Grassroots MBA's : Women as Entrepreneurs in
A. Lynn Bolles, Ph.D.
Professor of Women's Studies,
U Maryland College Park
College Park, Maryland, 20742
Annual Meeting of the Caribbean Studies Association
St. Maartin NA, 28 May-2 June, 2001
DRAFT DO NOT QUOTE WITHOUT PERMISSION
Broad landscapes of images, locations and activities makes tourism a complex
phenomenon for study. Most touristic research examines situations where an
individual or group seeks adventure or a new scenario outside of the daily routine for
a marked period of time. However, there are other elements that demand
consideration given the expanse of the phenomenon and its' importance to countless
national economies. This kind of tourism scholarship concerns the location, meaning
all that encompasses the environment, the people (including those who livelihoods
are in tourism), hosts of productive activities and the larger entity of the nation, state
or community. Redirecting the focus allows us to pay attention to the particulars of the
location and to view tourism as a complex of processes and systems. More
importantly, when the primary interest of research is the location, than particular
issues and situations of women tourist workers become apparent. In one instance
women's activities in tourism often seem almost invisible, especially if they are done
in an efficient and well-deployed manner. However, there are social arenas of
women tourist work that are quite visible and very pronounced, such as small
In Jamaica, the small business woman can be discussed in terms of a cultural
legacy. Brought to Jamaica beginning in the 16th century, enslaved West African
women carried with them a female social role called the market woman. Throughout
the days of slavery and post-emancipation, market women contributed to the
production, distribution and consumption of locally grown foodstuffs and sometimes
imported small items. Their position in the economy was recognized, but not valued
because of the size and social position of those who tended to be market women --
usually working class or poor women. Nonetheless, market women are in fact self-
employed small business people. Presently, alongside of this historical practice are c
business women who have benefited from post Independence education and
training opportunities and have seized a moment where entreprenuership is valued
in the economy. The types of businesses in which they are engaged run the gamut
from IT (internet technology), a broad array of services and small manufacturing.
My work in Negril, Jamaica centers on women tourist workers and looks at the
differential importance of class, color and access to opportunity among them. This
gendered perspective provides an alternative way of understanding tourism as a
economic sector. Here, I want to examine how a traditional job for Jamaican women
has been incorporated into contemporary tourism. Small businesses owned by
women cuts across the social and economic differences that appear in the society.
By looking at small business women, I can illustrate how Negril's success rests in
part, on the entrepreneurial shoulders of these women. That Jamaican woman as
market women -- now an expansive notion -- provides necessary services in
compliment to corporate tourism. By corporate, I refer to Marriot, Sandals, Ramada,
Super Clubs etc. of Jamaica, some of which are located in Negril. Overall, these
women are members of Negril's business community, in small or in big ways. What I
argue is that the range of businesses that women own follows the complexity of the
sector. Moreover, although tourism is the greatest earner of foreign exchange for the
country, little is known about it in terms of it's structure, or of the labor force, except
that it incorporates much of the country's domestic service workers. However the
chambermaid factor has interpretive problems. For example, Government of Jamaica
(GOJ) documents do not desegregate tourism from other service industries.
Therefore, even though service jobs increased by 2.9 percent (189,300 in 1993 in
comparison to 195,000 in 1994 -- the time frame of the study), employment changes
could only be inferred to by the demands of tourism, but not exactly. Furthermore,
and the basis of the larger research project, there are other areas of employment and
self-employment that are sectors of the tourist package.
There are neat boxes of clearly identifiable trends that officials can refer to
quite easily in their deliberations on tourism. These include: the number of cruise
ships that come into port; the number of visitors who stay for 3 days or more; and the
occupancy rates of hotel rooms. However tourism is a structurally messy business
and the multitudinous sites of economic activity are for the most part beyond the
scope of the national official data. On top of that, I argue that tourism in Jamaica is a
predominately "female" industry in terms of the product and the workforce. In such
circumstances, the overdue material gains for women are overshadowed by gender
systems that continue to be unstable and unjust (Barriteau 1998,205).
The basic belief of female subordination exists and is reflected in the way
tourism is viewed. As a service sector, tourism is deemed low in prestige because it
is assumed that the work force already knows how to perform the tasks required by
jobs in the industry. Furthermore, the majority of jobs in tourism are labor-intensive.
