Taking Advantage of the Opportunity
Jo-Ann Schet, an accomplished seamstress, started her fashion company, Leighloe Designs, in 2016 out of a workshop in her home, and things were progressing well: she bought sewing machines, worktables, and everything necessary to make her small business dreams come true. But one year later, in September 2017, Hurricane Irma hit Sint Maarten as a massive Category 5 storm and shattered Jo-Ann’s dreams—her workshop was destroyed. “Irma decided she needed my equipment,” Jo-Ann says. “I had to start all over again.”
She started slowly rebuilding by taking a corporate job and continuing to sew on the side. Then, fate intervened: “[My friends] were talking about this program, the Enterprise Support Project, that was a great opportunity but almost nobody was taking advantage of,” Jo-Ann recalls. Her mind started turning, and all the plans for her business that she had put on hold could now move forward. She traded full-time work for part-time work to concentrate on her business. Her pitch focused on establishing a sewing school where she could train people in the community in a potentially lucrative trade.
“In the last two years or so, I’ve really seen an increase in the number of people interested in learning to sew… I went from four or five students when I first started to about fifteen now,” she says.