Category Archives: Business and Product Reviews

Toy Stores in Barbados

Storage-Blog-Access-Christmas-Toys-Appeal

 

I had been working on a comparative analysis of supermarkets in Barbados for some time but I became so busy that I could not follow up on all of the stores as I would like, and at this time of year, so many changes may have occurred that I may have to question the currency of my research. It is quite possible that I may have to start afresh in 2015.

Still, I owe you something after my lengthy hiatus, so in keeping with the season, I thought I would list a few stores in Barbados where you can purchase toys for the little ones.

There are a number of stores in Bridgetown that sell toys, especially at this time of year, even if toys are not their specialty or regular items on their inventories. If you want a one-stop shop for toys in Town, however, a number of people seem to have been gravitating towards Tasha’s Wonderland on the First Floor of Cave Shepherd, Broad Street.

Personally, I prefer to shop outside of the City, and there are a number of options out there. First on my list is Deanna Dash’s Toy Shop, conveniently located in Sky Mall, Haggatt Hall, St. Michael. There is a Lower Bay Street, Bridgetown location as well. It is not a large store, but it definitely has variety.

Toyriffic in Sheraton Mall, Christ Church has a wide assortment of toys as well, though some patrons have complained that it is a bit pricey. Krackerjack Kidz in Limegrove Lifestyle Centre, Holetown, St. James is another pricey yet viable alternative.

I am sure there are more so feel free to share your favourite toy store in Barbados. Who knows, you may be able to help some other moms looking for that perfect gift for their offspring this holiday.

A LITTLE SOMETHING FOR THE VEGANS

Moving is stressful. There are so many things to consider; even more so when you have a particular diet. This article is for those who like vegan fare and may need a few short cuts while they get settled in their new environment.

 Ras Val

Today’s focus is on Ras Val’s Campus Ital. I met the proprietors of Ras Val’s, Kareem and Aisha while visiting BMEX 2014. The two pleasant and intelligent young people explained that they sold vegetarian food at the University of the West Indies and in their Dash Valley, St. George location (Ras Val’s Cookshop). They offer readymade fare for those seeking an instant hot meal, but new to their repertoire are frozen split pea patty and lentil patty batters which allow customers to have the Ras Val flavours at home.

Split pea and lentil patties

 

Val is the pair’s mother and it is through her vision that Ras Val’s was started 15 years ago. Their varied menu includes:

rice and peas,

vegetable fried rice,

potato medley,

sweet potato pie,

stewed ground provisions,

vegetable pasta,

vegetarian lasagna,

lentil loaf

several vegetable stews and sauces.

Their Cave Hill location reopens on the 2nd September, Mondays to Friday from 11:00 am until 8:00 pm. Their Dash Valley, St George location is open Moday – Friday from 11:30 am until 2:30 pm.

The company also provides catering services and may be reached by Facebook, email (rasvalscampusital@gmail.com), or phone: 571-4340 (Ras Val’s Cookshop) or 268-4822/ 240-3587 (Ras Val’s Campus Ital).

Buying Bajan: Mood Buddy

It had been my intention to do a week of features of local products, however, life got in the way. Instead, I will intersperse a few articles about local entrepreneurs in between as many articles as I can muster this month.

 
First up this week is the Mood Buddy. I was first introduced to this concept at the recent BMEX exhibition. Young entrepreneur, Vanetta Loncke very patiently explained the concept to me and my three very intrigued children.

 

Mood Buddy Display

 

My first reaction to the small figurines was that they were reminiscent of the Littlest Pet Shop and similar brands, however, Vanetta’s product offers a little more. The 27-year old mother of two and recent graduate of the Barbados Community College’s Graphic Art programme, explained that the key ring and its accompanying figure are intended to be unique, fun and collectible. The figures on the key rings are meant to be customisable, reflecting the moods of their 6 to 13-year old girls, the product’s target market. The Mood Buddy, as its name suggests, is expected to be a constant companion and reflection of the inner thoughts of its owner.