This means the sector requires a high ratio of employees to paying customers;
people who come as tourists need and expect a lot of service. The kinds of jobs
typed as labor-intensive are also unskilled, low skilled and low cost in terms of wages
and benefits. Not only are the jobs in the tourist sector viewed as the ones that
women not only know how to do, but ones that come "naturally" to them. Therefore,
jobs such as housekeeping, doing laundry, cooking, serving and so forth, are female
dominated, necessary but with low economic value.
Besides the low skill jobs, woman tourist workers are also employed in a
variety of occupations that require a secondary education and/or higher education,
technical skills and advanced training. Some of these jobs are in accounting,
bookkeeping, hotel management, recreation and medical personnel. These too are
also designated as "female" with the associated low value. The very nature of tourism
exhibits characteristics associated with a sex segmented labor market ( Beneria
1982). In the tourist industry, women occupy identifiable female labor categories, as
well as those usually held by men.
Gender systems are a network of power relations based primarily on two
dimensions, one ideological and the other access to material Barriteau (1998,194).
The material dimension illustrates how women and men gain access to or are
allocated power, status, and material and social resources within the society.
However, gender inequality the ideological dimension, is reinforced often in
institutions, in government and in cultural practices all supporting the gender system.
While cultures change over time, there are certain elements of gender systems that
are difficult to transform, particularly gender inequality, and accompanying attitudes
and habits. Furthermore, change comes slowly even when material conditions make
it possible for women to have access to resources to the society.
Just how strong aspects of gender systems can be is illustrated by the
Jamaican higgler, whose contribution to society is both lauded and devalued. Much
of the Jamaican gender system is inherited from its British colonial past. Coming from
a British colonial frame of thinking, whereby men were breadwinners and women
were homemakers, the wider society considered higglers in a negative light.
Collectively, higglers were fixed as being shrewish, loud, boorish, aggressive and
exhibiting behavior associated with low classes of society. In the Jamaican context,
this assumed skin color too, as the majority of the working class and the poor are
dark skinned. Part of the higgler identity also had to due with what was deemed
socially acceptable deportment for women. Regardless of the business acumen,
keen awareness of trends and financial soundness, higglers were not deemed
proper. In recent years, the exceptional abilities of the higgler by poets, novelists,
and feminist social scientists and activists have raised her status in the eyes of many
in the society (Durant-Gonzalez 1976; Bennett 1983; Cliff 1985; LeFranc et. al. 1985;
Powell et. al. 1990). Nonetheless, the contemporary small business women, who are
not higglers, but render other kinds of commercial and business services that are
highly technical and capital intensive still remain inequitable positions due to the
general rendering of women in the economy. There are women who have been
extremely successful in business, and Jamaica has quite a number of them too.
Each of those women's rise to the top included not only surpassing basic obstacles
but also those that were gender related, such as proving way beyond reasonable
doubt that you were worthy, despite being a woman. Again, this perception relates to
the contradictory nature of inequality inherent in the gender system.
Therefore, when tourism as a economic sector is put into the scenario, a
overall picture of the gender system becomes apparent. Much like the household
division of labor, where women's labor is essential but devalued by the market,
tourism relies on women for its image, service and accountability, but does not
recognize those contributions by way of wages or status. Subsequently, the critical
element in the tourist industry, the incredible range of women's labor, remains hidden
in the large scheme of things. Validation seen on the local scene, is not noted in
public opinion, nor given appropriate attention by the government in strategies for
expanding tourism in the country.
Before going further, I want to say something about color, class and access to
education. In the Jamaican context, skin color (race) and classes are historically
connected, with people of darker hue (the majority) occupying the low strata of
society. A proven key towards upward mobility in Jamaica is education. Accordingly,
the numbers of citizens with an elementary education dramatically increased since
independence in 1962, with a secondary education viewed as essential. However,
access to the fruits of the society is still limited, and the social system remains highly
stratified with one economic crises to the next. A seminal work on social mobility in
Jamaica by Derek Gordon (1987) was prophetic when he noted the following:
"researchers must confront the paradox of large scale social mobility generated by
the opening up of new positions coexisting side by side with gross and perhaps,
even widening inequalities of opportunity between the minority at the top and the
majority at the bottom of the social order." Alongside or depressing class mobility is
the overlay of gender inequality.
