Bags of talent
Marjorie “Miki” Richardson-Caines and Carlita Burgess remember the walk from high school to their neighbourhood in Ferry Reach.
They would walk the several miles from Whitney Institute together, talking all the way.
The road to the business they now share, Lifestyles Co Ltd, wasn’t so sweet. Their hands were forced when they found themselves out of work.
“I worked for the Bermuda Sun for 17 years and I was made redundant in 2014, just the day before Cup Match,” said Mrs Burgess. “It was a life-changing experience.
“Even though sometimes people say, ‘Oh my gosh, this job, this job — you don’t really realise what the job offers you as far as a sense of security until the security feels like it’s been swept away.”
The deputy manager of sales and marketing took a couple months off and then got to work.
“I just needed to download,” she said. “During that time, Miki went through a similar experience.”
The friends had always talked about starting a business together, certain that their “exceptional service” and willingness to “always go the extra mile” would work in their favour.
“That service helped to grow the businesses that we worked for because we were a reflection of what we truly believed in,” Mrs Burgess said.
Lifestyles Co Ltd provides a wide range of services: home and office decor, guest supplies, corporate gifts and other “essentials for everyday living”.
“Our company appeals to mainly hotels, the corporate sector and the home,” Mrs Burgess said. “You sort of make yourself like what is here as opposed to really getting what is reflective of your personality or desire.”
It was in that endeavour that the pair ended up designing a line of waterproof canvas bags.
The durable bags won a Best of Bermuda Award from the Bermudian magazine and are official America’s Cup merchandise. Designed after authentic sailing gear, they include two-tone backpacks, messenger bags and canvas totes.
Becoming official licensees of the America’s Cup, was “not an easy feat”, Mrs Burgess added.
“They need to have every detail. They want to see it first, pull it apart, we went through a lot,” she said.
That was in October of last year, just ahead of the World Series. The positive reception at the Louis Vuitton event urged them to open their Front Street boutique in December.
The space, which acts as office and retail, also stocks candles, fragrances, gifts, souvenirs and decorative items.
Mrs Burgess said: “Before the America’s Cup was even announced, we were already on a quest looking for niche items that we could offer to people on island, it sort of projected us to where we are today.”
They were surprised to find that tourists, too, were seeking them out.
“We had someone call us from Switzerland,” Mrs Richardson-Caines said. “Because we have established a connection with the America’s Cup, that’s kind of plateaued us, but we are so much more than just the bags.”
The certified tourism ambassadors have created a matching range of umbrellas, metalware and America’s Cup glasses.
“We want to make sure that everybody has a token from this great event,” she said. “Companies can come to us and we can also get their names branded on products. We want companies in Bermuda to be known.”
The pair are aware, however, that there is life after 2017.
“That’s just one part of our business that’s thriving right now,” Mrs Burgess said. “You always say you would like to do something, but you never do it.
“We have sacrificed so much to do this. We’re not perfect. This has been an act of faith and we’re hoping that people will support a Bermudian-owned business.
“Some of our products are old-fashioned Bermuda items that people will treasure. Because of America’s Cup the world has their eye on Bermuda.”
Added her partner: “It’s an interesting time in Bermuda. People are reinventing themselves, they have to.”
The pair said they were grateful for the mentoring they received from The Bermuda Economic Development Corporation.
Lifestyles Co Ltd, 129 Front Street