 
Vanetta Loncke - Mood BuddyThere are varying attachments available to mirror a child’s mood, but also different characters to reflect individual personalities. According to Vanetta, they are:

 
Punk Rock Ahri, who is very bold and always speaks her mind,
Free Spirited Laney, who is very friendly, bubbly and always looking for fun, and
Marine Love Nami, who loves the beach and all marine life, and is very easy going and laid back.

 
The Mood Buddy should be available for sale around August at the Art Hub, and eventually at other retail stores. Vanetta also envisions an app which would allow the digital customisation of the product.

 
The Mood Buddy is creative, local, and captures the imagination of children and Vanetta is an avid advocate for her creation. I look forward to seeing the progress of this young entrepreneur and the success of the locally-produced Mood Buddy.

 

BUYING BAJAN: THE LADY CAKER

This week, in the spirit of BMEX, Bajan Mom will feature Bajan entrepreneurs and products that Barbadian mothers and their children would enjoy. Let us support our own and buy Bajan!

Alicia Tull - The Lady Caker

Alicia Tull – The Lady Caker

If you love baking programmes such as “Cake Boss,” you will love the artistic deliciousness from The Lady Caker herself, Ms. Alicia Tull. Her business, the eponymous The Lady Caker, creates edible 3D cakes and treats appropriate for several occasions, whether weddings, parties, or other celebrations. As a mother, I knew I would need to keep her business card handy for the next birthday to be celebrated in my household.

Hand painted sugar flower cake

 

Dedicated to her craft, Ms. Tull produces works of art in cake. Two particular cakes caught my eye, the white cake, accented with orange and green hues, which was hand-painted and adorned with sugar flowers . . .

. . . and the sophisticated leopard print hand bag with complementing bronze-coloured shoes which looked good enough to wear, although meant for consumption. Bag and Shoe cake details

 

 

The Lady Caker’s repertoire does not end with cakes, a variety of pastries are available as well, such as cupcakes, whoopee pies, brownies and cookies. Ms. Tull makes a point to incorporate local products wherever possible, as is evident with her golden apple pie and pumpkin cheese cake, both of which I had the opportunity to sample.

Golden apple pie

Golden apple pie

I liked the idea of using local fruit in pies, and the golden apple pie is a great idea, and palatable. The crust is light enough without tasting pasty, however, there was a sweetness I anticipated in the filling which was missing. Riper fruit may be the missing ingredient. I would love to try this treat again when golden apples are in season.
The pièce de résistance was the pumpkin cheesecake, made with Barbadian belly pumpkin. The texture was smooth and the flavor of the pumpkin was delicate, subtle, yet the overall richness shouted, this is cheesecake! This is a treat that I would eat again and again if I did not have a waistline to consider.
The Lady Caker has a booth at BMEX so it is not too late for you to check it out this evening or tomorrow. Can’t make it to BMEX? Well check out more of Ms Tull’s masterpieces, on her facebook page or her Waterford, St. Michael location. She also has options for diabetics and vegetarians.

HANDLING LAYOFFS WITH CONSIDERATION AND GRACE

            This article has been inspired by the current climate in the Barbados Labour market. If one is moving back to Barbados, it cannot be with blinders. Have a job lined up before you come or be sure that you have significant savings if you want to move first and search for employment after. For those who are already here as business persons, and are facing financial challenges which may require that you must terminate employees, remember that there are methods that encourage all parties to handle a difficult situation with grace.

It should be no surprise to anyone that terminations are traumatic experiences. For example, a recent news article mentioned the fainting of a Drainage Division worker on hearing she would be laid off. To be laid-off means more than losing a job or losing money. It means the disruption of many facets of one’s life including family challenges which may arise due to the economic and emotional strain that has been introduced. Simply put, a person’s life is turned upside-down. The experience may be less jolting, however, with proper management.

Wayne F. Cascio, a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Colorado and a prolific writer, states in his book, Managing Human Resources, that when creating policies in regards to layoffs, that one should consider the impact on several groups inclusive of those who are leaving and those who remain. He purports the need for “face-to-face, candid, open communication” between senior management and staff. He encourages preparation and support for those who will be laid-off, helping them through their transition. He also recommends openness with the survivors of layoffs to cultivate trust in order to boost morale and help them to feel more secure, loyal, motivated and productive.

