Women in Business Expo

Leisa Gibson showcasing her naturally made hair and body products at Women in Business Expo 2019 (Photos by Samuel Maughn)

A stepping stone for progress

WHEN Leisa Gibson participated in the country’s first ever Women in Business Expo in 2016, it was indeed a leap of faith. She had one product, a 4oz natural hair and scalp conditioner that she exhibited but as the Founder and Publisher of Leaders in Heels, Kasia Gospos once said, “Amazing things happen when women help other women.”

Miranda Bernard hails from St. Cuthbert’s Mission. A single parent mother, Bernard uses the skills taught to her by her parents to make an array of straw products.

It was not long after showcasing her product at the Women in Business Expo that Gibson started to reap the benefits of participating in the phenomenal venture. It had created a platform for her to promote her business – Leisa Salon n Beauty Supplies, network with other businesses and engage investors. And with a special push from Sonia Noel- the founder of the expo, family and friends, Gibson watched her business expand rapidly over the past four years.

This year when she joined the more than 50 exhibitors at the 2019 Women in Business Expo at the Pegasus Hotel on March 2-3, Gibson marketed not just one product but more than five – a combination of natural air and body care products.

“[We featured] our natural hair and scalp conditioner – a natural product that replaces your Vaseline. It has no petroleum,” Gibson told the Pepperpot Magazine as she held a 4oz container while pointing to the fact that it now comes in four sizes – 2oz, 4oz and 8oz. Added to that, she now manufactures several types of handmade soap. “We have honey and oats, activated charcoal and turmeric, turmeric by itself and activated charcoal by itself,” she detailed.

Meet the outgoing Debbie Argyle. She and the women from the Mahaica Women’s Group make scented candles and craft work. Their candles are now sold in the Guyana Shop.

All of her products are approved by the Food and Drugs Department, and with a license to manufacture in hand, Gibson gets to sell her products in the Guyana Store. To date, her products attract other customers in the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
“Being a part of Women in Business Expo for the past four years has been great for us, we have seen growth and we thank God for Dr. Sonia Noel and the way he has been using her to promote women in business,” Gibson testified.

Along way
Debbie Argyle journeyed to the city from Mahaica to participate in the Women in Business Expo for the third time. In her words, she represents a “bunch of women” from the Mahaica Women’s Group, who continue to use the expo as a platform to promote their scented candles and craft and reach new markets.

Professional psychologist turned Chef, Debbie Houston is living her dream. She provides an array of food services at Glitzy Glamour Cakes, Culinary School and Event Planning.

Through the group, this group of women empowers other women – many of them single parents and cash crop farmers. “We teach them lifelong skills, and show them how those skills can make a daily living for them and their children,” Argyle explained. Every year, since their first participation in 2016, Argyle and her colleagues from the Mahaica Women’s Group look forward to the Women in Business Expo and the exposure it brings.

“We were making the candles but we weren’t getting the candles to sell. I went to visit Ms. Sonia, we came to the first expo in 2016 and we had a breakthrough. Right now we are supplying the Guyana Shop, and we have steady customers.” The team of women is now eyeing markets in the Caribbean and the U.S.

Third time’s a charm
Proprietor of Harmony Inn, Carolyn Caesar Murray was a third-time participant at the expo. She and her husband offer well-furnished comfortable and luxurious rooms at affordable prices at three locations. The Hotel and Guest House Industry is a competitive one, but through the years, Murray has learnt to stay ahead of the game. “We compete in this saturated market, I would say, based on quality and price,” Murray said. According to her, customers get value for their money and benefit from personalized services.

“Ninety per cent of our customers are referral and that is testament to the good job that we are doing and the value for money we are offering. We continue to come up with innovative and creative ways to rise above our challenges,” the entrepreneur said.
Pointing to the other exhibitors, Murray said manning a business is not a walk in the park; it is difficult but rewarding at the same time. The expo, she explained, better equips women for success.

“It is thorough, why because it is not like you just come and put your stuff here. There are events leading up to the expo where she [Sonia Noel] teaches you how to use technology to push your business; how to dress for success; how to market your brand, market your businesses so persons coming from different places. Some of these women have been here for the first year and they have had the opportunity to redefine their products,” Murray explained.

A great opportunity
For young entrepreneur, Diana Dolphin Trotman the opportunity to network with business women from across Guyana and further afield was indeed a blessing.
“Being a part of this expo has opened my eyes to a lot of different things. Seeing the other women doing things make me want to step up my game and do much more.

The feedback and encouragement I got for them was just heartwarming and I am truly encouraged,” the 31-year-old proprietor of Enchanted Gardens – Floral Arts told the Pepperpot Magazine.
Trotman specialises in children’s headbands, embroidery purses and home décor. Approximately three years ago, she turned her hobby into a business.

Debbie Houston – the owner of Glitzy Glamour Cakes, Culinary School and Event Planning, was also among the exhibitors. The certified psychologist turned Chef is living her passion. According to her, being the part of the expo was a major push. Houston said while she had a presence on social media, she was not reaching a lot of people, and the expo has opened a window of opportunity to extend her reach.

“[On the first day] I introduced the organic whole wheat bread which is strictly, no white flour, honey and molasses, and it started selling even as I was setting up. [The second day] everything sold out,” she reported.

The Scrubshub, Trails and Treasures, David Creative Designs and Anna Ultra Beauty Salon were among the other more than 50 exhibitors. Women in Business Expo was held on March 2nd and 3rd under the theme “Think equal build smart innovate for change.” It continues to be an impactful venture for Guyanese women from all walks of life.