The Caribbean Specialty Expo was conceived as a trade show to spotlight the creativity and industry of the OECS, and dozens of local and international buyers attended on the dedicated day for professionals. But it was the tremendous turnout from Saint Lucians that surprised and impressed the organisers, whose strategy was to make the event a true exposition by inviting the public to three out of the four days, and showing off what is available in the local market.
As Andrina Simon explained, TEPA’s vision was not just to offer the traditional displays and booths to their exhibitors – “not just on the hanger” as she put it. The team looked for innovative ways to incorporate product with performance, so that the Friday evening became a music and fashion showcase for clothing designers, jewellery and handbag makers, with the modelling and musical talent highlighting some of the myriad potential for creative and skills-based exports across the OECS and beyond.
“At the end of the day, the demand for the product must come from [the public] because they are the consumers. So public awareness of what products and services are available is what drives the success of exporters.” The organisers also took a targeted approach by inviting high school students to the trade show in order to expose them to careers and business opportunities across a wide range of sectors. Anthony John described the rationale of focusing on 14-16 year old, pre-CXC students, who are currently completing SBAs and starting to make decisions about studies, jobs and future.
“They are going into the business world, [so by visiting the expo] they get a good sense of what Saint Lucia, and likewise our neighbours in the OECS, have to offer. It gives them an idea of what to expect,” he explained.
By April, an extensive “post mortem” of the first Caribbean Specialty Expo was underway at Saint Lucia’s Trade and Export Promotion, but Glenfield Gilbert was happy to report that across the board, feedback about the event was positive and enthusiastic.
“The exhibitors — even those who didn’t meet a buyer — were exposed to great networking opportunities, and the links that were made with other exhibitors were lucrative for many companies. The networking component of the show was very exciting,” said Gilbert.