Raymond A. Noe, a training and development specialist, endorses these thoughts in his text, Employee Training and Development, and takes it even further. He notes that research has shown that layoffs do not result in increased profits, but that they can have an adverse effect on productivity, work load, commitment and morale of workers. He suggests that alternative ways to reduce labour costs should be considered first, such as fewer working hours for employees, early retirement plans, delayed wage increases and not filling positions created by retirement and turnover. If these methods prove fruitless and layoffs are inevitable then it is the responsibility of management to adequately prepare all workers while trying to diminish any negative consequences.

If certain courtesies are extended, such as advance notice, clear and adequate explanations, and provisions for psychological, financial and career counselling, there are benefits to all parties. Those to be laid-off are not caught off-guard, are given time to make other arrangements and are even given resources to make the transition easier. Those who remain employed will have better attitudes and should maintain productivity once a sense of fairness has been exhibited. Furthermore, the reputation of the employer remains relatively unsullied if this approach is taken.

Timing is also important. Noe suggests that termination announcements should not be made on Friday afternoons, very late on any day or before a holiday. He advises that termination should happen early in the week to facilitate employees receiving counselling and possibly outplacement assistance.

Employees should also be aware of their rights and privileges. For example, they should know what to expect from Barbados labour legislation such as the Severance Payments Act or any benefits to be expected from National Insurance. They should also know where to access services such as the Government-funded Employee Assistance Programme for public workers. Ideally, if there is open communication, transparency, honest and fair treatment, the result of the retrenchment transition should leave all with their dignity intact.

Bajan Mom has a background in Psychology and MSc in Management

BUSINESS REVIEW: Electronics on Edge

Electronics on Edge

                 When we returned to Barbados, my husband and I regretted that we did not buy unlocked cell phones before we had left the US. Our old phones definitely needed an upgrade, and at the time, we had not been familiar with the stores that unlocked cell phones so a purchase was definitely needed (since then I have seen unlocking services offered by stores in Swan Street and another on St. Micahel’s Rowe. I went online and researched phone prices, plans and special promotions offered by the island’s two cellular service providers, Digicel and LIME. Since many people we knew had a Digicel phone, it was more cost-effective for us to subscribe to their services but purchasing a phone from that company, or its rival, did not seem to be the most economic. After some online research and discussions with some good friends, we settled on purchasing our new phones from Electronics on Edge in Bridgetown, a retail enterprise that sells electronics and accessories.

                             The store is easy to find, opposite Cave Shepherd underneath its monochromatic sign. As I entered, I was struck by its clean simplicity. It is a bright, narrow space lined with long glass display cases on either side, shelves gracing one of its walls, and the customer service desk straight ahead, fully in the customer’s line of vision from the entrance.

                             I said “Good morning” to the young ladies near the entrance, sitting behind the glass cases to my right. One mumbled, the others said nothing. Not a good first impression. I went to the customer service desk where I was greeted, with a smile, by two others. I knew what I wanted and asked for it. The products were brought to me, by the mumbling young lady from the beginning of my experience, so that I could inspect them. Once I was satisfied, one of the customer service ladies told me she would give me the phones at a particular price. A good sales tactic which made it seem as if I was getting a good deal, which would have worked if I had not pored over their website for days and was already aware that the price she offered was the asking price. I smiled, made my purchase and signed under the 3 month warranty offered by the store on its phones. I would be remiss not to mention the free screen protector that I was given and that the young lady who showed me the phones turned out to be quite polite. I left the store pleased.

                             Unfortunately, the phones had a few issues that were diagnosed after purchase. In synopsis, after the technician did his best to figure out what was going on, the phones were exchanged with no problems. The technician was polite and professional. He answered all of my questions fully, which was helpful. I had been unable to go back to the store myself to exchange my phone, but my husband, who did so for me, reported that the owner himself was apologetic. We were also given adapters for our phone chargers since one was designed for Latin American electrical outlets and the other for Asian ones. It also gives a clue to why Electronics on Edge can afford to be fairly reasonably priced.

