. I tried out a desk job for one year, just to make sure I was sure. The sheer joy, fulfilment and freedom that come with doing what you love and earning from it is all life is about for me. Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life."
None of the three have had regrets about choosing to do what they love and earning an income while at it. They each recommend that people consider turning their hobbies into income-earners to escape the unemployment cloak.
"This is me. This is my choice," Samuels stated firmly. "People can turn their hobbies into a business. But of course, there are some fundamental components [or] best practices to give you best results -- passion, attitude and good business skills, as well as networking.
"Having a great product doesn't guarantee success. Put it out there for people to partake of it. Be present in your decision-making. Research your market and the dynamics of what you bring to the table. Make sense of what you're doing," she further cautioned.
Baddy echoed the sentiments of Samuels to the Sunday Observer, but also advised, "Don't be afraid to learn, never give up, be patient with yourself, and seek peace of mind."