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Mother, daughter put knitting skills to work


DONNA SEALY

Mother, daughter put knitting skills to work

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ALLISON AND CARLENE HOLFORD are the mother and daughter team behind ARCA Creative Concepts, a business started out of necessity.

Three years ago, Allison became unemployed and instead of sitting around waiting for another job she turned her hobby of crocheting and knitting into a business, or as Carlene puts it to help her be “self-sufficient”.

A year after, Carlene found herself on the breadline and she too, decided to put her knitting skills to use.

“When they were children, I used to experiment with various shirts because at the time you didn’t get children’s patterns, only adults. So, I used to break down the pattern and make shirts for them. I always found it fascinating because if you check the antique knitting and crochet they are very, very technical,” said Allison.

While some people view crochet and knitting as something their parents and other relatives did back in the 1980s, both women said the interest is still high as evident in the requests for a variety of items.

During the interview with BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY, Allison was busy finishing the fin part of a mermaid outfit for a regular customer. She had already completed the top and the headband for the baby girl whose mother ordered it for a photo shoot.

Carlene said that for a while they operated from the Probyn Street temporary market but left after it “was really slow out there. Dead, dead, dead”.

“We belong to the Women’s Entrepreneurs of Barbados, so when they have markets and anything we can get to, we go. We also have our Facebook page and a website,” said Carlene before her mother noted that several orders were placed by customers via social media after viewing the photos.

“One of our special areas is that after you find something that you like, we can recreate it for you without a pattern,” added Allison. It is something that she is good at, Carlene said.

After registering the business last year, their next step was to promote it more.

“We started to push it and realised that people are liking the stuff we do. There is a demand but you have to find customers. There are people out there who want the things but don’t want to pay for it. That’s the major problem. Our product is diversified. We don’t make just one thing, we don’t do just one stitch. Our slogan is ‘You visualise it, we create it’,” said Carlene.

Together, they have made booties and shoes, hats, shawls, shirts, dresses, skirts and swim suits, dresses, purses, scarves, dice, small pillows with the Barbados flag for the 50th anniversary of independence and recently, Carlene has made stuffed toys and small totes. She is working on adding new products.

The businesswomen spoke about patterns, thread, wool, basic, chain and double stitches, crochet and knitting lamenting the unavailability of some of items here. They do, however, purchase the majority from a Bridgetown store.

They also shared plans to grow the business.

“I don’t want to set up a store on our own. I would like to find somewhere where we can have our pieces displayed and sold, or have a boutique. I know that there’s a market for having a store where you can come in get what you want but honestly, people tend to come and want something specific,” said Allison.

Carlene added: “People ask ‘where we can find you?’ Not having a staunch location sometimes makes it a bit difficult. Some people are cool with exchanging numbers and placing the order but others have that culture where they want to walk in, peruse, try on and purchase.

“We are also working on our labels and our logo . . . and by the end of June, we should have them in place.”

Alison hopes that ARCA Creative Concepts reaches the stage where they satisfy their customers’ needs in a bigger way.

“They just have to be reasonable, pay a deposit and give us enough time because some people come and they want something yesterday,” she said. She explained that some items can be made in a week but others take longer.

Allison is willing, and does, share her knowledge with others. She teaches at Westbury Primary School and the Psychiatric Hospital. For her, there is a joy in seeing people who often say they “can’t make anything” create something beautiful with needle and thread. (GBM)

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