As a host of Caribbean scholars, and their feminist colleagues from abroad
demonstrate (Anderson 1986; McKenzie 1986; LeFranc 1989; Deere et. al. 1990;
Senior 1990; Green 1994) sexism constrains, and limits women's access to
opportunities in Jamaica. This is clear when looking at the sex-segregated nature of
the labor market. Confined to "classic" female occupations, women work in teaching,
nursing, secretarial, domestic service and self-employment --the informal sector--
(Gordon 1987). Of course there are women who are visible exceptions to the rule.
However, the options are fairly bounded for the majority of women. Since these
women are poor, working class and black, then the nexus of class/race nexus is
Jamaican Women's Work
Historically, working class women in Jamaica have always played important
roles as economic providers for their households (Bolles 1987; Mair 1974). During
slavery, Black and brown women labored side by side with men in the cane fields
while others worked as domestics in the great house. Enslaved and free women of
color recognized their own worth in both public and private spheres. It is from this
root of Jamaican culture and society, that the majority of Jamaican women still see
themselves in terms of their economic worth and in their roles as mothers. This
perception has not changed over the years and now crosses class divides.
One clear indication of how women fulfill their roles as economic providers is
seen in their critical contributions to their families' welfare is found in the statistics on
female labor participation in relation to household organization. Looking at data
relevant to the time of the Negril study, 1994 GOJ statistics show that 62.4 percent of
women are in the labor force. In addition, close to half of the country's households
are headed by women. Subsequently of the 403,200 employed women recorded, 44
percent of them were heads of households. Therefore, almost half of the entire
population depends on the economic activities of women. Middle class women also
adhere to the economic provider/mothering role too. However, if they are married
then the woman's wage combined with that of her spouse creates a dual income
This work is divided into three parts. First is a discussion of higglering as a
precedent for today's small business women. Not only are there contemporary
higglers, but there are also women entrepreneurs who as aggressive as her
grassroots MBA counterpart. The second section looks at small business as aspect
of economic growth and what who is involved in this sector and why women are
involved. Some of Negril's small business women provide examples of this
phenomenon in these days of a global economy. Ending is an analysis of tourism as
an essential partner in the success of women entrepreneurs.
Historical roots of Jamaican women entrepreneurs
Trading has a long history in the Caribbean. Its heritage begins in West Africa,
where trading was an important role for women. West African women brought the
concept of woman-as-trader to their enslavement in the Americas (Mintz 1994).
In Jamaica, slaves grew enough food in house gardens to sell or barter some
of it to other slaves and white masters. In vibrant Sunday markets, a West African
tradition became a part of Jamaican culture -- and stayed the domain of women.
Over the next 130 years, notes Jamaican sociologist Elsie Le Franc "higglerling," as it
is called changed little. After emancipation in 1838, peasant holdings and small
farms grew, the trading in produce food, and higglers distribute 80 percent of it.
Recently, a new type of higgler has emerged -- the informal commercial
importer. These women import goods from Panama, Haiti, Curacao, the United
States and other countries to sell in Kingston and Montego Bay. Informal importing
expanded in the late 1970s when scarcity and high prices in Jamaica's formal
economy brought the traders high profits. Gina Ulysses' work chronicles that small
commercial sector with much more detail.
Despite this connection between the formal and informal sectors, LeFranc
argues the higglers' main goal is to be independent, as individuals and workers. A
higgler determines her own timetable and marketing strategy, uses her own access
to capital, makes personnel decisions and manages her own investments. These
same goals, business strategies and managerial skills are practiced by other small
business women who may not be in the produce and micro-enterprise commerce
arenas as the higglers and ICIs (Ulysses 1999). Some of these women learned their
business skills through their employment, in their family business as a wife/partner
paid or unpaid employee.
Entreprenuership is valued in Jamaican society, but not in terms of being a
higgler, but in the sense of making something for yourself. Further, making
something for yours self has the proven tract if other qualifications are missing from a
person's background. For example, making something for yourself can counter
balance the lack of middle or upper class backgrounds, advanced degrees in
education and lighter skin color. Entreprenuership received "high marks" because it
promotes one of the fundamental features of "modernity" whereby individuals are
ordained to achieve autonomy. The gender of the entrepreneur never entered the
discussion, as it was just assumed that would be a man given the prescriptive
In their study of a group of small business men in the UK, Scase and Goffee
(1980) noted a ethos that was elementary to their entreprenuership. First there was
the notion of the "self-made man" that has a strong undercurrent in the UK, and
especially in the United States. Small business owners exercise their right of the
individual to build the "new society" also known as capitalism. There is the romantic
elerrent to this kind of entreprenuership, including virtues of being enterprising,
inventive and generous with people.
