Photo: Nedburn Thaffe

Randy and Davian McLaren had dreams of starting their own business, and so the two brothers set out to realise that dream in 2015 working from their veranda in Rockfort, East Kingston.

“One old sewing machine and big dreams; that was all we had,” Randy, the older of the two brothers, told JIS while recounting the story of how the bag company “Bresheh” was born.

From the get-go Bresheh was a success, and after months of hard work and commitment the two were able to relocate the business to a more suitable location on the compound of the Alpha Institute on South Camp Road in Kingston.

They have expanded their focus from designing backpacks only to include lunch kits, pencil cases, laptop and tote bags.

The McLaren brothers, who are still in their 20s, have employed three full-time workers in their thread weaving operation.

“I am a young person, so I know the challenge young people face in finding jobs. If they don’t have jobs they are likely to get caught up in the wrong kind of activities, so it’s part of our core mission to engage and train young people so that they can be gainfully employed,” said Randy.

Randy McLaren (left) in discussion with one of his employee inside the sewing room at Alpha Institute on South Camp Road, Kingston.
Randy McLaren (left) in discussion with one of his employees inside the sewing room at Alpha Institute on South Camp Road, Kingston.

Birth of Bresheh

The young entrepreneur, who is a well-known dub poet, said the idea for the business was first fuelled by a desire to help his brother, Davian, harness his creative talents.

“He was working a minimum wage job downtown and while we were appreciative of the opportunity, I wanted more for him.”

“We had a reasoning and I said he is a talented youth, but the skills and talent were not being used,” said Randy.

“We did some research and realized there wasn’t a brand established from this side of the world for bags. You have people doing clothing, footwear, sauces but nobody was doing bags from Jamaica, so we decided that we were going to take a plunge.”

“Within a week we wrote his resignation letter, we went in and spoke with his manager and he resigned,” he noted.

The next step was to gather what little funds they had to purchase materials necessary for the job. An old sewing machine was donated to them by a relative.

Randy, who holds a degree in Cultural Studies from the University of the West Indies, recalled that as soon as the first bag was designed and posted on social media orders began to pour in.

“It was in the peak of the back-to-school season when we started and things just took off. In that month we did about eighty bags, and had many sleepless nights.”

“After that we realized that this thing was bigger than us and we hired two young ladies from Heart Trust/NTA to help us with the work. We have never been out of work since we started,” he said.

Meanwhile, asked how the name of the company came about, the St. Thomas native said it was out of a desire to stay true to his home parish.

“In the country, bresheh is another name for breadfruit, and the first set of breadfruits was planted in Bath, St. Thomas. We wanted something that spoke to our parish and that resonated with us.”

A colourful collection of bags welcome customers at the Bresheh location on South Camp Road.
A colourful collection of bags welcome customers at the Bresheh location on South Camp Road.

Factory in St. Thomas

Still intent on staying true to his birth parish, Randy expressed a desire to one day set up his manufacturing company in St. Thomas.

“We have dreams of building a big factory in St Thomas, because it is the parish that has been most neglected. We already getting orders from places like Japan, USA and Canada, and we will be shipping a bag to Scotland soon, so the future for Bresheh looks bright. Our aim now is to get more capital and boost our production.”

Meanwhile, the young entrepreneur is urging young Jamaicans not to be afraid of taking chances.

“We have to give ourselves a chance sometime. Many of us live in fear; all we think about is the next bill at the end of the month, and because of the bill we are stuck in a cycle of working and paying bills. Each of us has a talent, it’s just for us to work on developing our talent,” he said.

This story was written in observance of International Youth Day 2016.

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