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MSMEs star at the biggest BCCI Expo ever

By William Ysaguirre

Belizean entrepreneurship is alive and well, with over 62 medium, small and micro enterprises showcasing their products and services at the largest annual Expo Belize Market Place ever hosted by the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry since the even first started in 1996.

Close to 13,000 visitors enjoyed the wide variety of products offered by local businesses over the two days of the event.

Chief Executive Officer Narda Garcia of the Office of the Prime Minister elaborated on the government’s plans and policies to promote sustainable economic growth by empowering Belize’s MSMEs and inspiring local artisans in new ventures when she addressed the opening ceremony at the Marion Jones Stadium in Belize City on Saturday, September 17.

The BCCI held a “Best Booth” Competition in which exhibitors were awarded points based on the creativity, professionalism, innovation, and efficiency of their booth. Courts Belize Ltd won the award for Best Overall Booth, while Carol Ramos won the award for Most Creative Booth with her specialty in handmade children’s clothing for girls aged 2 to 6 years, which she markets under the brand “CK Girls”.

The Gomez family of Belize City won the award for Most Professional Booth, offering handmade clay jewelry under the “SOL” brand. The Solid Waste Management Authority was awarded the Most Innovative Booth, while Nika’s Sea Moss products won the Best Female Entrepreneur award. Andrew Lord won the Best Male Entrepreneur award for the exquisite zericote furniture, handicrafts and carvings created by Lord Designs.

One positive result of the pandemic was that it stimulated Belizean creativity and innovation born of necessity, and many of these new startups have been marketing their wares on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and other social media.

Khy’s Kreamy Kreations started offering an assortment of pastries in January 2021, and these now include cupcakes, baked cheesecake, and no-baked cheesecake, larger cakes, and chocolate-covered treats. Ashlee’s Baked Creations also offers pastries for health food fanatics.

Amira Correa Pelayo began making her tropical “SangriaMia” in 2020, which she sells in 10 ounce and 24 ounce bottles, now available at many popular supermarkets. The bottles can have customized labels for special events and are available in half gallon and gallon sizes for large events. Another newcomer on the beverage scene is “Wine Time,” offering locally crafted wine in chardonnay, Moscato, sangria, and rosé flavors.

Marie Sharp’s is a household name for hot sauces, fruit juice concentrates, jams and jellies, and she has further diversified by making fruit wines from cashews, plantain, Malay apple and jackfruit, primarily for the tourist trade and expos.

Julie MacRae began making her hot “Julie’s Zucchini Salsa” in Santa Elena, Cayo in 2019, with all-natural ingredients produced in San Ignacio, and she has now branched into making bottled cocktails under the “Baby Maker” label, in pina colada, apple, minty pineapple mojito, mango-habanero, and blue kamikaze flavors. Jamie Vasquez won an award from BELTRAIDE last December to start his small business “Wild Roots”, bottling natural organic juices without sugar or additives. Oma Organix produces tonics, pastries and handmade soaps from elderberry.

Carlos Chavez of Camalote Village, Cayo, established “Kankrete Aestetiks” a year ago to manufacture concrete pavement tiles, garden dividers, planters and fountains. Rossy Bran of San Ignacio only began her business, Rossy Shoes, a couple of months ago, producing handmade sandals and work boots from natural Belizean materials.

A number of artisans are producing jewelry for the tourist trade, including Zaadia Flores of Sand Hill, who is marketing handcrafted jewelry under the “Sweetheart Studios” brand. Kaj Expressions offers nose rings and mini heart studs. Ale Cho of the Toledo district first began making her “Ale Beach Treasures” jewelry from sea glass in 2014, and she has now relocated to offer her wares for the tourist trade in San Ignacio.

B.M.A., Boris Mansfield and Associates, is a new start-up Belizean real estate company based in Placencia, offering properties for sale to anyone who wants to own a piece of the jewel. They are presently hiring young Belizeans willing to learn the real estate business.

The BCCI thanks all exhibitors, sponsors, and its secretariat staff who helped this year’s Expo achieve success on such a grand scale after its two-year hiatus.

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