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Islandz to expand into tourism products

  • The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, seen here, and Hillside House are two stops being considered for tours operated by the company. File Photo

Guardian Business Reporter

Published: Mar 06, 2012

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Providing artists throughout The Bahamas and the Caribbean with opportunities to tap into the tourism market by showcasing their creations is the premise behind one local company.

Islandz’ President Jamie Lewis told Guardian Business that he started the company in May 2011 to provide artists with a non-traditional opportunity to distribute their works on a massive scale.

“We want to be able to provide them with revenue in a different model sense as opposed to the traditional method where you build up a following, you have a show and then you sell your piece, or you do some sort of graphic or freelance work,” according to Lewis.

“We just want to provide them with a royalty-based stream in terms of licensing their work and being able to sell it primarily to tourists and the local market as well.”

Cell phone skins, decals, cases and USB jump drives, ranging from $10 to $30, are just some of the products offered by the local company.

All of the products offered by Islandz feature Bahamian artwork, and plans are underway to expand the line with tourism-related products like key chains, post cards and refrigerator magnets.

“We are just trying to place our artwork on those mediums and distribute them to retailers that cater to tourists,” he shared.

Lewis revealed that business has been steady, but admits that he is still waiting to find that popular product that would appeal to the masses.

“Our customers like different types of artwork because art is a very personal thing. Someone may like an art piece, while someone else may hate it,” he said.

He said the biggest challenge so far has been getting more artists to partner with them.

“The key to this is trying to get more artists on-board and that is a work in progress, because artists are very protective of their work and how it is going to be distributed. We have to gain artists’ trust and show them that we are in this for the long haul, and we are really all about trying to provide them with opportunities,” Lewis noted.

“So it’s a bit of a catch-22. We need more artwork to get more customers excited about our products. We need more customers to prove to artists that it is something viable and worth considering,” he added

Presently, the company features the work of 12 Bahamian artists.  To date, more than $40,000 has been invested into the company.  However, it was a grant from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) that gave Islandz the financial assistance they needed to get started.

“They had a business plan competition in 2010. We entered, were finalized, short-listed and then declared the winner.  In our business, we use an Internet, e-commerce site to provide Caribbean artists with opportunities to showcase their work in innovative ways,” Lewis explained.

He continued: “The grant was $35,000. We used that to get some consultancy in terms of branding. We used it to develop our web page, get some legal and graphic work done. Then we put in some additional funds from our end to purchase inventory and to begin testing products.”

Lewis believes that Islandz’ business is much bigger than The Bahamas. He plans to cater to all islands in the Caribbean.

This is why he believes the IDB selected his company’s business plan.

Though the company is still very much in its start-up phase, Lewis is already hoping to expand the company by offering tours.

Lewis pointed out to Guardian Business that right now they are testing out that particular product.

The project should be finalized by April.

“We think it would be valuable for them to experience Bahamian culture through the arts. We would like to partner with some of the tourist providers to offer guests the opportunity to experience a different type of tourism, one that is artistically authentic,” Lewis said.

Once finalized, the two-hour tour will cost $20 per person and $35 for couples. It will feature places such as the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, Hillside House and the “I love The Bahamas” murals located in downtown Nassau.

“We are actually training some tour guides as well in anticipation of when that takes off,” Lewis said.

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