Grenadian designer empowering a movement of environmental consciousness through fashion.
This month, OECS YES In Action caught up with Tamara Prosper, a 32 year old Grenadian entrepreneur using recyclable materials to build and environmentally sustainable brand while inspiring her clients to be eco-conscious!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am an eco-jewellery designer, an artist and an innovative business woman.
I have a great love for art and design, but business is where my passion truly lies. It was my mission to merge these two important facets in my professional life. As a young teacher, I gave classes in both Business and Art for many years before pursuing and attaining a BSc in Management Studies and an MSc in Marketing (Management).
My greatest accomplishment to date is being the founder and manager of the business Tambran by Tamara, which specialises in the design and creation of luxury, one of a kind eco-jewellery and accessories made from recyclable materials and idle natural seeds and fibers.
When did you first notice your inclination towards art and design?
I have always wanted to do new things and chart my own course. In primary school, for example, if the teacher asked us to design a book, my book had to be different from everyone else’s – be it shaped like a snake, a house, or something different.
My teachers also nurtured my love for business and design and would always call on “Tamara” to decorate the blackboards for the school fair or to design the posters for a lesson or fundraiser, etc.
It would seem that from a very early age, I understood the concept of differentiation and positioning without being very conscious of it. This outlook translated to my adult life in business where the products produced by Tambran by Tamara are relatively unique in the market and have taken advantage of a niche not fully explored.
What inspired you to pursue this career?
Art and design have always been with me, I would say, because I have somehow always been in the creative field – directly and indirectly.
While I was a teacher of Business Studies and Art and Design, I started doing murals and face painting for businesses and private clients on the side, which helped finance my university tuition.
It was my time as a BSc student at the University of the West Indies, however, that got me on the path I am on today. I realised that the University produced a significant amount of waste material such as used banners after advertising a seminar, or pieces of wood from maintenance. Given my thrifty and creative nature, I saw art in these “waste” materials. The banners, for example, were beautifully designed and were very durable, even waterproof. I also noticed that there was a need for entities like the University to practice zero-waste in an effort to protect the environment.
With this realisation, I approached the University administration with my proposal to use their waste materials and they AGREED! That was the start of my eco-jewellery and accessories brand.
Being at the University it was very easy to reach my market since there were many young and beautiful ladies demanding the products of Tambran. I pooled the resources that I had at my disposal, the talent of my friends as models and as photographers, and this helped the brand to ‘take off”.
I have always been an artist and I think need (financial need as a student) and the desire to experiment and express my artistic perspective inspired me to start.
I then continued running Tambran by Tamara while I completed my MSc in Management Studies.
What obstacles, if any, did you face and how did you overcome them?
Starting Tambran by Tamara was not very hard, surprisingly. Taking this into consideration, I think the main obstacle that I faced at the start of my jewellery business was starting small. This was mainly due to financial constraints; however, this allowed me to “test” the market properly before expanding.
As I mentioned before, I have always been artistic but before Tambran I had never made an earring or a piece of jewellery in my life!
Therefore, to enhance my craft with my low budget, I researched and learned the basic elements of jewellery making. There are so many different styles to take inspiration from. The paperclip necklace, for example, is one of the most creative patterns anyone would love to have. So I bought the supplementary materials needed and I experimented. By trial and error, I perfected the art with my own unique touch and aesthetic.
Since my budget was very small, I started small but made the jewellery pieces impeccably. Thus, when the “few” got sold, I made more pieces and reinvested the profits in the business.
Social media has also helped me to propel the brand and reach new customers with little financing necessary, as well as participation in trade shows and expositions. Another obstacle that I overcame with regards to marketing was to let my friends wear my pieces for free, as this sparked conversation and later demand.
I am very self-driven. Being at school allowed me the freedom to partially control my time and thus, as soon as the school related part of my day was over, I focused on the development of products and the collection of raw materials.
I was excited.
My test market (the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus) was in close proximity and this helped in the validation of the products and also, in a way, helped to propel the business because it was a very empowering environment of creatives and academics. Your environment is everything!
I also participated in a number of regional and international competitions and this then gave my brand more recognition and validation for networking and exporting opportunities.