Sheena Scipio finds purpose in marketing indigenous products

For Sheena Scipio, while being an entrepreneur, the perk comes from being her own boss, she also finds satisfaction in the purpose she creates. Her business, Kayawen – Everything Indigenous, is a platform for selling indigenous crafts and products.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, within just three months of its inception in September, the online business has a growing customer base. And with one of the most popular indigenous products of the Christmas season given for the traditional Pepperpot, Scipio’s business is set to continue to see a boom.

As the daughter of the Toshao of Moco Moco in Central Rupununi, the 29-year-old Scipio, whose heritage is a combination of three indigenous tribes – Makushi, Patamona and Arecuna – believes that her calling is to help her fellow indigenous people.

Kayawen (pronounced ka-ya-wing) is Makushi’s word which means ‘sky and valley’. And Scipio chose it as her business name just because she liked the word, and it’s part of the little Makushi she knows. As the rest of the name suggests, the business only sells indigenous products and Scipio earns a percentage.

Currently, Kayawen has only two indigenous people involved – Everything Indigenous. One is Scipio’s mother and the other is another Moco Moco woman. Her mother makes the cassareep for sale on site, while the other woman from the village makes jewelry and craft items including the tibisiri bags. The business will soon be adding more products with cassava bread made by Scipio’s mother that is expected to be on sale from this week. The young entrepreneur is also looking to provide cashew and pepper nuts for sale.

The idea for the business was conceptualized several years ago. Every time she traveled the city to socialize with friends, she spilled colorful jewelry made by the indigenous people. People were always asking where she got it. Realizing the interest, he began to think of a way he could promote their work.

She had planned to start her business last year but was disheartened by the large number of gay people who said she would not find markets for the items. But there was one friend who continued to encourage her to go ahead with her plans. In the end, he decided he was right, and pressed on with his good wishes and confidence in her ability. Due to the cancellation of all events as a result of the pandemic, there was no Indigenous Heritage Day this year. Scipio used the business’s Facebook page to feature the skills of its people. He initially started by displaying a variety of indigenous jewelery.

Because the Rupununi only has spotty internet and a lack of knowledge about operating an online business, Scipio lives in the city.

Every week she collects buckets of casareep that are transported from the Rupununi to Ogle Airport by plane. Business noted, that it is not doing badly at all. In fact, she can pay her suppliers and other expenses. Scipio went on to add that marketing and selling the products is not all it does. In fact, the attractive packaging of the cassareep does it all. Much of her time is used to doing this. She also spends some of her time photographing the items for sale.

The entrepreneur further noted that the people in her home clean all her items, by the staff at Ogle Airport and then she does the same. All bottles are purchased from Guyana Marketing Corporation and are sterilized.

Most of her customers, says Scipio, live in and around the city and she supplies them at low cost. Customers from Berbice and Linden usually place their orders whenever they are shipped to the city so they can pick them up.

“Business is excellent. I get a lot of great feedback. Many people call me about cassareep, especially because Rupununi’s cassareep is pure. I sell farine, too, which my mother does. With a marine, you can’t get it here waiting for it to be sold. Farine always needs to be fresh and so whenever someone wants a farce, they will call ahead, ”he shared.

He added that even if there is something that someone wants that has not yet started to sell, it works to make it available. A hammock, for example, falls into this special order category. When someone wants a hammock, she contacts a woman who makes Wapishiana hammocks. However, because this takes time, people are required to place their orders a month in advance.

Scipio is looking forward to the day when her business becomes a household name in Guyana.

“I plan to own the Everything Indigenous store someday,” he said boldly.

Reservations can be placed through Kayawen’s Facebook page – All Inherent or by contacting Scipio at 666-9236.