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Drawing the youth

SHERRYLYN CLARKE, [email protected]

Drawing the youth

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MORE YOUNG people are getting involved in BMEX – the Barbados Manufacturers Exhibition – and they are also diversifying their product offerings.
As the 32-year-old trade show got under way yesterday at Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, opening its doors to schoolchildren, executive director of the Barbados Manufacturing Association (BMA), Bobbi McKay, said more young people were participating every year.
“Before the complaint was that ‘you see amazing projects at the Barbados Community College but then the students go and sit behind someone’s desk’.  Now they are making their products and offering them to the public. They are getting into varied areas and we are not seeing the copycat thing anymore,” McKay said.
This year the exhibition has attracted 206 exhibitors with 54 new to BMEX.
The BMA chief said there had been a shift over the years from primarily furniture exhibitors to the service industry themes because the former could not afford to showcase
at this time. She said the challenges included not being able to afford booth space, hiring employees and the purchasing of materials to make samples.
She said they had to find ways to subsidise the small to medium enterprises which could not afford BMEX, whose theme this year is Celebration Of Milestones.
McKay also said some manufacturers were celebrating significant anniversaries: Roberts Manufacturing, 70 years, Oran Limited, 50, and Arawak Cement Plant, 30 years. 
First-time exhibitor Armag Manufacturing said it was interested in expanding its product line.
Armag’s product development manager Jan Fletcher said the company was focusing on the Sunbury Harvest sweet potato as well as cassava fries. She said many Barbadians did not shop in the frozen food vegetable section, so she was hoping BMEX could expose them to the product.
Fletcher said that there was a large demographic that did not eat fried foods and would prefer baked or stewed items.
Kayren Taylor of Mickaycee’s, who makes Bajan confectionery, was teaching children how to make sugar cakes. Taylor said she brought her one-year-old company to BMEX, hoping to get her name out there, also to introduce the children to local foods.
Angela Forde of The Cookie Crew was busy making rugs and mats. Forde, who started making the mats as a child, said she used to give them away, but given the economic challenges she started selling them and realised there was a market for them.
She said she hoped to get an agreement with either the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) or BMA to have her product developed. She also hoped to land a deal with hotels to make their specialised rugs and mats. 
Shanika Grimes, a first-timer to BMEX, creates hand-painted bags under the name Artist Made. Grimes, an artist, started selling bags in January after testing the market for the previous eight months. She was assisted through the BIDC and is using BMEX to get feedback from the Barbadian market since she primarily sells to the tourist market.
Chief executive officer of Matrix Marketing Inc., Rudolph Sandiford, speaking on the variety of furniture on display, said the company had been using compressed elephant grass and corn stalk to create substrates that could be used in the production of furniture.
He said incorporating local raw materials into their designs was a first in Barbados and following the success of a partnership with a local hotel, the company was hoping to develop for the export market.
BMEX continues until Monday night. (LK)