Shadai Myrie is now looking to grow La Lona Art and Be Our Guest Jamaica to further serve the interests of Jamaicans after navigating the hurdles of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The young entrepreneur just passed the five-year mark after forming her business La Lona Art on September 19, 2018, which provides customised canvasses and acrylics for customers to memorialise their memories. This comes after she spent three years in corporate as a project assistant after exiting university. It was during this time where she developed different skills and her budding passion for unique creations blossomed.
"I feel like that experience kind of moulded me because my role as a project assistant was liaising with internal and external customers and it was about facilitation and being on top of everything. It definitely filtered into how I operate as an entrepreneur in terms of my record keeping and my customer service," Myrie explained on her upbringing before she ventured into entrepreneurship.
As a young entrepreneur, she used the power of Instagram to take customer orders while crafting other skills such as graphic design and people management. It was through this platform that she was able to display her final pieces to excited customers who shared their reactions to the custom canvasses that came in all shapes and sizes. While she didn't have to learn certain skills such as woodwork, she came to appreciate the satisfaction her customers expressed from the moments created with their loved ones. It all fits back into La Lona's motto of 'Make Your Wall Our Canvas.'
"Well, I kind of had this fascination with business and the idea of just watching something I created from the ground up. I always just believe that entrepreneurs are like the backbone of the economy in terms of they create new opportunities for persons from all walks of life, industries. So, I wanted to venture into something that I could utilise my hands a bit more and have a direct influence on persons lives or contribute greatly to the economy in some way," Myrie added on the value she sees entrepreneurs creating.
It was these interactions that led Myrie to create Be Our Guest Jamaica in February 2020 which is a bespoke gift shop that focused on customised functional tools like signage and souvenirs like key rings, mugs, coasters, and other items. This meant providing for events like weddings, baby showers, birthdays and other memorable occasions.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic, which came a month later, dealt a blow to both businesses as people tightened their wallets and had limited events which had contained interactions. Despite this hurdle, Myrie put on her hard hat and used her ingenuity to remain relevant with the public. This pivot succeeded as individuals sent gifts to others who weren't able to attend the physical event and allowed for them to feel included in the occasion.
"I definitely had to get creative and pivot and still try to market it in a way that made it seem like a necessity for persons who wouldn't be able to attend the events to still give them a piece of the day to let them know that you wish they were there. We just had to be flexible," Myrie discussed on her overcoming the pandemic.
While the journey has been hard over the years, Myrie welcomes the challenges in navigating her businesses to greater success. She has since built a website to allow for persons to upload photos, make orders and have greater interactions outside of the Instagram DM (direct message). This automation has since given her more time to innovate and see what new way she can not only serve her existing customers, but build deeper relationships with them as well.
"All of the times persons will tell you, oh I want to become an entrepreneur because I don't want to do the 9-5, I just want to have more time on my hands. From my personal experience, entrepreneurship has been a 24/7 [job]. There are no days off, it's every day. Balancing a personal life while trying to live and focusing on expanding something has been a bit of a challenge because you don't want to lose time. You want to expend all this effort to watch it grow into something very big, you want to make sure you see the fruits of your labour and I find that having a personal life can be a bit of a challenge," Myrie expounded on some of the challenges that comes as a solo entrepreneur.
This Jampreneur is ready to take on any hurdles that may come later in the year and is ready to make sure, "You'll never leave empty-handed."
"Going forward now, what I'm trying to do is to secure funding to expand because ultimately, I want Be Our Guest to become a whole process. Instead of just focusing on souvenirs, signage and gift boxes, I want it to be like a one-stop shop of sorts where you can plan your events and rent equipment. For La Lona, it's continuing to grow my customer base."
La Lona Art can be found on Instagram @lalonaart and Be Our Guest Jamaica @beourguest.876. Also, the websites are lalonaart.company.site and beourguestja.com.