Carter and Cannon (1992) conducted a study among a set of women
entrepreneurs in the UK. Finding capital and finding clients were generic to all start-
ups. However, reasons for these women starting their own businesses had a lot to
do with family commitment and time constraints. The type of businesses some of the
women in the study started allowed them to do family and work simultaneously in one
location. Many of the women who participated in Carter and Cannon's study
recognized a gender dimension in some of the problems that arose, despite the fact
that many operational difficulties were very gender neutral, and had more to do with
experience than anything else.
In the United States, it was noted that among metropolitan areas (Washington,
DC, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago) that women own almost one out of three
businesses in the DC Metro area. California led the states with the greatest number
of women-owned firms -- 700,000 (Goo 2001 ). Women entrepreneurs say contracts
with the federal government and a welcoming business environment have helped
locally, but women still face hurdles in accessing capital and running larger
companies. A former bank executive, turned entrepreneur stated about the banking
business we weren't very helpful with women-owned businesses because it was a
male-dominated arena" (Goo 2001). Over half of the women-owned business are in
the services industry, including hotels, health, legal, agricultural transportation and
In sum, females like their male counterparts share the same sense of drive,
confidence, risk-taking and goal orientation. Further, women are motivated to be self-
employed to escape from "glass ceilings" or other gendered obstacles put in place by
employers. Further, as the Carter and Cannon showed, women viewed owning their
own business as a way to control resources and management styles that allowed
them individual freedom and monetary expansion ( see Browne forthcoming). In
addition to the research from Britain, women-owned businesses in the US is on the
rise. A product of the changing cultural tide favoring women, these entrepreneurs
face similar hurdles as their counterparts, especially securing capital/loans, but
benefit from government promotion and laws that redress past exclusions.
These sets of concepts, ideals and practices were evident among a group of
small business women in Negril. Often beginning on a limited scale, women
entrepreneurs in Negril were found in various retail stores, catering, owned guest-
houses, professional services such as hair stylists and dressmaking, dive shop
owner, craftwork, and hair braiders. Their experiences echo issues raised in the
research conducted in the UK. When considered within the constraints of the society,
these small business women illustrate the range of opportunities available to women
in the tourist industry
In an earlier research study in Negril, Deborah D'Amico-Samuels (1986)
found woman small -scale vendors in tourist areas engaged in creating economic
opportunity in the narrow space between the "rock" of doing poorly paid scarcely
available wage labor and the "hard place" of living in abject poverty. D'Amico-
Samuels also observed that middle class and upwardly working class women made
significant contributions to Negril's successful tourist business. Particularly as
proprietors of cottages and guest houses, crucial to Negril's person-to-person
ambiance, middle class women and those who aspire to be so reaped the rewards of
doing good business. In between the street vendors and the cottage and hotel
owners, there are numerous sites where women are engaged in small businesses.
The following four examples illustrate the financial, management style and
business savvy involved in being a female small business person in Negril. These
three women were selected because their lives highlight the basics of small-level
entrepreneurship in a society like Jamaica, and the very specifics that affect women
engaged in those types of businesses.
The New-Age Retreat
Marlene was born in Montego Bay, but immigrated to New York with her
parents when she was a toddler. Living in Brooklyn allowed her the life chance of
acquiring very good education including a graduate degree and a good job.
Marlene came home to Jamaica on a biennial basis throughout her youth. She
never lost her Jamaicaness. Working in all kinds of high-powered stress filled jobs in
Manhattan, Marlene would come home to Jamaica to "cool out." Further, she would
cool out in Negril, which had the ambiance of being laid back and stress free.
In trying to keep herself on level, Marlene turned to "message therapy, yoga,
natural foods and herbs to help cleanse her body of impurities" and to deal with her
stress levels incurred by her high profile job. Finally, unable to cope, Marlene gave
up her job in a magazine, and worked in the health food store she frequented. The
plan was after a period of time, she would return to some corporate employment that
did not produce such debilitating effects on her mind and body. During this hiatus,
Marlene took an extensive trip to Negril. She found a falling down on the ground
house that faced the sea. High on the Negril cliffs, the property extended to the sea
via outcroppings of coral and limestone. She made a decision. Marlene bought the
property, and spent about 18 months working out how she was going to rebuild the
house, what she wanted to do with it and how could she still make a living.
