COLUMN-Toni’s journey to success
Name: Toni Thorne
Age: 27 years old
Education: Harrison College, Barbados Community College, UWI Cave Hill Campus, University of London
Qualifications: B.Sc Economics and Accounts, LLB (law)
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about life and actualization. I am passionate about the creation of outlets and platforms that allow others to enjoy life, express themselves and be the best possible version of themselves that they could be.
Do you have a philosophy you live by, and what do you see as your purpose in life?
When life throws tomatoes at me, I make a damn good round of Bloody Mary cocktails. This is what I currently live by. I believe in making the best of all opportunities and saying ‘yes’, then figuring things out after. So many people believe that life should be linear and perfect. However, life has shown me that a part of the beauty is working out the kinks and being absolutely comfortable in our imperfections. The happiest people aren’t those who have the most but they are those who make the most out of what they have.
Why are culture and the arts so important to you?
I was immersed into the arts from a very young age. At four, I was performing on stage with Dance Nationale Afrique. Culture and the arts is the single, most expressive platform that connects persons, regardless of race, class or creed – take a look at the people who participate in Kadooment, for example. At the risk of sounding cliché, I do believe that Barbados has many talented persons. I believe that we are at a critical stage with the cultural industries where we have acknowledged that we have talented people and it is now time to monetize the talents.
Tell us about Martha’s Smile and your success as a dancer.
Martha’s Smile was a charity programme I started in 2009. It was a one-year programme in Jamaica which paid for the music and dance lessons for HIV-infected orphans at Martha’s Home. Martha’s Home (at that time) was one of two homes in the Caribbean which specifically catered to HIV-infected orphans. It was definitely an eye-opener for all of the stakeholders involved. The Jamaica Child Development Agency, LIVE UP, and Caribbean Airlines were some of the partners for the charity programme. In addition, the Martha’s Smile committee was priceless. We visited the home prior to launching the programme. We spent a day with the children playing games and painting all-white garments which were donated by over 30 regional designers. That day inspired all of us. The fact that children with so little could enjoy life was a lesson in and of itself.
What is BoUiK and how has it supported national development?
I would more say that BoUiK supported my development was established after asking my parents for some money to start a clothing line and they said ‘no’. A week later, I saw an advertisement for a BIDC business outline competition taught me a lot about business at an early age. I was studying for my Bachelors in Economics and Accounting at the time and I literally had to incorporate everything I was learning at UWI into what I was doing. After a while, my father made it very clear to me that since I had a business, I could pay for my school fees. At the age of 18, I was very responsible financially and understood the importance of sacrificing to succeed.
What is your connection to Settlers West Coast Experience and is it associated with the Island Fusion Foreday Morning Band?
I started Settlers West Coast Experience in 2010 with other young entrepreneurs. It was initially a carnival on the West Coast of Barbados. We have subsequently revamped the concept, which will now be known as Settlers Season with the slogan WE TING:Barbados’ youth-led festival. We have taken ideas from 120 young Barbadians via surveys and focus groups and crafted a festival for youth by youth which will come to fruition in January 2015. Island Fusion was established with four other young female entrepreneurs after seeing a gap in the Foreday Morning offerings for persons in our age group and demographic. The response to Island Fusion has been an amazing journey for each of us and the entire team works assiduously every year to ensure that the brand produces a great experience for our patrons.
Have you ever won any awards or represented Barbados regionally or globally?
I have represented Barbados in the arts regionally and internationally with Dancin’Africa– (all English-speaking Caribbean countries, French Guiana, Aruba, Curaso, Canada, USA, China) – which was founded by both of my parents. I have also represented Barbados at the Global Youth Leaders Summit in Prague,Czech Republicand Budapest, Hungury. I was the first person of African or Caribbean descent to sit on the Summit Team. Most recently, I was selected as a Global Shaper. Global Shapers Community is an affiliated organization of the World Economic Forum and I have travelled with them forums in Asia and Latin America. Being a Shaper has been a wonderful experience. The team at provided me with opportunities that money could not buy, such as the opportunity to host billionaire Arif Naqvi. In August of this year, while in Switzerland, I felt so honoured to be chosen from amongst 350 Shapers to interview the President of Coca Cola. I was also privilged to represent Barbados at an Entrepreneurship Summit with the owner of Easy Jet and Levi Roots of Reggae Reggae Sauce.
We understand that you are involved in the media. Tell us about that.
Thorne Publishing & Productions is the company that publishes Pompasette and is currently producing the upcoming Toni Thorne Show is anonline and printed magazine, which is published twice a year and caters to the 18-35 age group. It is a platform for young persons to share their views and opinions on a variety of topics. I have even had two of my African friends who have been featured by Forbes and Bloomberg contribute to the magazine. Locally, many young influencers have and continue to write for the publication and as a result the readership continues to grow. The opportunity happened by chance. I was invited to host a youth programme for the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and Caribbean Media Coorporation (CMC) and following the taping, I was approached and told ‘You should have your own television show!’ As stated earlier, I believe in saying ‘yes’ and figuring out things after and I am living that belief. This has been the most strenuous undertaking I have ever done and my team and I are committed to making it a phenomenal reality. Even if it just ends up on Youtube, our philosophy is to make it the best possible show we can create!
If you had to be a super hero, who would you be and why?
I wouldn’t be a super hero. There is no one to save the superhero and as a 27 year-old woman, I tend to need saving at times. Vulnerability can be a beautiful thing.
Name three people you would love to meet.
Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Blakely, Arianna Huffington.
Name three books you would encourage people to read.
The Bible, The Art of War and I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.
Tell us about CARIFESTA and how you responded when you heard the news.
I was chosen from among many talented Caribbean young people by the CARICOM Secretariat to represent young Caribbean artists on the Interim Festival Directorate (IFD) for the Caribbean Festival of Arts also know as CARIFESTA. I was elated and truly humbled by the selection. I also took some time to understand what the selection means and the amount of hard work and dedication I need to apply in order to make a difference in this capacity.
You currently hold a degree in Economics and Accounts, why pursue Law now?
I enjoy studying law and I have always wanted to practise it. I have also been inspired by my father. I love the critical analysis of it, the fact that you can have an impact on people’s lives, the adversarial element of litigation and if you are really good, it can be a great business.
Who has contributed to your success?
How do you respond to critics who believe your success is as a result of your dad being a successful, prominent, professional Barbadian?
I used to really take on people’s “reasons” for my “success”. Firstly, I do not believe that I am even five per cent of where I am destined to be, so the concept of success is very relative. Secondly, I have matured to the point where unless those people are contributing to my monthly bills, their opinions about my “success” are irrelevant.
What initiatives or policies would you implement if you were the Minister of Culture and the Creative Arts?
Most recently, I have been hearing about many interesting, mind-blowing initiatives that are underway, both by the Government and private entities.Right now, I would give the stakeholders six months to bring their planned initiatives to fruition.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
A successful entrepreneur and practising lawyer with an amazing family – my definition of self-actualization.
What advice would you give to young female teenagers?
Be smart. Don’t chase popularity. Don’t seek to peak at 16 years old. Life will never be perfect. You are enough. You will only pass this way once.