Rowe-ing her own boat
Ebonnie Rowe has been moving forward on faith. Since leaving her day job as a legal assistant and as an event planner, the face behind the Honey Jam brand says she has lived by the “leap and the net will appear” philosophy.
A few years ago she decided after many, many years of juggling two jobs to just do one as it was becoming difficult to manage.
Born in Montreal, Canada, she lived in Ottawa for a few years, then moved to Barbados for some time.
“Both of my parents are Bajans, from St George and I went to school here for a few years, Merrivale and Queen’s College. But most of my life has been spent in Toronto,” she told EASY.
And that life includes 19 years of Honey Jam productions. For those who haven’t seen any of the Honey Jam or Honey Jazz events, you are not too late as the Jam is being held in November and the Jazz in January.
Honey Jam is an all-female showcase where aspiring singers show their talents in song, spoken word or even rap – whatever genre they want to do.
Honey Jam Canada is celebrating 19 years and Honey Jam Barbados, four.
“It took me a while to get Barbados off the ground. I was living and working full-time in Canada so for most of those years it was not even an option. But once I started living back in Barbados for part of the year it was something I always wanted to do. In 2011 I made it happen and here we are.”
But it hasn’t been smooth sailing for Honey Jam or Ebonnie.
“There are two big challenges and cost is the first. A lot of the venues in Canada welcome events that they know will pull a crowd and so they are happy for the bar and you pay a fee for security and the sound engineer, but in Barbados the venue options are extremely limited and then you are charged thousands and thousands of dollars. The other big difference I notice is the level of drive of the artistes.
Ebonnie said she finds that “some of the Barbadian artistes have a sense of entitlement, like even though Honey Jam provided so much for free, we still somehow owe something to them. One artiste told me how much she wanted to be in the show and then when I asked why she didn’t show up at the auditions she said “but the rain was falling.”
This season of Honey Jam Barbados has been hard hit for sponsorship but Ebonnie is plowing on.
“With limited marketing funds, I understand that companies have to put their money where they feel they are getting the most bang for their buck. I don’t feel entitled or that I am owed support for this. I have to earn it and create a product that will attract more support.
“I have to be proactive and do all I can to be self-sufficient . . . . Grow the event to where we can raise more funds from the door and explore other revenue-generating ideas.”
With her bubbly personality, Ebonnie, who loves the beach, said when things go negative she has a good cry and then “peel myself off the floor. I take a breath, dust myself off, put my game face on and look for the silver lining in the situation. I have people in my life who I go to for advice and encouragement. Necessity is the mother of invention and so when things go wrong, you have to figure it out and keep it moving.”
What also keeps her going forward is a couple of hard knocks she faced in life. “I had three girlfriends commit suicide in their early 20s within a five year period. The idea of wanting to have had a purpose to my life, an impact, a positive legacy, is the biggest factor in my relentless drive, determination and tenacity.
“I am not one however to give up easily. I believe in this brand and the work we are doing. I have to go with the ‘if we build it they will come’ school of thought. I am doing my very best to produce a quality programme and I have to believe that with hard work and perseverance the support will come.”
Ebonnie’s hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed and she has won numerous accolades. She highlights three that are the most significant:
YWCA Woman of Distinction – “This was a really big deal for me and my family to have the work we do for young women be recognised and honoured with such a prestigious award from an organisation that has made such an impact in the lives of millions of women.”
Then there is the Volunteerism Award (since age 11 volunteered for many organisations) – “I believe to my core that service is the rent we pay for living and that it is incumbent on all of us to give back, so I was happy to have the years of work be recognised and appreciated.”
The Community Service Award she said made her feel “like I have been a community and social activist for most of my life. I believe in each of us using our power as individuals to effect change in the communities that we are a part of.”
The creative event planner said if she had to change one thing about the music industry it would be the superficiality.
“I miss the old days when an artiste’s music was impactful and lasted for decades. When a song could change the world. When albums had concepts, when an artiste could be an artiste and not have to have a clothing line and perfume and hawk themselves in every possible way to stay relevant. There is too much style over substance.”
She tells aspiring female singers to have “that fire in your belly, the desire, the passion that will keep you going through the valleys and challenges. Be clear about who you are and what you want for yourself, how you define success. Respect and value yourself. Hone your craft. Network. Have a good work ethic. Surround yourself with people who know more than you. Don’t burn any bridges – it will follow you.”
Citing her favourite book as The Autobiography Of Malcolm X, she says one of her favourite quotes is: “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though chequered by failure . . . than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
Ebonnie says she is inspired by people who are fearless, who give their all and persevere in the face of adversity.
“Extraordinary achievement in any field inspires me. I do what I do because it feeds my soul and give me purpose to do something that positively affects the lives of others.”
Ebonnie calls herself a workaholic and on her bucket list is swimming with dolphins and taking a trip to Africa.
“I am trying to juggle so many things but I promise myself to take more time out for me.”