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Story Tuesday: Redeeming Ourselves

Every vocation has its pros and cons. Every job title has its own demands. Entrepreneurship might not require a decade of studying but it does require tenacity. It demands emotionally, mentally and physically from a person because most wars are won inside one’s head. Although from the surface it may have seemed as if though we failed more than won; the failures were also triumphs. In the year 2017, we were determined to make sure we did not go down the path of the year before and get stuck in a slum but instead work towards our goals until we achieved them.

 If this is your first time here I would recommend you read the first parts so that you could better understand the other. Here you can find Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7 and Part 8 for your easy access.

 Part 9: Redeeming Ourselves

 At the end of 2016, we got a surprising call from an organization that wanted to collaborate with us to celebrate an important week in their calendar of events. The head of Marketing from Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI) wanted us to work with them or celebrate their Coastal Awareness week, a week they use to highlight the work they have been doing and bringing awareness to sustainable uses of our waters.

The idea behind the collaboration was for us to have a design to put on our cases that would highlight the event and we would help them promote the event and they would promote the sales of our cases. It was THE first time anyone considered us for anything at the level. We were super excited because it felt like the end of a losing streak, and it felt like we were finally being recognized as an established business.

We spent weeks planning our part of the collaboration and it paid off. We hired someone from a freelance website to create what we named our “Coast of Belize” design and my vision for it was from a painting I’ve been admiring from the day I started working at my current job 6 years ago. The joy the final design brought me is indescribable. Seeing it, and seeing how people responded to the final design made all the hard work and countless hours worth it. We had also decided to bring in workout armbands since one of the activities for the Coastal Awareness Week was a run from BTL Park to Baron Bliss Lighthouse and back.

 All of these exciting news had to be kept a secret because the celebrations were scheduled until March. Imagine me having to keep all of this a secret. It was torture. So we spend all of January and February working getting the design and armbands in time. So close to the big reveal in March, CZMAI had an excursion to Goff’s Caye and we went on it so that Armando could get some awesome pictures for the big reveal and other posts we wanted to do.

When the “Coast of Belize” cases were launched they were a bit hit. We got back great feedback from customers, especially from the new ones. And that good feedback help push us to want more. Armando was so motivated that he when to several gift shops to convince them to sell the cases. Not a lot of them agreed but some did, like the gift shop inside Cahal Pech. this new arrangement was the start of something new for us.

With the new motivation, Armando started to post more pictures and those pictures made for new ads that were sponsored. Sponsoring a post means that we pay Facebook to show our posts to more people that it would have if we weren’t to pay them. When we do this we almost always get way more inquiries than we would have we not sponsored the post. Armando was still answering messages, making the previews and making the cases. So whenever he would sponsor a post the would be bombarded with work. So humanly he would want to not sponsor a post but with the new motivation, he felt more inclined to do so. This meant that even during the summer, which was our slower months, he was still very busy. That year, our Belize Flag cases were trending. Yes, we had sold plenty of our flag cases every year, but this time we sold way more. Again, I don’t have any statistics on how many we sold that year, but it was a lot. The flag cases became an item that you wanted to take with you when you traveled. I personally to my Flag case to Cuba and Russia in 2017 and it was definitely a conversation started while being away from home.

Our cases were being recognized by people from all walks of life. So when a curious girl inquired about buying our cases in a large quantity, it left us wondering what she wanted them for. Turns out that the person inquiring about our cases was none other than Shatefa Garbutt who created the brand, Naturally Belizean. She had an idea of what she wanted to put on the case and Armando quickly put her design on the case to show her, she loved it and purchase a bunch. When we realized that she wanted to resell the cases (we usually call this white labeling) we were happy that she would want to do it. Other businesses wouldn’t dream of doing something like this for fear of losing customers. The truth is no one would lose customers, instead, we would be capturing people from each other’s customer base. She would post and give us attention and when we post her products she would get attention from our customers. A lot of Belizean businesses fail because of fear, fear that other people would somehow steal their shine. When in reality, collaboration like what we established with CZMAI and Naturally Belizean is what strengths a business. To this day she still purchases our cases and other items and we still send our customers to her.

The biggest accomplishment of note for 2017 for me, was finally getting the kind of packaging I’ve wanted since day 1. When we first began, we were making our own packaging from chipboard that was covered with plain colored paper and folded into the shape we wanted. It took me hours to do and Armando did it faster, but I needed to do it so he could spend more time on other more important items. But before the end of 2017, we finally got our boxes with our logo on it. It gave me the most accomplished feeling that year because it took us about 3 years to finally get them.

Was the losing streak finally finished? I would want to hope so. We had heard on several occasions that it take 3 to 5 years for your business to be established and boy it took us some time indeed. From here it feels like we’re on an uphill trail.

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