If you have ever met Shaquilla Daniel, you would have met a star. Intelligent, vivacious, ambitious – this hardworking young woman is an extraordinary individual. At only twenty-five years old, Shaquilla runs three businesses and still finds time to do charity work. It is no exaggeration to call her a marvel! Shaquilla Daniel is a boss. This week, we feature this amazing female entrepreneur, an inspiration to many.
A bit about Shaquilla:
Education: The University of the West Indies (UWI) – Human Ecology, majored in nutritional sciences and food services systems management
Hobbies: folk dancing, African dance and drama, cooking (she’s a foodie!)
What makes her happy: Helping people. Shaquilla does volunteer work with the deaf/hearing-impaired community and is fluent in sign language.
Do you think female empowerment is an important issue in the Caribbean?
“Yes, of course! Lots of strides have been made for women in the world but in the Caribbean, we still have a lot of traditional ideologies for women as far as I have observed. We have a long way to go in terms of female empowerment and women helping women. In the business world it’s not very visible. I don’t think we have that community of let’s support each other. It’s still a kind of fight down. Not the unity that I would like to see.”
Do you currently do anything to help promote awareness of gender-based issues?
“I try my best. To my Facebook friends I am a feminist (She laughs). I am very outgoing and opinionated. I think my presence on social media itself has contributed to highlighting strong female presence while still playing a dignified role. On my various business pages online I try to support Women’s Day and other female entrepreneurs that I know locally. I also try to encourage young women who may come to me for employment; I try to get them out of a certain mindset. I try to encourage them to go get their own – to create their own environment of independence.”
What is your business about?
“Classy Bodies Wellness is an all-inclusive health and wellness practice. We try to highlight nutritional wellness education locally, which is very lacking in every field, from the medical to the normal person on the street. Trinidad and Tobago is suffering from a lot of non-communicable lifestyle diseases and it lies in what we put in our mouths and the lack of knowledge thereof of what it should be. I’m trying to build a brand that provides services geared towards wellness like detoxing, scans, nutrition therapies, physiotherapy etc. I try to provide nutritional support for persons with identifiable medical conditions and problems.”
How did the idea for your business come about?
“I always struggled with weight issues. I was born 11 pounds and kept growing. I was never the skinny child. There was this point in time when I remember trying to join a weight loss challenge with my mom and I was actually heavier than my mom and that was the turning point for me. I thought ‘I cannot be heavier than the woman who brought me into the world!’ So, I started to look at my eating habits and my health. I was always very good at cooking. I had great marks from school in food and nutrition so I thought, ‘Why don’t I pursue this at UWI?’ So I got into Human Ecology.
In my own personal journey of the weight loss and the stuff that I was learning with the help that I was getting from a particular supplement company, it really got me excited; the results were addictive. And then I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, I can really help other people!’ I started to do research on it and I started selling products out of my mom’s little office and then it escalated into this. My passion and drive for nutrition and wellness is indescribable. I love food … in the proper way! (She laughs)”
I know that creating a business can be difficult. In starting yours, were there any challenges you faced by virtue of being female?
“Oh yes. To even start here, I started with a male. I started off with my mom’s office and I had part of it. When I went to the same landlord who would have known me for years through my mom, she wasn’t completely confident in me being a young woman opening a business in a bigger space by myself. She only took me seriously when I came back with my business partner who was male. He spoke to her in a different way and she was even willing to negotiate the rent. That was one thing I noticed. Even though she is a businesswoman herself, I would go and talk to her and hit a wall. But if he talked to her everything was alright. When he left – because it didn’t work out – she kept questioning my ability to continue without him as if I were going to fall apart. It’s still a challenge to prove to her that I can be successful in my own right.
Even family members too you know. “Oh my God, why don’t you just use your degree to get a job? You don’t have a husband.” They would say things like that and mask it as, “You need a man.” I do agree that you need someone to bounce ideas off of and get support but it could be anybody, it doesn’t have to be your husband. And then sometimes I second-guess, especially since my mom died, that I can do it on my own as a woman, since we are so very emotional and it is going to affect our ability to perform. So yes I definitely had a lot of challenges in here.”
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
“So much! (She laughs good-naturedly) First, I was robbed twice. So that was a bit of a setback for me. I lost my business partner, so my partnership failed initially. I was turned down for loans. After the robbery, I had no equipment here. Another businesswoman helped me out a bit. So now that I have my stuff I am trying not to fail in marketing. I have failed in spending money on marketing and advertising and nothing came back.
