Aspiring Speech Therapist Transforms Skill and Hobby Into BusinessesJan 24, 2021 08:00AM ● By Candice Stewart
Young Cherie Warner-Richard, aspiring speech therapist, never imagined that she would one day be an entrepreneur settling nicely as a lead designer and creator of accessories.
Native of the twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago – born and bred in Tobago, Warner had dreams of assisting folks to develop their speech to improve communication among persons.
Warner-Richard studied Linguistics with a double minor in Zoology and Caribbean Sign Language Interpretation at the University of the West Indies, Mona (UWI, Mona) to have a well rounded comprehension of communication forms, types, styles, and Anatomy, in an effort to understand the human body and its role in sound generation and development. Warner was committed to the cause of her dream.
After graduation in 2011, Warner returned to Tobago with the intention to work for a year and make money before pursuing post-graduate education. However, securing a job was more challenging than expected.
Butterfly Resort Bag
Sound: From Speech to Music
“I went home trying to get a job, I was supposed to teach but nothing was happening. I decided I wasn’t gonna sit around waiting. So after a couple months, I told myself that I had to do something to make money,” Warner-Richard said in a recent interview with FunTimes Magazine.
“I started teaching music,” she continued… “…that was part of my skill set. I started my own music school in Tobago and it thrived for two years. So, that was like my first venture into entrepreneurship,” she tells FunTimes Magazine.
The school, Warner’s Music Academy, was an arm of a greater operation that her father operates. She shares that her family has a longstanding relationship with music so venturing to become a music teacher was not a far reaching concept.
“When I started my school, my father had been teaching music for years before me for over 50 years! I started my own arm with my own students and curriculum. When I left, my school closed down,” she tells FunTimes Magazine.
Her father still teaches music and her sister, who recently graduated with a degree in music is back in Tobago teaching it.
Entrepreneurial Seeds: Hobby and Self Sufficiency to Business
“Within the year I tried to find work at home was when all of this started. CeeWee Designs started in 2011. It’s sort of like the seed for the business I have now,” Warner says.
CeeWee Designs is a hand-made accessories based business.
“It was something I taught myself,” says Warner who added that she made bags for herself that caught the attention of others who asked for her services with offers to pay her.
“That was when I realised that there is a demand for what I can offer. So, I took some time to figure out the logistics of turning this into a real business. It took me more than a year. I started working on my skill as an artisan and then eventually I said that I have something that I would buy, something that looks good for sale,” Warner-Richard says.
From a FunTimes perspective, this reminds us a lot of Nicolette Simms who started her journey as a designer under similar circumstances.
Flintstone Jazz Clasp Clutch purse
What does Cee Wee mean?
Cee Wee was a pet name given to Cherie when she was a child so the business name plays on that. Additionally, in the words of the boss lady herself, “the brand stands for bold and very dynamic prints so it is like saying “See we yah” or “si wi yah”. So essentially, you’ll see us wherever we are and whenever we come through,” the entrepreneur says.
The entrepreneurial life
“Life as an entrepreneur is not an easy feat and it is not for everyone.” Those were the first words the CeeWee Designs boss uttered when we spoke of her life in business.
“I will say that much,” she says, “There is a lot that goes into business behind the scenes. There are highs and lows. Things go great and then they go horribly. You take a lot of losses then get some wins in between. You have to sort of balance it out and figure out what works for you. At some point, you’re gonna have to stop and evaluate and ask yourself if the journey is making financial sense. Ask yourself if it is a business or is it a hobby.” The business woman expressed
Though Cee Wee Designs started out as a hobby, it morphed into a fully fledged growing business and continues to operate as such.
With clients in the Caribbean, North America and Europe, Cee Wee Designs is staffed and run by one person at the moment. The boss lady, who is based in Canada designs makes, sells, markets and does everything else in between.
She gives credit to her family who are mostly in Tobago for the help and support they provide when called upon.
Ultimate goal for Cee Wee
“I want to continue building my brand,” Warner-Richard says.
“The aim for Cee Wee is to become an all-in-one stop for accessories. All the accessories you need to lift your outfit, should be accessible here. That is the ultimate goal. Right now, we are only providing handbags, face masks and a limited supply of jewellery. We will accessorise your life!” she says.
Rose Gold Glitter face mask
“I had to pivot really quickly. So, I started to offer masks due to the climate,” Warner-Richard tells FunTimes Magazine.
In true ‘Si wi yah’ style, the masks are made with vibrant colours, prints and some come with long stylish links that make them easier to access and walk around with.
Parting words for aspiring entrepreneurs from Cherie Warner-Richard
1. The world is smaller than you think it is. Do not limit yourself because you think you’re from a tiny island in the Caribbean and that nobody is going to pay attention to you. All you need is the internet and the right mindset. Everything is a Google search away.
2. Be prepared to fight for what you really want. It’s not necessarily easy but it’s doable.
3. Have a bit of gumption!
4. Do not give up on the first sign of resistance and rejection.
5. You only fail if you do not learn from the situations that challenge you. Stick to your guns and double down!
6. If you do it for the likes, the process will wear on you pretty quickly.
You may contact Cee Wee Designs at ceeweedesigns.com. You may also find them on Instagram and Facebook at CeeWee Designs.
She holds an MA in Communication for Social and Behaviour Change and a BSc. in Psychology from the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Follow her blog at thesuburbangirl.com where she shares stories and life lessons through real-life experiences.