In the end, Marlene used all of her personal capital sold everything in NYC
including some stock and her savings, and borrowed from friends from the health
food business in NY. This investment was to create a retreat for tired souls. Marlene
put to use her experience and expertise in marketing and contacts to sell her yoga
natural foods no frills retreat concept. There is but one phone. The 6 rooms have a
simple bed or hammock and a rudimentary bath. Most of the building is dedicated to
yoga. There are special places for meditation throughout the property, such as a
coral ridge just right for sitting, that faces the sea. Next to this "natural" seat are bowls
with water for libations or personal rituals. Another mediation spot is under a sea
grape tree. Marlene offers natural foods, no caffeine, and there are lots of juices on
the menu in the dining area. It is very quiet all of the time, except for those Bhuddist
prayers of one guest.
Marlene's business thrives because she has learned expertise. She could get
a mortgage because she came to Negril's banks with US capital to set up her
business at a moment when foreign exchange was in short supply. Her Jamaican
citizenry allowed her to purchase the property without any problems. Marlene is a
member of the Chamber of Commerce so she can benefit from community public
relations. Even more promising is her own PR efforts in specialized markets, such as
the buying of own tiny advertising spaces in new age health magazines. Her New
York contacts helped to get a small feature article in Black woman's magazine, and to
maintain her position in the New age health food network.
The Twins -- Crafts vendors
The twins grew up in the village next to Negril. They went to school and
stopped around the 9th year or 3rd form. Their parents could not afford the bus fare,
school fees, lunch money and uniforms to continue their education. One twin had her
first baby at age 16, and the other followed with her own child the next year. All the
while, Negril was developing as a tourist area, and the twins needed money to
support their families alongside what they received from their baby's fathers.
Victoria's partner wanted to get married, but lacked the funds to do so. Venus's baby
father did not consider changing their status. All of this reinforced their twin's need
for financial stability.
As girls coming up, Vic and Ven learned hand work. That was a part of the
British legacy whereby girls were taught to crochet, to do needlepoint, to cruel as well
as to cook in secondary school (starting in 7th grade). Vic and Ven began an
association with one of the crafts people, who bought the handicraft items -- baskets
with lettering on them in raffia -- eventually becoming her major supplier. With the
support of this older woman, Vic and Ven entered the world of the crafts market
In the early 1970s, crafts market women set up their wares alongside of the
road in areas that were large enough to accommodate numerous stalls. By the late
70's, the Chamber of Commerce built a facility to house all of the crafts woman in one
location. The women formed a cooperative and gave rent to the CC for that space
and dues to the cooperative. The Chamber, working with local government wanted
to show crafts women in a positive light, and to reinforce their image as not money
gouges, but as responsible business women. There were efforts for not duplicating
goods, so individuals had rights to a particular good as a specialization. The area
was kept clean and tidy.
Twenty years later, with Negril's success and building of new properties along
the shore line of the 7 mile beach, there was a need for another crafts market. Young
women, who had learned the business, started another market up the road. Among
this group were Vic and Ven. The move was in direct competition for the tourist
dollar, and that was exactly what it was -- very fundamental capitalism. Over these
years, Vic and Ven had more children, and were established crafts market women.
But moreover, they had taken advantage of all of the classes on entreprenuership
that the Chamber offered with the help of a US Peace Corps volunteer. Not only
were they able to capitalize on the expanding market, they produced goods fast, kept
up with needs of their consumers and set their profit margins for reinvestment in stock
and the plant, and then for personal profit.
In the Rutland crafts market, the rent and dues to the cooperative were
standard. However, the craft went beyond the T-shirt and basket routine to craft that
showed skill, design and care. For example, Tie-dye demonstrations were
conducted in one stall to show the customers what process entailed, as well as to
purchase finished products. Miss Milly's dolls were international hits and she could
not keep up with her special orders as well as the quick sell items that were needed
to replenish the stock on display.
Vic and Ven took turns as presidents of the cooperative. Vic's store, as it was
really a small house with shelves, display cases, and a Visa and Master Card credit
card machine, focused on high end jewelry black coral, beads, but more
importantly carvings. A series of Rastamen were her suppliers. Ven's forte was
handicraft. Her baskets were beyond the normal fare. She offered tightly woven
baskets of differing grasses and cane trash that she and her suppliers produced. Ven
took special orders for baskets, and tourists returned to pick up their baskets that had
names, ideas, organizations etc. woven in raffia. Besides their specialization's, both
Vic and Ven offered customers choices of T-shirts, beads, book marks and other
tourist-oriented wares. Both shops need the labor of their children to replenish the
stock. They do this in the summer and fall when the tourist business drops off and
there is time to be had in the day. Although children help throughout the year, the
work after school when it is in session.
