By ALESHA CADET
Tribune Features Reporter
Carpentry is usually not a profession associated with women, but Christabelle Izevbizua has been interested in woodwork and building things since she was in junior high school. And now, she has taken that years-long passion and created her own business platform, inclusive of workshops for aspiring young carpenters.
“I was a tomboy who didn't want to take any 'girly' electives. I've been hooked ever since. I’m 31 in August, but a kid at heart,” she told Tribune Woman.
The mother-of-one studied woodwork and carpentry all throughout high school at Kingsway Academy and then graduated from BTVI with a certificate in Carpentry in 2019.
During the pandemic last October, she turned her hobby into a full-blown operation called Bellewood by Design and was able to partner with big companies like CBS Bahamas.
While Christabelle has been back to her usual ‘9 to 5’ job since June, she is still working on her business after hours, on days off and on the weekends. She offers custom builds, furniture ‘flips’, restorations, and bathtub refinishing. Christabelle also likes to share her journey behind the scenes with her customers, from her woodwork and DIY tips to her all-around carpentry knowledge.
Bellewood By Design, she said, is unique in that it is led by a woman, and she is looking to hire an all-female team in future.
"During the pandemic, I was given an opportunity to work on a project where a comfortable environment was created for me to test my skills. They believed in me so much that if I messed up, it would be OK, but being a perfectionist, I figured it out along the way.
“My overall goal is to increase awareness and empower women. I want young girls in the Caribbean to know that the trades industry is an option as a career, and very doable, while inspiring women to pick up a tool, even if it's just for little changes around the house,” said Christabelle.
Trades like carpentry, electrical, HVAC technology and plumbing will always be needed, which is why it's a great career choice for anyone, she added.
“The support has been overwhelming. Both men and women find it inspiring and have reached out to me for commissioned pieces,” she said.
The carpenter said she has been inspired by similar local businesses like Caso Kitchens and SMG Construction, whose work she considers modern and beautiful.
Internationally, she looks to MaraMade Designs as inspiration, simply because it's a Caribbean brand based in Jamaica that is owned and operated by a woman, Mara Harding.
Offering tips to other young women who aspire to start a business but are unsure of where to start, Christabelle advises to embark on learning a new skill or deciding on your first small project at home.
For the remainder of the year, Christabelle said she is looking forward to providing private lessons to teach young girls and women tool safety and use, and hosting more DIY workshop events, public and private, where participants get to build and customise a project.