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Aneelia Sadhira Balraj's realistic looking latte candles.

The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with unemployment and foreign exchange becoming less available are a lethal combination for businesses in T&T.

With all their financial resources, large businesses, conglomerates, and international chains have been impacted by the triple threat, while small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have felt the severe economic onslaught even more.

Businesses have been forced to adapt, innovate and reinvent themselves to survive.

The time has come to support local businesses and artisans.

Candlemaker Aneelia

Aneelia Sadhira Balraj, 16, began making candles to help people with health issues and also started making face masks to help her parents during this dire economic time.

Speaking from her Bamboo Settlement No 2 home, candlemaker Aneelia said, “My mom, Mala Basdeo, was a self-taught soapmaker who wanted to become certified, so she began a soap and candle-making class with the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts.

“When she joined the class, she was unable to drop me home after school in time and attend class, so I had to go with her to the classes.

“While in the class, I eventually began to become involved in the activities they would teach. The tutor noticed how I became active and told my mom that I was doing very well and that she should register me in the class.

“Around this time, I began to suffer from anxiety. One of the things I learned was to make aromatherapy candles, I decided to make one for myself.”

She said she felt really good after using the aromatherapy candle, known to assist in anxiety, depression, stress, negative energies, or relaxation, and she wanted to help others.

Aneelia said she began to make candles for friends and family members and they were amazed and loved them, so she eventually began to get orders for them and it grew into a small business.

The Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College Form Five student said she completed the soap and candle-making course in 2016 and was the youngest to do so at 12 years.

Aneelia said she makes aromatherapy, dessert candles, speciality seasonal and custom orders.

She said for Christmas she makes Christmas-inspired speciality orders for gifts, such as her popular apple cinnamon, pumpkin spice and chai latte candles that people seem to fall in love with.

Christmas is the busiest season for her since candles are a must for many. Some of her in-demand items are Christmas-themed speciality candles, aromatherapy candles, and dessert candles.

She said one of her favourite dessert candles was a chocolate latte–the first layer smelled like chocolate, another layer smelled like caramel, then a layer of whipped cream, that smelled like chocolate/vanilla, garnish with local chocolate nibs and a home-made chocolate chip cookie and topped off with a cinnamon stick.

Aneelia said Organic with a Purpose was owned by her parents, Mala and Balraj Basdeo, and her candles complemented their all-natural and organic bath and body products.

She said she did pop-up markets seasonally throughout the year, such as UpMarket.

Aneelia said she was at the South Market, C3 Centre, Saturday and will be at UpMarket, Lion’s Club, Port-of-Spain, Sunday.

She said she loved the feeling of achievement when she looked at her finished product; it made her proud.

Aneelia said her family faced several challenges during COVID-19, one being financial, since both her parents were out of work because they were self-employed and unable to access raw materials to continue production and all the pop-up markets were cancelled.

She said it was rough, but they managed to cope as she helped her mother make masks to supplement their income.

Aneelia said she was studying business at Lakshmi Girls’ right now, so she knows this will help her broaden her opportunities business-wise.

Personal Challenge

About two years ago, Aneelia began to experience symptoms of PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), fatigue, depression, anxiety, stress, and pain.

She said with these symptoms it was very hard to cope with everyday activities. Aneelia said she managed to pull through with the support of her parents. She said she couldn’t have done it without them and God

Still affected by PCOS, Aneelia wanted others to know that whatever they are going through, they are not alone, and it is still possible to conquer life, not only survive it, while achieving your goals/dreams.

Mala Basdeo said she encouraged and supported her daughter as much as she could because she was hard-working and dedicated to anything she puts her mind to.

If you are interested in Aneelia’s products you can reach her on Instagram @waxcraftbyaneelia

Govia’s ‘Soul Christmas’ gift-wrapping paper a hit

Designer and Operations Manager for Tribe Carnival Solange Govia has her local ‘Soul Christmas’ red, white and black collection of unique, gift-wrapping paper and gift tags inspired by the excitement of Trini Christmas and culture.

Speaking to the Sunday Guardian via Zoom on Wednesday, Govia said “My husband, Dwayne Govia and I have been talking about it for a couple of years. I was in the Carnival business, so you don’t really get to enjoy Christmas when you’re in the Carnival industry. I was never able to execute, but now that things have slowed down, it kind of pushed me in a direction that I’ve been able to do these passion projects on my bucket list.

“It’s very much about supporting local and buying from local providers because of my background and my family all being artists.

“I never saw a paper that appealed to us Trinis or to me, it was always reindeer and snowflakes that didn’t speak to me. My husband said, ‘Why don’t you do it’?”

She said she decided to design the local-themed gift paper this year, so she reached out on Instagram to her friends and many masqueraders from Carnival who followed her.

Govia said she asked them what did Trini Christmas mean to them–they replied parang, ponche-de-creme, ham, creche, church. She put down the themes on paper and that was how the locally-made gift paper and tags came about.

She said she started designing in late October, but didn’t realise it entailed a lot of back and forth with the graphics team and just getting it perfect to how she wanted it.

Govia said it was a learning process, it would take some time and she will be better able to plan next year.

She said her plan was to launch her line of gift paper on December 1, but her friends told her people wrapped presents earlier than that, and she realised that she needed to launch much earlier.

Govia said she didn’t expect such an overwhelming response to her gift paper collection; her stock was sold out.

She said the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted virtually every business in some way, and she is happy that people are supporting local businesses.

Govia said the printers they worked with were the same people they usually worked with for Carnival events, but business had slowed down for them and she was happy to have that avenue to support them.

She said they printed the gift paper, and she hand crafted the gift tags herself.

Govia said they were looking to introduce ‘green’ products and reusable bags in the future.

She said the gift paper was something on her mind that she wanted to execute since it was a way to express her creativity while supporting local business.

Govia said given the positive response she will consider expanding the line and take more time to plan.

More about her creativity

Govia has dedicated her life’s work to the diversity and intricacy of creative design. Undoubtedly, this graduate of Ryerson University has established a reputation of excellence that spans over a decade of quality products, exemplary customer service, and outstanding cultural contributions within the Carnival fraternity across the diaspora.

In addition to holding her designer position with Tribe and Bliss Carnival and former role of operations manager of Harts Carnival, this beloved wife and mother is currently the director of Marketing at Ultimate Events Ltd, an organisation that prides itself on providing quality experiences in the entertainment circuit. Over the last decade, her design talent and expertise has also been sought after in popular diaspora Carnival experiences in Jamaica, Cayman Islands, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Barbados, among other countries.

Govia has a penchant for detail-oriented designs that distinguishes her work in a vast, competitive market and she has amassed a sizeable following that reflects her widening popularity and attributing her personal and professional growth to understanding the needs of consumers, particularly in celebration of women from all walks of life.

Govia sells directly to customers and can be contacted on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/solangegoviadesigner and Instagram. The gift paper and tags are also available at 36 Cornelio Street, Woodbrook, and pop-ups. Tribe’s pop-up will be on December 19.