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Worth the leap

Businesswoman launches Mood Buddy key rings

Don’t bother asking Vanetta Loncke why she took a leap at becoming an entrepreneur at this time, given the economic conditions in the country.

Her response would simply be: “That is exactly why.”

“Face it; it’s hard to get a job and, I mean, if you have a viable product, what’s the sense of sitting down on it and trying to find a job and helping someone else’s dream come true when you could work and push towards your own and be an entrepreneur?”

Loncke is one of Barbados’ newest businesswomen, launching her product line Mood Buddy at the 2014 Barbados Manufacturers’ Exhibition (BMEX) held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre from June 6 to 9.

She offers customised key rings for girls ages six to 13 that are handmade from clay and hand-painted, featuring three main characters, as well as collectible cards that feature digital versions of the characters.

Some of the Mood Buddy products.

Some of the Mood Buddy products.

“The concept is you buy the key ring and customised parts which you attach,” she explained.

“The idea is to encourage people to create and have fun with the product at the same time. It’s your buddy that you customise according to your mood. Hence the name Mood Buddy.”

The 27-year-old, who recently completed a graphic design course at the Barbados Community College, explained her inspiration.

“I always liked making key rings, and I wanted to do a line for girls that they would want to have, because when people think of the key ring, they don’t think of it as something they want to buy; they think about it as a little souvenir; something you get for free from somewhere. So I wanted something that you would want to have, that you could relate to. Hence the characters,” she said.

“The response has been very good. A lot of people telling me that it looks really good. I should think international. They could see that it would do really well in all different types of markets. The characters are really strong; the concept is really strong; and it’s something they’ve never seen before, which is kind of what I really wanted: something new, something that’s not out there.

“There are a lot of customised items out there; but they’re not key rings and they’re not handmade like this; and I really wanted a packaging that you’d want to have.

“Another element I want to add to the brand as well is the app. You download the app, put in a code that would come with the collectible card, and your character would come up digitally. And then you could go in there and change the clothes, change the accessories, change the hair. You could design your own if you want; and then when you’re finished doing all of that, you can upload what you’ve done on a personal page to your friends.”

Loncke was approached by the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association to showcase her product at BMEX and she is hoping to return in 2015 with a product that is manufactured and available in stores.

The graphic designer, who basically runs a one-woman operation, outlines some of her challenges.

“I’m doing all the work –– the designing, packaging, creating, finishing touches –– so it takes time. The materials are not always easy to get because some people are always out of stock at some point in time,” she said.

“Once I can get help with funding, I could probably outsource the manufacturing of them to have them mass-produced for the main characters, but I think I will continue to make the collectible items by hand because it’s supposed to be something unique and I would like to see them in souvenir shops, like at the airport, where tourists can pick them up.”

And, while she expects to face more challenges, Loncke is still thinking big and has high hopes of getting her line into United States-headquartered Toys “R” Us.

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