16 May, 2019
Anastasha Elliot traces her foray into entrepreneurship back to the age of eight, when she baked, then later crocheted, designed clothing and tie-dyed t-shirts and more, which she sold to earn money for school and to help out at home. Now, the 36-year-old Kittitian is the CEO of Sugar Town Organics, a health and wellness company she founded with her mother after a cancer scare.
“My mom was diagnosed with cervical cancer and that forced us to take a look at our environment, our food source, what and how we ate, how we were living both the emotional and mental aspects and the products we used on our skin and hair,” Anastasha shared. “She refused chemo and drugs, opting instead for a holistic lifestyle. She made some radical changes to our lives, and four months later, she was cancer-free.”
They didn’t know it at the time, but that experience set them on a path toward starting not one, but two successful brands, both under the Sugar Town Organics umbrella. Yaphene, a Hebrew word which means to shine beautifully, is a natural cosmetics line utilising actives found in, and indigenous to the Caribbean. Flauriel, a “mashup” of Anastasha’s grandparents’ and great grandparents’ names, produces Caribbean-flavoured gourmet sauces, liqueurs, wines, Caribbean treats, blended herbal tea and jams.
“Both brands focus heavily on health, and on food, backed by the science,” Anastasha said. “I looked at how, in the Caribbean, we use food to maintain our health, beauty and families and also to heal from disease. Our brands are therefore very food centric, and very Caribbean, of course with cultural influences that both affected the Caribbean and play a role in the geographical origin of my family. My grand dad and his parents were not born in the Caribbean you see. It’s a social form of cultural regeneration, this educational aspect that we have also taken on” she said.
The Yaphene and Flauriel brands pay tribute to the Region, not only through the materials used, but also by how they are sourced. Anastasha and her mum work with 11 farmers in St. Kitts and also source raw materials including fresh and dried foods from Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad.
Currently available at eight locations and counting across St. Kitts and Nevis, the mother-daughter team are focused on increasing Sugar Town’s retail presence on the island and exporting throughthe Caribbean, and on empowering Kittitians to live healthier lives and create their own holistic recipes.
“In another five years we would love to have our own outlet in town with a cosmetic lab where persons can come in and participate in classes, because we would like to be able to teach others to do basic things for themselves while getting a little creative, and create more of an empowerment aspect to the brand,” Anastasha said.
She also shared that they are currently focused on embarking on more meaningful export.
“We did small-scale exporting for a while, and we have customers around the world who would order, and we would ship out to them, but since participating in WE-Xport, we have actually been able to take the brand across the Atlantic to countries in Europe, Anastasha said. And those exploits have gotten us quite a bit of exposure.”
The Women Empowered through Export (WE-Xport) program was designed by the Caribbean Export Development Agency to support Caribbean women in business to start exporting, or increase the exports of their products and services.
With support from the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis and the WE-Xport programme, Anastasha will be promoting her lines at BMEX in June in Barbados and the Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA) in Trinidad from August 16- 25, 2019.
The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis has further thrown its support behind the local brand, enabling it to be featured at its first major trade shows in Paris and Dubai next summer.
To other young women who dream of embarking on their own business venture, Anastasha shared some vital advice.
“Don’t be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid to not get it right,” she said. “Surround yourself with likeminded people, people who will support what you are trying to achieve, who will push you, challenge you and who are willing to help. And always be willing to ask for help, because the only real way to fail is not to try.”
Visit the WE-Xport booth at BMEX in Barbados in June 2019 to see the Sugar Town Organics range of products.
Find out more about Sugar Town Organics and their Yaphene and Flauriel brands on Instagram: @yapehne and @flauriel_foods
Facebook: @yaphene and @flauriel
And by visiting their website: www.sugartownorganics.com