I defnitely learned not to trust people. I started off being very trusting which is how I was robbed in the first place. So I have learned to be a little more aware and alert about the intentions of people and the crime situation in the county right now. I’ve learned to be a little more prepared for stuff, to always have a safety net of savings, etc. I’ve learned to be patient and not too anxious about certain things. Some months I may have a really good turnout but other months may be down, but it doesn’t mean that I’m a failure.”
What or who motivates you?
“My mom, my mom, my mom! I don’t want to cry but yes, my mom. Ever since I knew myself she always did something to support herself. Even if it was selling pineapple chow or fruit bowls, I remember she did that at one point. And then eventually she went to school. She was a ‘stay at home mom’ then she did her education after we left. Then she got into law as a paralegal and she taught me that so I learned my first business from her. I do this for my mom because I always wanted to provide for her certain things that she didn’t provide for herself because of sacrificing to never put her children in daycare.
Now that she has died, it was a blow for me because she was my everything. She is my everything, my biggest supporter, cheerleader, biggest motivation. It crushed me that she wasn’t able to see me graduate, but I still do it for her because this was the one thing that she saw me do. She never saw me start a family but she saw me start a business. She was here to cut the ribbon with me. I don’t want this to be a failure. When I see her again I want to tell her all that happened. So even though she is no longer with me physically, she is my motivation. She is with me spiritually.
And she had her own wedding business. She died coming from doing things for that business. That business is also one that I am continuing with my cousin (another female entrepreneur). ‘Weddings by Bella’ is a brand that we built together. My mother was always very creative and good with organizing weddings. So I’m still keeping Weddings by Bella alive as well as Classy Bodies Wellness simultaneously.”
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
“(She giggles) Opening the doors! When Classy Bodies Wellness became a clinic. Before, I was just a boutique; I only sold products. I had a few satisfying moments, like when I got through to register the business, when I got the lease signed, when I was able to give my mom a credit card for her anniversary and tell her “Spend what you want!” (She laughs) We went to a hotel together and I was able to afford that. That financial freedom to me was a great feeling. Even though it wasn’t the car that I wanted to buy her yet but that was satisfying for me.”
What specific advice would you have for young Caribbean women who would like to become entrepreneurs?
“Just do it. Don’t overthink. I mean you have to be realistic – think of pros and cons. But I’m a kind of ‘do it’ person. Jump in the water, get yourself wet. I never thought I would have been a business person actually. I never did any business courses in school. But I know what I love and I know science. I know what I studied through and through and I figured that the rest would come. So you may be a business person and you’re good at business but you may not be good at interpersonal skills but it will come. You will never be the perfect business person. There will never be the best time to start but just start. Keep winging it until you learn.
As women, I would say do it together. As Caribbean women, we are so beautiful, not just in appearance but in diversity. We have a lot to offer the world based on our experiences and interaction. If we came together we would be so dynamic. We are beautiful and intelligent.”
Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years?
“Oo beautiful question (She beams with pride). I see us having three branches. (She laughs)”
PM: Yes, speak it into being!
“Yes. I want to be a recognized local brand and respected, mainly in the corporate setting. When persons think about nutritional wellness I want the brand to develop to be the authority on local nutrition and wellness, and even regional. In ten years, I want to not just branch off but to get into product development because I like making my own products. I want to get into the sports sector as well and help athletes. I want to be with people, I want to help.”
What role if any, do you think men should play in the promotion of female empowerment and female entrepreneurship?
“Support and recognition. At the end of the day I believe that men and women need each other. We should have a symbiotic relationship. I would be lying to say that men haven’t supported my business. I don’t know where I would be without the support of my dad and my adopted big brother. Men think differently than we do and sometimes we need that to assist us in bouncing off ideas. So I think that men should support women more in their business and not just by patronizing them, but by actually offering suggestions and supporting the movement. It helps.
If men support and celebrate women half as much as we do for them then we could be so successful and exist in a society that was mirrored in the Black Panther movie, where neither was dominating the other. They co-existed with mutual respect. I think if men could master that by some miracle, we would have something beautiful.”
Those were the words of a truly inspirational young entrepreneur. We at Patrice Magazine thank Ms. Shaquilla Daniel for granting us the interview. It was truly enjoyable and Shaquilla has a bright future ahead. We look forward to seeing her excel!
Classy Bodies Wellness is located at Tunapuna Plaza, Eastern Main Road, Tunapuna, Trinidad. Opening hours: Monday – Friday from 9am to 5pm, Saturdays from 10am to 2pm. Be sure to stop by!
And follow Classy Bodies Wellness on Facebook and Instagram.
Here’s to women on the rise!
How to get featured:
You may be featured in my magazine if you meet the following criteria:
- You are over the age of 18;
- You are a Caribbean national OR a person with an interest in Caribbean culture/identity;
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