KEMEISHA BROWN MARTINEZ: Feeds off the energy of her son while doing her business creations

Observer writer

Sunday, May 12, 2019

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Kemeisha Brown Martinez, a young married mother of a five-year-old son, turned her artistic inclinations into the making of handmade furniture and household decorative items a year ago. Her undertaking would be best described as a micro-enterprise with its miniscule budget and no workspace outside of home. Yet, Martinez has been selling items every month and now has a pressing need for a larger space to make and store her pieces.

Her furniture and decorative creations are constructed using discarded items, odds and ends and recyclable material.

“I basically recycle stuff, so if I see a tyre, I will think of something I can do with it,” she explained. “I'll change it to whatever comes to my mind. So basically, now I'm doing tables using tyres. With pallets, I make benches and beds, little tables and also little storage racks for bathrooms, in other words, whatever comes to mind. If I am driving on the street and I see something unusual, like anything that somebody threw away, I will just take it up and basically revamp it into whatever I want.”

Brown Martinez is a native of the parish of St Ann, where she grew up near the parish capital of St Ann's Bay. She attended the Marcus Garvey Technical High School after which she entered the Miss Jamaica World competition in 2003. In 2004, she placed second in the Pulse Petite Fashion Model search and in that same year she joined Uzuri International where she became involved with the Uzuri cabaret group.

She met her husband Xavier Martinez, a native of Spain, when she started working at the RIU Tropical Bay hotel in the entertainment department before cross-training and joining the front desk staff at RIU Montego Bay. After her stint at RIU, she went on to work for a perfume store and was a beauty consultant for Shisedo, a high-end Japanese cosmetic company.

But it was not until after she married Xavier in 2011 that her artistic talents started to blossom. The newly-weds moved to Spain for two years and there she studied special effects and social make-up and apprenticed to a number of companies and entities such as TV stations, where her talent as a make-up artist was needed. She carried her talent to The Bahamas next where she did make-up for weddings at the Memories Grand Bahama Beach & Casino Resort.

After four years away, the couple returned to Jamaica where she has been raising her five-year-old son, Joaquim. It was not just Brown Martinez' creative skills that led her to start her present furniture design business but also the considerations of being a mother.

“My main reason for not doing a 9 to 5 job now is because I have dedicated my time to my son, at least until he's eight years old, before going back out there as a normal working person,” she related.

During her time back in Jamaica, she has grown artistically as a freelance artist doing make-up for weddings, photo shoots and special events. She extended her artistry to home improvement and decor and friends started consulting with her for advice on improving their homes. It was then she realised she could produce items on her own that were suitable for a particular room of a house.

When asked what are her favourite items that she has produced in the past year, she responded, “I would say all of them because whatever I make, they are things that I would want in my own house.”

“Most of the stuff I have it is kind of hard to part with,” she explained. “I often wonder if I should keep them or I should sell them because I mean, I love them so much that I want to put them in my house, but at the same time I don't have space for them, you know.”

She is particularly fond of the accent pieces she made for living rooms which include small coffee tables made from car tyres. Other items she mentioned are a small table made from a washing machine drum, a rewrapped old love seat, specially wrapped bottles with ocean designs within, a pallet lawn chair and table, and an accent table that lights up via remote control.

The prices of her creations vary greatly depending on the quality and cost of materials such as fabric, glass tops, wheels and other items plus time for labour and the size of the items manufactured. Smaller pieces like decorated bottles can go for as low as $1,200 while larger, more complex furniture such as tables made with a variety of high-quality materials and accessories, requiring a lot more labour, can cost over $50,000.

Brown Martinez pointed out that the items that are not specifically commissioned by clients to be built obviously take longer to sell and this means they have to be stored. Now, there is a need for storage areas and more workspace, so she is looking to expand in the near future and perhaps open a store. She also wants to move beyond individual clients to bigger clients and is in the process of working out an arrangement with an agent who will handle marketing and target hotels for her. Currently, she markets her work through personal selling and social media with a page established on Facebook called Kemacku Home Decor.

As a mother she likes to involve her son in her work and finds it very rewarding when he participates.

“He actually helps me most of the time and whenever I make something I will ask for his opinion,” she said. “I will say 'do you like this?' because he is very intelligent. He told me he is going to become an engineer, so if I do anything and I need an opinion and my husband is not there, I will say 'Joaquim what do you think about this?' and he will say 'Well I like it but you know it should have this or maybe that colour'. So, I feed off his energy as well. He shows a lot of fascination for engineering so once I am building stuff he is intrigued.”

Staying with the theme of family she was happy to relate that her husband, who is currently a director of procurement and supply chain at Caribbean Producers Jamaica Limited, backs her 100 per cent in her endeavours, and while she uses what is left over from her household budget to buy supplies to make her various creations, he pitches in for the bigger projects. Just like her son, she turns to him for advice and said he will tell her to work on finishes and edges because his eyes are more for details and the finished look.

Family is her top priority, she stated, and relaxation and vacation time away from work is planned with her son in mind.

“We mainly go to the beaches, do tours, try to do attractions or go river rafting,” she said. “Once a month we travel somewhere around Jamaica, especially for our boy.”

For now, she is taking it one step at a time as she balances work and family.

““It's a work in progress,” she emphasised, which is a fitting assessment of her growing and promising entrepreneurial project.

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