Business owner Kayrene Taylor (left) and daughter Kalisha are trying to keep the tradition of Bajan confectionery alive. (Picture by Christoff Griffith.)
FOR THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS, Kayrene Taylor has been steadfastly working on her dream. Day by day she is getting closer to having her all-Bajan confectionery parlour where consumers can buy a pound of sugar cakes, comforts, nutcakes and tamarind balls.
You see, when Mickaycees started on Independence Day three years ago, the businesswoman did not realise how difficult it was to find the sweet treats that were available when she was growing up.
It was only after she tried to help a friend who lives in the United States by purchasing them for a product display, that she found out. So she did the next best thing – she tried her hand at making them.
“When I went to different places where I thought we’d be able to get local candy from, there was none. I was getting [different] things and when I left Bridgetown I was $150 out and it wasn’t all Barbados candy either. I said ‘this can’t be’ and we should have something that represents our candy culture better than this,” she said.
“The items were not well presented, not well packaged and I thought it was a bag of this and a bag of that, things didn’t have proper labelling so if I wanted to tell people overseas what was in it there was nothing [to inform me]. I said ‘I could do this. This can’t be so hard, I’m a chef, I can cook, I do everything, I should be able to do this’ and it wasn’t as easy as I thought it was.”
She added: “We had a lot of trials and errors but then we came up with the product and it was very successful. At least I was able to combine nice packaging where you could throw in your luggage in one container at reasonable sizes that people can say ‘I’m not over indulging,” Taylor said with a smile.
That was the beginning of the business and the fuel for her passion to have the legacy live on.
She told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY that her sweets are available in a sampler container and individually, and apart from selling them in gift shops and supermarkets, she and her team, which includes her husband Michael and her 14-year-old daughter Kalisha, promote them at hotels during the managers’ cocktail receptions or rum punch parties.
The items in the sampler, she explained with laughter, were determined by “which one came out the best”, this was particularly so for things such as guava cheese. Costing was also a factor and they realised they could not include too many items.
“It would be too much work especially when it comes to doing the comfort and those hard sweets. It was too much work to sell for $1 and we had to balance it.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into this, I had no idea especially when I first started . . . until we got the first order of 50 which was our first large order,” she said with a chuckle.
That was a big lesson for them and they walked away better equipped to handle other orders. The businesswoman is big on production standards and is constantly working to improve and large orders are considered teachable moments.
“Their hygiene and nutritional facts are things we’re looking into more.
“Not having a food scientist here on the island that could have been readily available to help us with nutritional facts on what is in a sugar cake, how long it could last and get it ready for export and the international market, moreso now, is a challenge,” she lamented.
She spoke of a customer in Germany who took some of the products home and they sold well. She subsequently called to place another order but the challenge is getting them there.
However, Taylor is optimistic, though, that the company would one day in the near future export regionally and extra regionally, as she thinks “it would do so much better in the overseas markets because those are the people who love it”.
She said that Barbadians “only remember these things at Christmas and Independence”.
“Yes, they see them and would ask for tamarind balls but they don’t patronise them every week, or every day and that’s the challenge with them locally. Now we’re hearing ‘that’s too sweet for me’,” she said.
Despite that, Mickaycees is working hard to pass on the tradition and November will often find Taylor in schools doing demonstrations so Barbadian children have a a taste of a bygone era. (Green Bananas Media)