An agency of the Ministry of Industry, Investment & Commerce, the JBDC is Jamaica’s premier business development organisation working collaboratively with government, private sector, as well as, academic, research and international communities.



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A businesswoman with a passion for safeguarding the natural environment, Kerry-Ann Willis, is on a mission to get other Jamaicans just as excited about doing their part to preserving it.

Patricia Kitson (left), manager, human resource management and development at the Jamaica Business Development Corporation, gets a tutorial from Kerry-Ann Willis, managing director of Eco Smart Sip, on how to pack her reusable glass straw for travel in its eco-friendly kit. They were at the JBDC’s 12 Annual Small Business Expo and Conference at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, St Andrew.

During Wednesday’s closing day of the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) 12th annual Small Business Expo and Conference, her display of eco-friendly items on sale drew a steady stream of curious patrons. Reusable drinking straws made from stainless steel, bamboo and glass, with accessories such as a cleaning brush, travel bag as well as ­display cases, were a big hit.

The two-day expo, themed ‘Monetising the Orange Economy: The Future is Creative’, highlighted the vast business potential in ­artificial intelligence, publishing, performing arts and visual arts.

Manager of human resource management and development at the JBDC, Patricia Kitson, ­marvelled at the various options before ­settling on a drinking straw made from glass, which she insisted was a worthwhile investment.

“Sometimes it is so ­inconvenient when you buy the paper ones because as you start to drink, it’s gets soggy and disintegrates and you have to throw it away. So sometimes I have to use three straws for one drink,” she told The Gleaner. “So now if I buy a glass straw, then I go through my ­drinking quite easily and don’t have a problem. In ­addition, I want to support the no plastic straw campaign.”

Meanwhile, for Willis, managing director of Eco Smart Sip, which also markets tote bags made from burlap, as well as a complete ­cutlery set and plates made from birch, among other eco-friendly items for everyday use, the business operation allows her to also pursue her passion for teaching. Eco Smart Sip was started before the January 1 ban on single-use shopping bags, among other items made from plastic.

The geography major’s ­interest in preserving the ­environment was enriched while pursuing a first degree at The University of the West Indies, Mona. Willis revels in the opportunities to share her expertise with the public, while positively influencing behavioural change outside of the classroom.

“I started out with doing ­children’s books, teaching them about the environment, but I wanted to do a little bit more, and that is when the idea of doing the ­bamboo straws came about. And in everything, you know, it has its pros and its cons, and people were asking for ­different ­varieties and henceforth the glass and stainless steel straws,” said Willis, ­explaining that the bamboo is sourced in Jamaica and the ­carrying cases ­manufactured locally.

The entrepreneur is upbeat about building Brand Jamaica while helping to reduce the ­country’s carbon footprint.

“We also have some beautiful handmade Jamaican tote bags from burlap that you can use for the supermarket, and, of course, we just want to make an effort to ensure that we are preserving the future,” Willis told The Gleaner.

“There is no ignoring the fact that the use of a reusable straw over a year prevents 1,065 plastic straws from entering the ocean and harming marine animals.”

Source: The Gleaner


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