Curlfest Guyana: Empowering women through love for their natural tresses

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In most beauty shops around the world, one could easily find shelves with hundreds of chemicals designed to iron out some of the kinks and curls of women’s tresses.

Unfortunately this, among other trends in society, have led to some women feeling less empowered and less confident about the beauty of their unique mane and, in some cases, has led to a decline in the value some women place on themselves. However, there has been the start of the Natural Hair Movement, internationally and regionally, to change this mind-set. And through Curlfest Guyana, the movement has taken root in our very own back yard. The movement is one which seeks to empower women through the love for their natural tresses while teaching them how to care for and style their rich-textured locks.

The creative mind behind this local faction is Tamika Henry, a bold and beautiful 30-year-old who also practices the principles of her group. Her initiative has already seen two successful hostings in the Promenade Gardens with the last one being themed, “Curlfete Guyana.”

In an interview with the Guyana Inc. Magazine, this former student of Queen’s College and the University of Florida shared how the company, Curlfest Guyana, was formed and her thoughts on business development in Guyana.

Do enjoy this extract of our dialogue with the Curlfest Guyana owner and the Digicel Morning Vibes Co-host.

Guyana Inc. Magazine (GIM): How did you get into the Curlfest venture and for how long has it been in existence?

Curlfest Guyana (CG): In early 2016, I shared the idea with a friend, who is now my business partner. We delayed the planning until July, when I launched our Facebook page to test the general sentiment of the public and their interest. Encouraged by the response, we publicly launched Curlfest Guyana in August 2016 at an information session and press conference held at the Pegasus Hotel. On October 9, 2016, we pulled off our first ever Curlfest Guyana Natural Hair Expo, and in March of this year, we welcomed our first international act, Vincenzo Stylist, to Guyana for a weekend of events. It feels as if we have been around for longer though.

GIM: How did you end up deciding on such a name for your business?

CG: Choosing a name was quite painstaking, to be honest, and we toyed with multiple options before settling on Curlfest Guyana. We wanted a name that would not ostracize anyone by focusing on just one specific texture or race or skin colour, so we chose to focus primarily on the hair with “curl”, which can be attributed to multiple textures. The “fest” part of the name is short for festival, because our events are celebrations. The “Guyana” is our nod to patriotism and giving Guyanese naturalistas specifically ownership of and inclusivity in our brand.

GIM: Where is your business located?

CG: In my living room! We do not have an office, but we conduct most business transactions at the KoKo Natural Hair Store. With Curlfest Guyana, business is not our main priority. We focus more on women’s empowerment and community service because we recognize that a forum and community where women can confidently be themselves are needed. Even when we do delve into commerce, it’s more about giving small businesses a chance to promote their goods and services and less about establishing Curlfest Guyana itself as a business entity. However, given our commitment to hosting annual Curlfest Guyana events, an office is definitely on the cards now.

GIM: Who are some of your partners in this company?

CG: My formal business partner is Denisha Victor, owner of the KoKo Natural Hair store. Apart from that, a great deal of my support comes from my family, boyfriend and close friends. Cloud 9 Inc. and Star Party Rentals have supported all Curlfest Guyana ventures, not only with sponsorship, but with invaluable event planning advice. The latter also applies to radio personality Curtis “Casual” Armstrong and Nigel Worrell from Ansa McAL. Ansa McAL, in fact, was our main partner in our first event and their support is largely responsible for its success.

For our second event, Sueria Manufacturing Inc. (Daily’s Cocktails), Kavita’s Signature Cuts & Spa and Talk is Cheap Travel Services came on board as invaluable partners. The Department of Culture at the Ministry of Education has also supported both of our events, while my colleagues and friends in the media have helped tremendously by featuring our stories and new developments. As you can already tell, all Curlfest Guyana activities are team efforts.

GIM: How successful was your last Curlfest Guyana event?

CG: We measure our success by the feedback we receive from attendees and it has been mostly positive, especially as it relates to how much they learnt. The event was well attended and judging by the pictures, guests had a great time!

GIM: Looking back, is there anything you would change regarding the events you have pulled off?

CG: Yes. I would do more out-of-town advertising to reach a wider cross-section of Guyana. I would also work more with the businesses that participate as vendors to ensure that they create the best possible showcase for their products.

GIM: Do you find it difficult to secure corporate support for your venture? And how has corporate Guyana responded to it so far?

CG: Convincing corporate Guyana to get on board with our first event was a challenge, due primarily to it being so new and unknown, which understandably translates to fear and risk in the corporate world. But, once we were able to clearly outline our vision and the potential benefits, companies that were the right fit came on board and stuck with us even for the second event. We are especially grateful to the companies that participated as vendors at both events.

GIM: What are your thoughts on business development in Guyana?

CG: I don’t think I’m qualified and experienced enough to comment holistically on business development in Guyana. But I will say that from my experience, the atmosphere does not feel business friendly. One of the most important things I found lacking for young entrepreneurs is mentorship. Our youths have brilliant ideas that could well translate into lucrative ventures, but without proper guidance to navigate the bureaucracy, do feasibility studies, access financing, market products, etc., it is very difficult to take an idea beyond your bottom house in Guyana.

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