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How to make money during a pandemic

Photo by Whatznot

By Korena Darnelle

30/03/21                   14 minute read

Many nations, Barbados included, have closed their borders and locked down cities in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19. But as countries grapple with keeping their citizens safe, another pressing issue has emerged: that of a stammering global economy. The World Bank estimates that a jaw dropping 26% of businesses were non-operational during their global survey, a number that has trickled (or rather, rushed) down to our tourism-dependent region.

As job losses and business closures loom, many people have had to search for hope in the midst of despair. The pandemic has already presented itself as a blessing in disguise for three local entrepreneurs, Stephanie Acoca from Whatz Notz, Darnel Greenidge of Monumental Watches and Portia Doyle of Imoro, who have used this time to pivot and revamp their businesses.


Photo by Whatznot


Stephanie started her business three years ago when she gave up city life in Montreal to move to Barbados and began creating her island inspired jewellery. Her overall goal was to create a keepsake, ‘that wasn't your standard' souvenir’, with gorgeous pieces of jewellery crafted in the shape of Barbados. Sometime later she expanded to also include jewellery shaped like Israel, Trinidad and Tobago and Montreal.

"It really doesn't take a lot of money to start, it's just to set goals and to work in stages."

Stephanie’s approach to getting started as an entrepreneur is simply, “You need to first believe in yourself and to have a passion for what you’re doing.” Some may debate over whether this may or may not be true, saying instead to focus on having a business name, business plan, setting up a bank account etc, but passion and a true love for what you're doing is one of the key things that will keep you going when the going gets tough. 

This way of thinking is exactly what has kept Stephanie going, in spite of the definite negative effects that have occurred as a result of Covid-19. With travel at a standstill due to the national pause, Stephanie’s main source of sales via wholesale to hotels and stores was no longer viable. While not ideal, she used this time to really push her online sales and spent the down time developing a new marketing strategy. Stephanie invested a lot more time in social media campaigns on Facebook and Instagram to aid in developing her brand awareness and recognition. She states that since COVID she has been working with a local company in Barbados and abroad to develop the artwork to really push her Israel campaigns.

Whatznot 2 Bajans Connect

WhatzNot offers a wide range of jewellery such as these Barbados-shaped earrings.

(Image courtesy of WhatzNot)

Things continued to get more challenging, as the price for gold and silver increased. As a result she too had to raise her prices on a few products to maintain the sustainability of her business. She has also started offering curbside pickup and launched a new line called Everyday Essentials, still classic to her brand style but now inclusive of earrings, chokers, bracelets, necklaces and a new engravables collection set to launch soon.

Stephanie enjoys the freedom of entrepreneurship and states, “Having your own schedule and working for yourself is a pro as well as a con.” As an entrepreneur, you wear many hats and do much of the heavy lifting yourself and the responsibilities, just as much as the rewards, fall squarely on you, but at the end of the day you have to let your passion drive you. 

Stephanie’s advice for new entrepreneurs is, “It really doesn’t take a lot of money to start, it’s just to set goals and to work in stages and to keep reinvesting in the business as it grows.” Stephanie also alludes to the importance of having a good support system to bounce ideas off of, providing a great customer experience and doing your research. 

Imoro's Spa E'scentials line

(Photo courtesy of Imoro)



Portia, on the other hand, has been in the spa/ therapy business since 2015 and is a well known therapist, trainer and has also worked as a spa manager. After leaving the corporate arena she decided it was time to fully invest her efforts in an area she felt the local market was lacking by formulating her own spa products.

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Portia suggests that “it’s challenging to do everything needed to run the business and to delegate to someone else who’s the right fit, but it can be done once you maintain focus and discipline. You also have to set boundaries so you can spend time with yourself to reset, so you’re not always on the go as this could lead to burn out.”

She believes that one of the main cons of entrepreneurship in Barbados is the limited opportunities for small businesses to get products aligned with international brands and the limited financial resources. Yet, she highlights that nyou can gain access to organisations such as BIDC, SBA and Caribbean Export to assist you with showcasing your products at local and regional trade shows.

"Don't be afraid to share your ideas or passions with others."

Like Stephanie, Portia was able to gain a positive outcome from the lockdown period. She states, “While things have slowed down some, and our airport kiosk was closed completely due to the pandemic we were able to keep the business going by not increasing our expenses and sticking to a strict budget, purchasing in quantities based on how much business is coming in.” She also used this time for personal and business development through attending webinars and workshops, upgrading the lab and improving her production process. When asked to expand on how she improved her process, Portia states, “I was able to properly lay out the space correctly according to international standards which included a separate formulation area which is closed off from the packaging and storage, a room dedicated to soap making and installation of additional shelving units.” This was a tremendous help to the production process by cutting down on packaging time due to the new workflow, reduction of the risks of air contaminants which aids in elevating the product integrity.


Portia does advise that while finding something you’re good at is great, having a good financial track record from the get go and really doing your research into your business idea from the start are key. She shares  this key to success, “Don’t be afraid to share your ideas or your passion with others. You never know who’d be willing to make an initial investment or give you access to critical resources like legal, accounting and IT.”

2020 Bajan Gift Guide

Monumental Watches

(Image courtesy of Monumental Watches)

Monumental Watches

Unlike most young peoples, Darnel took an interest in horology, defined by Wikipedia as the art of making watches and the measurement of time. This interest was heavily influenced by his grandmother. When she passed away in 2018, Darnel invested his effort into creating a timepiece that not only honoured her but also set a statement of luxury. For Darnel, the journey of entrepreneurship provides him the opportunity to do what he loves and a freedom that is not often provided in the corporate realm. But with it comes much responsibility. He states, “As an entrepreneur, you can set your own hours, you can work at your pace and you can set your own rules.” 

Many don’t start their own businesses because they say they don’t have the money. While this is understandable, especially now, one still has to believe they can start even with just a little bit of cash. The reality is that there is often something right there in front of you that can get your business moving. And for those still working full time, Darnel suggests you leverage the job you have to save enough capital to start the business.


For Darnel, Covid-19 resulted in a complete drop in his watch sales, due to major shipping delays and other issues in his production process as the world went on pause. He did indicate, however, that during this slow period it “gave him an opportunity to work on the weak areas”. He says he took a look at all his current business processes and tried to come up with ways that he could make them better, for the business overall and more importantly, for his customers.

Darnel’s takeaway for entrepreneurs is,“Success in any business starts with focusing on the customer, not making profits or the bottom line. If you have no customers, you have no business.” Overall having a won’t quit mentality, great support and a true understanding of why you started will keep you going through the tough times and once you keep moving forward, you’ll attain your greatest success.

During this COVID time one of the key things to understand is that people are staying home and they’re spending a ton of time online. So you have to start thinking of the best possible ways to reach them. Maybe you love to talk - so why not start a podcast or an IG Live and as it grows invite your audience to pay a small fee to be featured on it? How about offering a free 30 minute webinar on something you’re good at to build a reputation as a trusted advisor, get feedback on the webinar and from there build out an online course. There’s always a silver lining even in the midst of a pandemic, you just have to think outside of the box.


Would you love to hear more from these successful entrepreneurs? Be sure to reach out to them via their websites or social media channels listed below.


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