Miss Anne May -- Traditional Higgler
Miss Anne May is a classical higgler. She prides her self in being a higgler so
much that she is perhaps the most photographed fruit and vegetable vender in
Negril. She sits on the side of the road behind a series of crates on which she
displays the fruit and vegetables that she has grown herself, bartered for from her
network of suppliers, or bought elsewhere. Besides her crates and display is a gill
cup which is used to measure dry "peas" (beans), plastic bags, string and
newspaper. On her person, Miss Anne ties her head with a piece of higgler clothe ( a
traditional plaid of red, black and yellow), wears a deep pocket apron over a long
skirt with her feet in sneakers without laces. She is a large breasted woman whose
children are all grown and off to work. However, she usually has a toddler or two in
tow who are her grandchildren.
Miss Anne learned her trade as a child as her own mother was a higgler. At
that time, Negril produced coconut oil for cooking with its abundance of trees.
However with the coconut tree blight, the trees died and so did the coconut oil
processing and selling trade. During her time, Miss Anne branched out and included
other provisions and fruits to replace the coconuts. Furthermore, she has focused
more on fruits than vegetables on a daily basis because tourists buy fruit quite
steadily during the week. Her ground provisions and vegetables are sold to regular
customers during the end of the week, when most of them do their marketing.
In the mornings, Miss Anne checks the progress of her "paw paw trees, the
ripeness of her bananas and during the summer what mango, guineps and avocado
pear were ready to pick. She plants peas, yams, caliloo, and carrots. On her way to
town, Miss Anne stops by neighbors to see if they have any fruits to sell her, or if it is a
Thursday, ground provisions to sell all to augment her supply. She puts these goods
in crocus sacks (burlap) and stands to wait for the bus that comes by to carry her to
Negril. When they are in season, Miss Anne will buy pineapples in the large market
in Sav-La-Mar that she re-sells in Negril.
A beneficiary of Negril's expansion, Miss Anne's business requires that she
compute the value of her stock, the pricing and demand for certain goods by different
customers. During a quiet time of the day, Miss Anne puts a gill of "peas" in plastic
bags that will be sold on the weekends. She explains to a group of Canadians what
a sour sop is, and slices one for them to sample. Her major outlay of cash comes
from her buy and sell with her supplier neighbors and the large market in Sav. She
marks up these items accordingly, but for example, all bananas whether they come
from her yard or that of her neighbors gets the same high price. As a primary
producer, Miss Anne is dependent on good yields of crops and good weather.
Another expense is the cost of traveling to Negril and to trips to Sav. And although
she does not pay rent, her spot of crates on the side of the road, is designated as her
own by the court of popular custom. What makes her work vulnerable is the
possibility of a major buy, for example some one buys all her stock of bananas or all
of her guineps. She depends on her steady customers for financial stability with her
ground provisions because those people will be there even if tourists do not come.
However, the major problem is another higgler underselling her, despite the
unspoken rule of respect among those in the business. Miss Anne, who has a 3rd
grade education can calculate pricing, mark-ups and the depreciation of stock in a
flash without any technological support.
Mrs. Archibald -- Cell Phone and Upscale
Enid Morris Archibald owns an upscale boutique that features international
and Jamaican fashions and accessories. She rents space in one of the luxurious
hotels along the beach. Her stock reflects the taste and pocketbook of her customers
-- the guests of the hotel. On a weekly basis, Mrs. Archibald travels back and forth
from Kingston, with side trips to Miami where she buys her goods for the boutique.
Mrs. Archibald is always on the phone, sometimes speaking on the store phone while
her cell rings. Her relationship among Jamaica's designers is well-established as
she is renowned for her taste and support for the industry. Requested by the
corporate owners when the resort was under construction, Mrs. Archibald is firmly
established as one of the leading upscale retailers in town.
