By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A sister-in-law duo yesterday said they are “taking a leap” by opening a downtown Nassau store designed to place “authentic” Bahamian brands within easier reach of tourists and locals.
Keva and Natalie Carey, in e-mailed replies to Tribune Business questions, said the positive response from Bahamian entrepreneurs and small businesses had convinced them to move beyond the virtual world with a ‘bricks and mortar’ venture that will open in Parliament Street’s BayParl building in March 2022.
Describing themselves as “on a mission to reclaim space for Bahamian-owned and Bahamian-made brands”, they explained that Down Home Bahamas will aim to provide a showcase and storefront to give such products exposure in an environment where too many locally-owned businesses are being “priced out of premium locations”.
“The idea of Down Home Bahamas was introduced back in February 2021 in direct response to a question that came up in a conversation between sisters-in-law and Down Home Bahamas’ founder, Keva Carey, and head of marketing, Natalie Carey: How can we make it easier to find Bahamian-owned products?” the duo said in response to this newspaper’s questions.
“The first step was launching an Instagram channel to take advantage of the user-friendly platform’s algorithm, visual discovery and ease in which you can tag and share brands. In many ways, Down Home Bahamas’ page can be used as a directory.
“Once we felt momentum, and heard consistent positive responses from Bahamian business owners and the Bahamian community, we decided to take a leap and launch a brick and mortar. Our goal became making it as easy and achievable for Bahamians to open a physical store, as it is to set up a digital one. Securing an affordable and highly trafficked location, like the BayParl building, took about four months.”
The Careys acknowledged that they did not have experience in traditional retail, but added that this was compensated for by their backgrounds in business and marketing. Keva described herself as having 15 years’ experience in managing small and emerging businesses, a trait inherited from her father, Keith Carey.
Natalie, who will head Down Home Bahamas’ marketing, said she had spent a similar period in this role with the likes of Anheuser-Busch, Campbell’s, Comcast, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald’s, Mondelez International and Target. She is based in Florida, where she lives with her Bahamian husband and family.
“Down Home Bahamas is on a mission to provide the access and expertise needed to make it just as easy for our small business community to open a brick and mortar store as it is to set up a website,” the duo added.
“From retail store upkeep to product promotion, we are the sales team and product experts your existing and emerging brand has been looking for. Simply put, we want Bahamian brands to reach customers more easily, effectively helping build a stronger small business community and better our economy.”
They added: “We believe there are thousands of Bahamian-owned products and services. And while all have rich histories to tell, many remain unknown to the public – especially those whose stories begin on the Family Islands.
“These brands are likely high calibre and innovative, or contain premium-quality ingredients but, unfortunately, they don’t have the digital or physical retail footprint to get discovered, leaving the consumer feeling either unsure or completely unaware of its existence.”
The Careys said they had secured brands in segments ranging from jewellery, beauty and fashion to artists and artisans. Those set to be present when the store launches in March are the likes of All Things Straw; Collina’s Creations; Custom Creations; Keep it Lit; Nature’s Way Natural Honey; and Wicks by Sticks
The beauty and self-care brands include Born Again Naturals; Cadanae’s Selfcare; Fab Beauty Supply; Sunkissed Island; and The Sugar Pot. Fashion and resortwear comprises Asseraj Haus of Fashion; c r y s m; and Relish Socks, while jewellery offerings involve Chevette Williamson Jewelry and Monifa Unjinga. The artist line-up includes Deime Ubani and Eddion Castillo Alexander.
“Homegrown brands have to compete with foreign-owned products with greater budgets, and which are readily available on shelves in stores in The Bahamas, around the world and online,” the Down Home Bahamas duo added. “In conjunction with the Bahamian consumers’ instinct to shop outside of the country due to convenience, the hurdle to success becomes even more prevalent.
“Opening a brick-and-mortar store takes significant time, energy, investment and risk. We believe Down Home Bahamas can provide the exposure, location and staff needed to help businesses thrive, not just survive, giving all brands involved the opportunity to scale with success.”
They added that “entry membership for Bahamian businesses” begins at $100 per month or a 15 percent commission. While there are presently no plans for further stores beyond the Parliament Street location, the two sisters-in-law said they have “ambition to scale” up should the demand be there.
While they did not provide figures on the jobs that will be created, or the investment involved, the duo added: “Our vision is 700 islands and cays under one roof.... This is the first step in our journey and we’re hopeful people find it interesting enough to join us.”
Keva Carey said in a statement: “Authentically Bahamian products should be front and centre. Not limited to pop-ups and on the backstreets.... We uncovered over 800 Bahamian brands and artists and thought about how it would feel to walk into a store and be able to interact with each one of them.”