Behind every business and its owner is a trail of great failure, but amid this failure, success is often found. Kimberley Smith’s story is one of these tales filled with tenacity, fortitude and a healthy dose of faith as she set out to launch her venture. At 21, the fourth-year student at The University of the West Indies, who is working towards a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree, says her love of the outdoors and the environment served as the impetus for her creation of Marvet Made.
Marvet Made as a brand focuses on encapsulating the white sandy beaches of Jamaica in handcrafted jewellery from a beautiful selection of mollusc seashells found within the island. Each piece of jewellery is combined and woven in a manner that is loved and admired by everyone, a product that can be passed on and shared between friends and family for generations to come. But most importantly, it’s a slice of Jamaica for customers to cherish that has been forged by the sands of time.
Inspiration for Marvet Made struck Smith during a family outing at the beach. While enjoying the beautiful rays of the warm tropical sun, the twinkling of a seashell caught her attention, and upon further investigation she discovered a new world, one that Smith calls a gift from the sea, an area so well protected that it has allowed for sea life to truly develop and grow.
Despite Smith’s enthusiasm, her newly discovered dream was accompanied by what seemed like an insurmountable obstacle as managing school and a part-time job had a big impact on the time available to make it a reality.
“I think that the business suffers a lot more than my studies as it’s hard to find time because it’s a very rigorous programme that demands a lot of time in hospitals and being on the floor doing rounds every day and when I come home I have to study, plus I work part-time as a Spanish teacher as well, so I had to be creative in how I allocate time to the business,” said Smith.
Being an advocate for fulfilling your dreams, Smith knew that giving up and giving in was not an option. After all, she had already spent the only extra $5,000 she had on supplies, in addition to the hours spent doing research. Despite this, many looked on with confusion as she was launching a handcrafts business targeted at tourists in the middle of a pandemic.
“I started with just two products in the line, necklaces and earrings in small quantities. I could only buy a little of the materials needed to combine with the shells. I only had that money to spare. Despite the opposition, I don’t think I picked a bad time to start this business because it gave me a lot of time to work on it as things were moving a little slower than usual, so I was able to squeeze in a few hours a day, but this came with me missing something like dinner or lunch, and sometimes sacrificing sleep,” said Smith.
Nevertheless, through consistency and perseverance, Smith was now armed with two products in hand, but she realised that there was a difference between the research process and the implementation process. Smith found that breaking into the tourism industry was a tricky dance as introducing a product into this market is rather challenging without having a great deal of connections, especially with store owners in the tourism sector.
As the insurmountable odds began to pile on, resting on the verge of giving in, Smith made a breakthrough as she uncovered the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), which provided the opportunity of being added to the JBDC database providing a connection with the Tourism Enhancement fund.
“It’s a great resource centre as you get information on how you can be featured at various events as well as information about business development seminars and grants,” said Smith.
Smith has participated in numerous pop-up events since making this discovery, including Holistic Women’s Empowerment Affair, Kingston Night Market, and Christmas in July. These events will continue to play a significant role in Smith’s path to success as it was through these events that she expanded her product line to include five new categories of jewellery, with each category containing several new items along with expanding her audience.
Despite Smith’s growing success she still believes in the power of gaining a good education as she views it as a tool of empowerment.
“My education is very important to me, and when I chose to enrol in this programme, I thought the medical field was where I wanted to spend the rest of my life. However, as I went along, I learned more about business and discovered that I preferred it to medicine, and I realised I don’t have to do one thing for the rest of my life. For me, it’s not about the money because both fields have the potential for good income, but rather about the experience. Both fields have the benefit of impacting people’s lives in some positive way, but in business, there is more room to fail and learn from those failures. Making mistakes in the medical field can result in lives lost,” said Smith.
When asked what advice she would give to someone in a similar position, she said: “The first thing I would say is that you need to have a plan and conduct research because that will help you determine whether it is worthwhile investing your time and, more importantly, your money. Starting a business requires a lot of work, and you need to be realistic about what you hope to achieve. Don’t let your fear of the unknown keep you from starting because without acting, you will never learn how to run a business effectively. But as you progress, continue to improve and never listen to the negative noise around you.”
Currently, Marvet Made produces and sells an average of 50 to 150 products each month, spanning a week-long manufacturing process. However, despite this increase in sales, Smith continues to hand-pick the best and most unique seashells, as she believes that no shell is the same. Marvet Made can be found in all branches of Things Jamaican Stores in Kingston, Jamaica.
Smith continues to push forward as the future goal for Marvet Made is to be in each craft store in the tourism sector in Jamaica, with her logo continuing to represent a love for our beaches and the quality that we as Jamaicans can produce. She shares her passion with the world by creating a product that can be worn by everyone, a product that can be passed on and shared between friends and family for generations to come but most importantly, Smith wants everyone to hold and carry a piece of Jamaica with them that has been forged by the sands of time.