Mrs. Archibald's business savvy comes from her understanding of her
clientele. What she offers are Jamaican designs that are useful while on holiday as
well as being appropriate wear when the tourist returns home to her country club or
for home entertaining. The fabrics are rich and the colors evoke the lush tropical
fauna and flora of Jamaica. The accessories -- necklaces, bracelets, belts and hats
come from Jamaican fashion sources and those bought from fashion wholesalers in
Miami. The start-up capital for this business came from a variety of places, but most
predominate was Mr. Archibald's business in Kingston. As a wife of a business man,
Mrs. Archibald would tap on that businesses profits for investment purposes. Capital
was needed for the initial stock, display tables, counters, outfitting a dressing room, a
business machine, materials for interior decorations, rental fees, and employee
salaries. There are two young women employed to cover the hours of business -- 10
am to 9 PM, seven days a week.
With such high over head costs, Mrs. Archibald carefully monitors the books
and reports that she is holding her own, despite the fluctuation of tourism in Jamaica.
She has yet to show a real profit, but the business has not been a loss. Mrs.
Archibald loves her boutique and the beautiful things in it. But more importantly, she
enjoys having her own small business to do with as she pleases.
When tourism is viewed from the vantage point of the location, meaning the
wider environment, the particulars of systems and processes of this industry can be
examined. Further, when these systems and processes focus on a way tourism
affords women ways of making a living, then a range of situations and opportunities
can be explored. Such was a case of the small business sector, as illustrated by the
four cases. Whether they want to claim kinship to the enslaved African market women
who established a history of female entreprenuership in Jamaica or not, Negril's
women who own small businesses have much in common with that legacy.
There are a number of trends here that these women featured here represent
in the development of tourism in Negril. First of all, there is a sense of history noted
here. Miss Anne, the traditional higgler comes from a family who are higglers. This
line of work has not diminished in Jamaica's economy, but in fact as been reinforced
due to the tendency of distributors to keep a roller-coast effect of inefficiency going.
How foodstuffs get to market are still tied to historical means, and still accounted for in
small quantities. Miss Anne's business thrives on this situation, and she has been
able to make a living, take care of her family needs and show small scale profits.
Taking a market by the horns were the twins who as real old-fashioned
entreprenuership, learned a trade, used their expertise to branch out on their own,
and secured a stake in the market. Competition between crafts vendors and
competing spaces are real here in NegriL where thAd are a limited number of
customers. Vic and Ven used their marketing skills to make Rutland different than
that of the competition. Although they may still offer similar sets of goods, display, L
selling attractions, a0d quality of service and quality of goods made a difference
between the two locations.
If viewed on a continuum of sophistication, and technology, the new age
health retreat would come somewhere in the middle between the old and the modish.
Part of the combination has much to do with the business itself -- an escape from the
fast track of contemporary life -- and the image of Negril itself which prides itself on
the slow-pace of the place. However, to make this retreat work, Marlene had to
employ all her business savvy to create it, maintain, and sell those services to
customers who reside outside of Jamaica. Targeting her clientele made it possible to
reach them in the magazines they read and the food stores they frequent. Without
prior knowledge of the customer and what needs are to be met by the retreat, the
business would not have been a success.
Finally, the upscale boutique addresses the future that some of Negril's
corporate sponsors have charted for this part of Jamaica. Putting the hippie, laid-
back ambiance aside, Negril is promoting the kind of luxury usually associated with
other areas of the island. Subsequently by courting a clientele that appreciates and
is attracted to upscale comforts, appropriate retailing opportunities were necessary.
Mrs. Archibald's boutique fits this need quite nicely. It comes with the aura of a
tropical paradise, a well-appointed decor and the glamour of designer fashions that
can be one of a kind back home. Keeping the stock fresh, exciting and inventive is
the trade mark of boutique management, and Mrs. Archibald provides that style in
In Jamaica, US and other parts of the world, barriers have been broken that
allow women access to a range of jobs, and accompanying successes unheard of
just 3 decades ago. Change comes slowly, and it is not for the lack of trying on the
part of generations of women and men who work for gender equality, human rights
and social justice. However in Jamaica, there are still the links of the past that are
kept alive by the economy that benefits and relies on both traditional and
technologically advanced sectors. In tourism, women take advantage of this range of
options according to their access to capital, training and education. The expansion of
Negril's role in tourism has made it possible for women to make a living, take care of
domestic responsibilities, and for some to make a profit. This is not a new gimmick,
although better access to loans is a contemporary benefit. It is product of a legacy of
a savvy, aggressive, shrewd business woman in Jamaica, also known as a higgler.
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