Everyone isn’t destined to be an entrepreneur, but most of us would jump at the opportunity to make extra cash. Seasonal businesses can be very lucrative, and, in the case of Trinidad’s Carnival, you can choose which side of the cash flow you want to be. I mean…we all know that Carnival is prime season to get people to spend their money.
Mas aficionados and fete lovers will churn out their hard-earned and limited cash to get in the section of their choice, attend the best all-inclusive fetes, buy clothes galore, and accessorize to the hilt in attempts to look like a “10″ on the road. So the demand is there.
Moneymakers don’t stick to complaining about how expensive costumes and fetes are, though. They capitalize on the season, sacrifice their social lives by working in fetes and on the road, and – depending on what they do – even manage to play mas still. They just get to jump extra higher, wave extra longer, and wine extra lower, when they count the dough they’ve made servicing masqueraders, mas bands and fete promoters.
Now, all of us can’t be like Tribe’s Dean Ackin and land in the New York Times with a big business model. However, some of us can successfully turn or hobby into something lucrative. Like I said, the demand for a range of services exists; it’s just to find them.
Since I believe in listening to those who’ve been knee-deep in the mix for some time, I spoke to Edson Reyes, Technical Director of Triniscene. Triniscene has been in the entertainment industry for ten years now, and usually increases staff for the Carnival period to manage the influx of opportunities available for the period, such as increased event advertising, managing instant photo booths at events, and running a Carnival BlackBerry application. Edson also provides advertising props, photography, live promotions, streaming and ticketing services on his own.
When I told him about the premise of this article, his response was, “You want more people to try to milk Carnival?” Then he laughed. His take is this:
“Right now the Carnival teat has blisters. I’d advise people to target masqueraders and focus on things that improve their experience – makeup, costume customizing, costume delivery…those sorta niches. Right now mas is selling out, so services sell out too. In January, yuh cannot book time for a makeup artist to do yuh face for Monday or Tuesday.”
What does this quick booking of services mean? That there’s room for more people to cater to those last-minute bookers. Of course, you have to have quality behind you, and maybe the year after you’ll be another sold-out provider. That’s exactly what happened for Boots by Afro Chic, which customizes boots for masqueraders.
Afro Chic, who prefers to remain anonymous, came up with the idea to decorate boots, in 2007, after reading a post on TrinidadCarnivalDiary.com.
“I got it in my head to just do my own boots for Carnival,” she says. “I’ve done my own jewellery in the past and Carnival time I would always add my own little touches to my costume. Extra feathers, braids, and what have you. Her (Saucy of Trinidad Carnival Diary) post was on boots and wearing them to play mas, so when I got my costume, I bought a pair of handcrafted boots, added my stuff to it and that was it. People saw them after Saucy posted them on her blog and it kinda went from there.”
The first year, orders trickled in, because “people were still into the whole sneaker thing”. So, she made boot and sneaker design samples, and posted them on her blog. Soon after, Saucy posted them on TrinidadCarnivalDiary.com, and, the week before Carnival, orders poured in, moving her from only having two orders to eighteen.
“You might find I’m mentioning Saucy a lot,” she adds. “But it’s because of her my business has blossomed the way it has.”
Now, three years later, growth has been “phenomenal because everyone wants boots for Carnival”. She takes orders of between 40 to 50 on average, had to close registration in October – instead of December – last year, has a waiting list, and a few broken hearts who didn’t get their orders in, and provides services for Barbados’ Crop Over Festival. She also branched out to customizing wire bras, backpacks and corsets in 2011.
Afro Chic believes that more young people are finding ways to ‘make money’ through culture.
“We have a lot of makeup artists doing their thing,” she says. “There are other boot people, and people doing wire bras, and specialising in Monday wear.”
One makeup artist who steadily plies her trade is Keisha Stephen-Gittens, of Defining Perfection, who got her start in makeup, after being inspired by the makeup done on her during her teen days, when she appeared in a few ads. Coincidentally, she also works as an account co-ordinator with one of T&T’s larger advertising firms.
“As a makeup artist, you would be considered dumb if you didn’t do makeup for Carnival,” she says. “It’s ‘quick money’ because you’re bound to get a customer. But it can be considered fast paced, which is not even the right term to use. It’s very stressful, very…very competitive, as there are so many makeup artists now, and challenging. But the pay off in the end makes up for the one or two days of stress, and it helps to pay the bills.”
Makeup artists, boot customizers, and entertainment site owners aren’t the only people making money. I could highlight other young businesses like Hybrid Theory, which is in high demand for the Carnival season with its décor, design (for events), and on-the-road, body paint, and costume repair and alteration services, and design studio Everything Slight Pepper, which designed BeachHouse’s book – “BeachHouse, the Experience” – in 2011. I’ve even seen taxi services being offered for Carnival.
What this shows is that among consumers, masqueraders, fete promoters, and other businesses, there’s room to supply a service or product.
Ask yourself what their workflows and projects involve, and see how you can add value or make their lives easier. Ask yourself, “What can I do to make money this Carnival?” Open a Carnival babysitting centre? Offer a service or product that all inclusives would like to include to wow patrons?
Are you the ultimate fashionista? Maybe you can help style people for the season, and get a celebrity client to boot. Or maybe you can sell ‘hot’ outfits for that period. Yuh know how people does ‘dress up’ for fetes. If you’re into publicity, why not target up n’ coming Soca stars? And that’s just on the local front. Other carnivals are outsourcing services from Trinis.
Carnival has been a huge business for years, and for the entrepreneurial mind looking for new pastures in which to feed, it holds promise. Plus, it’s a way to convert your passion or hobby into revenue, and help you pay the bills, or at least offset the money you’ll spend, attending fetes and playing mas. Like I said, you can decide which side of the cash flow you want to be on – in flow or out flow?
So tell me…how many of you would be open to starting a full-fledged business, or side hustle for Carnival? What do you think would make a good business for Carnival?