By: Mays Alejandra
If you think your idea of opening a business in a foreign country will never work, think again.
Today, I am proudly introducing to many of you, a few very young and very ambitious Belizean and Caribbean entrepreneurs who, just this year, started their business adventures in Taiwan.
When I thought of approaching entrepreneurs specifically for this blog post, there were only two names that popped up in my instant memory. The first Belizean business that came to mind was ignite_merch.tw, a brand created by Belizean entrepreneur, Josh Petillo. My thoughts then went to an Instagram Story posted not too long ago: my friend AJ, had slo-mo unveiled some taco ingredients out of a box! Which business had that intriguing unveiling belonged to, I pondered ---> Tacobox!
Right then and there I had two entrepreneurs. Yes! Tacobox would become the second business that I decided would form part of my very first "entrepreneurs in Taiwan" blog.
Off I went into my Direct Messaging and sent my interview request to both. To my utter delight, out of these two businesses, I got introduced to a handful of other new entrepreneurs: Love Always Wins, Caribbean Seamoss, Irie Roots, Nidibri, Vibez Multimedia Ltd. and Belizean Flavaz. Perfect!
I felt like a real journalist, sending my interview requests and scheduling Google Meets even though I had zero idea how to even use the Google Calendar much less record the videos. Nonetheless, I was determined to continue with my mission: Showcasing the bright minds that have found the courage to make their entrepreneurial dreams a reality!
And as our interview progressed I found myself more intrigued by what I discovered. Read for yourself
Ignite Merch - The Positive Narrative
"I wanted people to know that we are all in this together, basically as foreigners out here together, right? Let's not have a hostile energy towards each other, right? let's spread a positive narrative, right? help each other, be respectful and do what you have to do and just be great, be the best version of yourself."
In early February - February 11, 2021 to be exact, Josh pressed the send button on his Instagram direct messaging and off went pictures of bright red, white and blue-colored pillows with the hot stamp "IGNITE - THE POSITIVE NARRATIVE" - on each side of the yellow stamp, the Belizean and Taiwanese flags. Josh put his faith on his friends and asked them to share the pictures on their Instagram. These quickly became popular among both Belizeans and Taiwanese alike.
His merchandize started off with the pillows, then went unto shirts and hats with designs such as: Belize as well as Belize Est. 1981, 501 with Belize's flag and flora and fauna, Ignite Merch, among others.
As Josh puts it " I wanted to make a statement, I wanted Belize to be known in Taiwan. So like when you hear Belize, ‘Oh I know, 我知道， 我知道！’" Pretty soon he had people asking him if he also did graduation mugs and graduation sashes...and so, his line of merchandize expanded to all you can see on his Instagram posts - my personal favorite, the Belize Est. 1981 gray windbreaker.
But the brand's supporters are not limited to only Belizeans and Taiwanese, no no! His friends from Latin America, the Caribbean and other places also started asking; "Why don't you do for Guatemala? Why don't you do for Honduras？ Why don't you do for Eswatini?" he excitedly explains, "I have no problem doing that." He has even had customers from abroad ordering his merchandize. How cool is that?!
And if you didn't already know, Ignite Merch does special customized designs, catering to a wider customer base. He doesn't normally put the special custom orders on his posts, and he ensures that he asks permission from the client to even do so. Josh has his main clientele at heart, he has made his high-quality products very affordable, especially to students with tight budgets. Of course, as customers we have to factor in the shipping expense, so all in all, the prices are pretty good.
Being an entrepreneur is not easy. There may be many who start selling customized merchandize but sadly, their dream is short lived. Josh's advice to anyone who has already started a business is: "You have to be consistent when you are doing it. Anyone with a business will tell you, it takes investment. Not only finance, it takes a lot of time as well, so you have to be consistent in everything you do."