Exhibitors have hailed Design Caribbean 2011 as a huge success saying that it delivered on its promises. Some are already looking forward to 2012 when the trade show will be held in London.

One of these is Amy LeMay, chief executive officer of Earth Mother Botanicals Ltd. who had one request. “I would ask … that information is disseminated earlier for better planning from our end.  If you can tell me dates now, for next year, I would be really happy,” the CEO said.

LeMay was among more than 130 top designers from CARIFORUM states who exhibited their creative skills and products at Design Caribbean 2011 which was organised and managed by the Caribbean Export Development Agency and held in Dominican Republic from September 1-4.

Her company, Earth Mother Botanicals used the opportunity to launch a new product (WISIC Massage Oils) and new gift packaging.  The new massage oils, LeMay said, created a lot of interest and the gift packaging was very well accepted.  

But the company gained more than that from its participation.  “We rekindled a relationship with a former buyer from Bermuda whom we had done much business with in the past.  We gained a buyer who is a distributor to hotels and spas in the Dominica Republic,” she said.

After examining Earth Mother Botanicals’ products, the distributor bought all the items which were then available at their booth. Earth Mother had also registered sales with individuals as well as a natural products store that is scheduled to open a second store in the Dominican Republic in October.

The company made many other important contacts at Design Caribbean 2011. These included connections with Yellow Llama and the Trinidad and Tobago Company, SMAKS who wants Earth Mother to do a private label line for them.

SMAKS, Bespoke Teas Fine Goods, The West Indies Tea Company noted the importance of such connections which were an integral part of the Design Caribbean 2011 experience. In fact, its creative director, Kiran Shiva Akal said “the days between September 1st and September 4th (the period of the trade show) proved to be extremely valuable to us as an emerging product and brand.”

Mr. Akal measured this value using three gauges- exposure; growth and marketing and competition. On the exposure barometer, he noted that Design Caribbean provided the company with region-wide exposure to artisans, competitors and producers.

He said it also “exposed us to a broad range of Caribbean buyers – in a single place, looking for product such as ours, something that would be impossible otherwise.

“It allowed us the opportunity to gauge the response to our product in the Dominican market, particularly interesting as we are currently the producers of a product (tea) that is not a part of the Dominican culture. The open days at the show showed us where the engagement opportunity with a non-tea culture could be found and interestingly, how they liked the product for consumption.”

Mr. Akal recorded two major points on his growth gauge.

“It allowed us to develop small but potentially important first links to several islands -Bermuda, Grenada, St. Vincent, St Lucia – and to bigger markets. He also singled out “a strong connection with a Miami Airport retailer.”

Secondly, he spoke about the direct contacts made with people that can provide the company with a wealth of information on new resources from different islands, which is of interest to company for further product development.

Regarding marketing and competition, SMAKS creative director said “It was extremely valuable to see the best and the brightest alongside our efforts. This provided us with the all-important opportunity to compare and contrast our branding and marketing efforts alongside a broad range of other brands.”

He also spoke about the direct contacts made with persons who, whilst not able to purchase themselves, were interested to look at developing sales for the company in their respective islands.

In general, he described Design Caribbean as a huge success and a great experience but noted that the show has some road to travel. “It’s in its infancy but we believe a start had to be made, lessons learned and that has been done indeed,” he added.

Julian and Olda Sherrard of the The Orange Gallery Belize also praised the event.

“Having arranged a number of much smaller events, I can appreciate the level of difficulty and huge effort it takes to do something like what you all did!” they said to Caribbean Export, organisors of the show.

“A truly awesome and gigantic effort well-conceived, well planned, and well executed! Mil Gracias!” they concluded.