Allergic reaction leads to lucrative business venture
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Handmade gemstone-embedded cuffs made by Matoya Grant
Handmade gemstone-embedded cuffs made by Matoya Grant

By Cassandra Khan
A burdensome allergy to jewellery became a blessing in disguise for 35-year-old Matoya Grant, who not only found a creative way of dealing with this challenge, but also made a business using her unique ideas.

Grant, the owner of Mag Elegance, was diagnosed with allergic dermatitis, making her incapable of wearing jewellery made from common precious metals.

In an interview with the Guyana Chronicle, the businesswoman said an immediate remedy to her situation was costume jewellery, which she made on her own.

Grant said she first started making jewellery after high school, using beads. “There is that period where you are just out of school, and, before you get into a job, that boredom comes over you. So, one of my mom’s friends, she had some beads, and she said, ‘Well, just do it over for me.’

“I did it, and I fell in love with it. I have allergic dermatitis, so, the costume jewellery that was available had nickel and copper, so I could not have worn it. I started making the beaded jewellery, because I could have worn it, and, eventually, I started more projects for friends and family, and, in 2016, I started a business,” Matoya said.

The life of an entrepreneur was, however, “no bed of roses”, she said, as her business took a dip just after she started, because she was not reaching her target audience.

“I wasn’t reaching the audience I wanted to, or as wide as I wanted to, because I first started with beads. And I would do bead weaving and the beaded necklaces, and so forth, and that is not really a young people thing,” Grant said.

She added: “So, while it was beautiful and elegant, it was only reaching a certain kind of people, which were those elegant, older ladies. It would only appeal to them, whereas the younger folks, even though they would love it, they would say that it is for my grandmother.”

In 2020, Grant’s mother, unfortunately, passed away before the pandemic hit. She related that she had a lot of time on her hands, as well as a lot of grief to handle. One of the ways she dealt with the grief, she feels, was by putting her all into her business.

“I had the time, and instead of dwelling on the grief, I threw myself into the business,” Matoya said.

She also got into the resin work, and decided to introduce the semi-precious stones, because she loves the variety that Guyana has to offer.

“I do not think a lot of persons appreciate it (semi-precious stones) as they should. So, I incorporated the Guyanese semiprecious stones as well as imported [semiprecious stones] into the resin work, and I started making costume jewellery with that, and I was able to hit the wider cross-section,” the young businesswoman said.

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