KINGSTON — For 22-year-old Davina Robinson the old adage, 'one man's trash is another man's treasure', rings true. The Gordon Town resident has been designing and building motorised model cars out of the most unlikely materials since he was just 14 years old.
With absolutely no training, Mr. Robinson has been using his "God-given talent” to create model cars out of everyday waste material, such as old cereal boxes, sardine and milk cans, as well as rubber from old tyres, for almost a decade.
In an interview with JIS News recently, he explains that his fascination with model cars began when he was a grade nine student at Papine High School.
"I remember I had a toy car that came all the way from China and I played with it so much that it stopped working, so I decided to make it back with paper. From there I just got into it. Each year I develop more until I reach at this stage now," he says.
Mr. Robinson explains that he uses the cardboard from old ice-cream cone boxes and cereal boxes to create the outer body of his cars. To create the rims, he uses discarded sardine tins and for the tyres he uses old bicycle tubes.
"So, everything I use on my cars is recycled waste material. To get it to actually drive or to move, I use AA alkaline batteries, and I get a motor and a radio control for the remote and I just connect them up and get it to work," he informs.
His friends and family were so impressed with his work that they encouraged him to start his own business. With no business skills, Mr. Robinson knew he needed guidance, and so, sought the assistance of the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) to help him ‘kick start’ his venture.
He has been with the organisation's Incubator and Resource Centre for the past three months and says that, so far, he is pleased with the assistance the agency is providing.
"In the last few months I have been on several radio programmes to promote my work. I have also been invited to showcase my cars at two Green Expos, which was a really good thing for me. Most of the patrons seemed impressed with my work and I have been getting a lot of exposure," he notes.
The young designer and entrepreneur says he has also been getting advice on how to improve his designs from experts at the organisation. He further tells JIS News that he has plans to apply to the Edna Manley School of the Visual and Performing Arts for further training in art and design techniques. He is also in the process of getting his idea registered with the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) to safeguard himself from exploitation.
The JBDC has been providing business and technical support to individuals like Mr. Robinson for the past 10 years. The agency provides a variety of support services to entities across a wide spectrum, from guiding business start-ups to a wide range of consultancy advice for established businesses.
In 2008, the JBDC established its Incubator and Resource Centre (IRC) at its main offices on Marcus Garvey Drive in Kingston, where it provides specialised assistance to micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs).
Manager, Technical Services, JBDC, Colin Porter, tells JIS News that the IRC was established to advance productivity and to increase technical support for MSMEs in four specific categories, including fashion, agro-processing and food, furniture and gift and crafts. “Those are the four core ones, but anyone else in any form of business, especially productive type businesses, can come in and we will give them assistance – once you’re a small business,” he informs.
Mr. Porter says what makes the IRC unique is that, “we have physical space where persons can come in and are literally placed under our wings and under our watchful eyes, while we guide them in improving their products. We work with persons from concept to market, guiding them on the best route to take for their business ventures."
He informs that the IRC provides mainly product development advice, in addition to “hands-on assistance,” in the areas of design, product improvement, and production processes.
"We work with persons like Mr. Robinson who have products, but which need some kind of refining or fine tuning, so we provide them with a variety of services, everything from the business skill to the costing and pricing of the product to be competitive and ensure that they are able to make a profit,” he says. “We also provide guidance on how to put your business plans together, and to strategise your marketing plans,” he adds.
Mr. Porter explains that the business incubator centre at the JBDC is more than just a space for small business owners to come for advice, but it is a total and complete environment where they are nurtured and guided on how to improve their services and ideas from start to finish.
"For example, what we did with Davina Robinson is more than just bringing him in and say, ‘Ok you have a space to work’. We try to support his efforts by assisting him in collecting the raw materials that he needs for his designs. So, we have a drive where we encourage people to leave their empty cereal boxes and sardine tins and whatever else he needs. We also offer him production and design guidance to help him improve the design of his products and to show him new techniques, so that the time he spends on making one design can be minimised, as much as possible without compromising on quality,” he remarks.
Mr. Porter informs that there is also an incubator for persons involved in the fashion or apparel industry, especially young and upcoming designers who do not have their own facilities or machinery. He further explains that the fashion incubator is designed to accommodate persons or small entities which have orders to complete, but lack their own production facility and equipment.
Each client is provided with a production workstation, which consists of a straight stitch sewing machine and one serger. In addition, specialised equipment is made available for use on a scheduled basis for all residents of the incubator. The specialised machines available for use include, a straight stitch sewing machine, hemming machine, button hole machine, button tack machine, bar tack machine, feed-off arm (hemmer), pocket welting machine and a 20 ft. cutting table and cutting tools.
The agency also houses a food incubator, which was established in October 2010 in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The food incubator is a commercial kitchen facility available for daily or hourly rental, which caters to enterprises that have orders to fill, have their own workers but limited or no operating space or equipment.
"We also have a small lab where we do preliminary tests for agro-processing, so persons who come in with their formulations, their jams or jellies or so on, we can do basic preliminary tests to see that the formulation is adequate and the various nutritional content is there,” he says.
"It's not an extensive lab, so what we do is, once persons have been with our agro-processor, we refer them to the Bureau of Standards or the Scientific Research Council for further testing and analysis," he adds.
“We believe in partnership, so we’re not out to replace any of those organizations, but to work in conjunction with them," Mr. Porter tells JIS News.
The JBDC also hosts a number of workshops throughout the year, through which it provides information and training on various topics, including jewel making, food production and furniture making. The centre will be hosting a series of jewellery workshops expected to commence on October 5 and will run for two weeks.
“The workshops will look at using scrap material, recycled material to make wonderful jewellery pieces. We also have a series of fashion workshops going on,” Mr. Porter informs.
The Technical Services Manager also notes that the centre has added furniture designing to its list of specialised services. “We’re now going to be giving assistance to the players in the furniture industry, which will focus on a number of issues, including improving the quality of their products, to impart a new take on how they design furniture for our modern needs, to design for smaller spaces, and to take into account the multi-functionality of furniture,” he says.
Persons who wish to get more information on the services provided at the JBDC's Incubator and Resource Centre can contact the agency at:
Jamaica Business Development Corporation
Incubator & Resource Centre
76 Marcus Garvey Drive, Unit 10a, Kingston 13,
Telephone: (876) 923-4729, (876) 758-3966-8, (876) 618-0605 Fax: (876) 923-6575
By Athaliah Reynolds, JIS Reporter