                             Since then I returned and purchased iPad accessories which are serving me well. Overall, Electronics on Edge is a valid option in cellphone retail. The store presents well, reminding me of the smooth edges of the electronics it sells. The products are properly displayed and easy to find. The business also has integrity, honouring its warranties and investigating issues thoroughly. The technician is knowledgeable, and he and the ladies behind the customer service desk are professional.

                             The kink in E on E’s armour would be the ladies in the front. They are the store’s first representatives and it would help if they are more engaging; nothing that some customer service training cannot correct. In the end, I give Electronics on Edge three and a half Barbados flags out of five for its affordability, presentation, customer service and business integrity. One and a half stars were deducted for the first impression and the trips that had to be made back and forth to the store due to initial challenges with the phones’ function and chargers which could not fit electrical outlets in Barbados.

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BUSINESS REVIEW: Diva The Salon

            As a woman, one of the services that I like to procure when living in a new area is that of a beauty salon. Whether hair is curly or straight; whether you want a wash, relaxer, treatment or weave; whether you go to the salon often or it is a rare treat, just knowing that you have somewhere to go when you have the need is a relief. I sport a natural hairstyle but for years, while overseas, I would go to the salon and have a full-head weave done to protect my hair from harsh, dry, wintry elements this time of year. Although Barbados is warm and humid, I have found that my hair flourishes when I allow it to rest for a couple of months, so I started to ask around and research a beauty salon that would fit my needs.  

            After scouring the internet, making some calls, and having numerous conversations with different women, I settled on ‘Diva the Salon’ in Bridgetown. When some salon owners/employees at other establishments answered their telephones, I got a ‘hello’ or even a ‘Yeah?’ which made me have to ask for confirmation about where I had called. Either the owner of Diva, Andrea, enforced customer service training to her staff, or they are just naturally polite, but your first impression when calling is that you are calling a business. One is greeted with a good morning or good afternoon, and the business is identified.

            Diva has an attractive appearance as well. It is located a few doors down from the Waterfront Café with a relaxing, scenic view of the Careenage and Bridgetown. Its entrance is graced with striking red doors and the inside has a fine utilisation of space which is comfortable and aesthetically pleasing with its sophisticated hues of red, white and black. The air-conditioned comfort does not hurt either.

            The good customer service does not start and end at telephone etiquette. It is clear that Andrea knows that good treatment and connecting with clientele will bring repeat business. All staff members were polite and professional during my first visit. During my second, I was made to feel as if this was my salon for years, enjoying good conversation with receptionist, Kelly, and beautician Pet. No one would have believed that they had only interacted with me once before. A salon is a respite from the daily grind. It is always a bonus when a salon does not only do good hair, but also has a good atmosphere.

            Now that you can envision the setting, let us get to the important part, the hair. I can say definitively, that Andrea gave me one of the best full-head weaves I have had in a long time. The cornrows were plaited neatly, the tracks were well-applied, and my hair was cut in the style I desired, which framed my features well. This is one month in and I have not had one loose track. I should also note that where some stylists apply glue to the closure, which can be damaging to the hair, Andrea sews in her closure, which is healthier.

            I do not believe that you can truly know a place from one visit, although first impressions are important. For my second visit, Pet, Andrea’s right hand, washed and styled my hair. She was very thorough, using a brush to scrub the scalp under the weave. She also ensured that my hair was completely dry underneath through hood-drying before blow-drying the weave itself.

            I like Diva the Salon, but it has its imperfections. Andrea is the only “weaveologist” so attention can be divided between others clients and you. In my case, it meant that I spent over six hours there during my first visit. To be fair, I also had an oil treatment done. My second visit was not as lengthy, but still took 5 hours. In this case, my genetics was the issue, since my thick hair underneath my weave seemed to take forever to dry. Secondly, the salon is not cheap, although not the most expensive. You do have to pay a little more than some other salons, but the ambience, air-conditioning, and the excellence of the weave is well worth it.

            To get an idea of the skills of Andrea and her staff, you may visit their Facebook page. They also offer manicure and pedicure services.  I give Diva the Salon four out of five Barbados flags for its service, ambience, skill and my overall satisfaction.

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