“Best Payback is to Pay it Forward”, says Nicole Joseph-Chin, Ms BraFit
Being a Social Entrepreneur and Woman Entrepreneur in the Caribbean has had its many different experiences, challenges, setbacks and learning curve experiences. The best way to learn is to teach and the best payback is to pay it forward. I have been an example of resilience and of pride in the nation that nurtured me; growing up as a young woman in the twin island republic of – Trinidad and Tobago.
I started Ms Brafit (www.msbrafit.com) in a bedroom at my home in 2002. The many challenges included first, “juggling” a business and a full-time job and then in 2006, I decided to take the giant step to self-employment and full management of my Social Enterprise. A journey that has many ups and downs but one that I respect and one that has presented me with many life learnings.
Along my journey, it has been one where I have sought out the best ways to be relevant, innovative and apply all my many skills from my diverse careers. I also embrace the value of mentoring and of being mentored and particularly of the importance of nourishing a network that shares my values and understands inclusion in its true and pure sense. I believe in the adage of loving what you do, and it will never feel like work. So, every ounce of my many work actions have an element of respectful enjoyment and passion.
Let me share this; I am first and foremost, proud to be a woman born in Trinidad and Tobago, where in my growing up years, the education and social ecosystems allowed me to have a diverse experience as a girl child in my country. One of our richest assets is our history and diversity of races, cultures and of course the benefit of having attained free public education from primary to secondary school levels, with opportunities for subsidized tertiary education.
How it Started
I clearly had the entrepreneurial DNA during my youth; baking desserts for a famous resort Timberline which was on the North Coast of our island in a village called Maracas. Someone heard about my cakes and placed an order for 75 heart-shaped cakes on Valentine’s Day. Some of my classmates and a few other women, relied on me to provide the service of hair extensions during the school term and at a higher volume during the Trinidad Carnival Season.
Many years later and having grown up in a humble village and attended a primary school in the “stigmatized” region of Malick/Barataria; in my twin-island republic; I have had the benefit of being globally appreciated and recognized for the work I continue to do with women’s health, breast health, bra fitting, social innovation, social impact and most of all, the still very misunderstood arena of Social Entrepreneurship.
After all, Social Enterprises are the hardest business models to invite funding and most of all, the sales pitch for a Social Enterprise relies so heavily on a universal buy-in from compassionate thinking leaders.
My national pride is heavily hinged on the many opportunities that I have been given; by esteemed global agencies, who recognize my capacity and the social-impact and potential of the work that has been created by Ms Brafit inside of an island in the Caribbean region. These organizations have invested heavily in building my capacity and bringing my work into spaces for building further impact and critical conversations. Such organizations and globally respected agencies like the US State Department, Vital Voices Global Partnership, Cherie Blair Foundation, Raffa, Administrative Staff College of India and the Government of India, have all tapped into my social innovation and given me a global space to build my brand and become globally viable in a changing landscape.
A little secret about me
When I travel overseas to speak or represent my organization as a Caribbean Woman Entrepreneur, I take my flag with me and find a place to put it where it is visible. It is a reminder of my heritage and my freedom to be anything I work hard at becoming.
To date, I have taken my Trinidad and Tobago flag with me on 5 continents while I teach, learn, speak and network and it is always a pleasure to be acknowledged for the work I have so carefully and lovingly innovated to make a difference in the lives of women, girls, families, societies and economies and I am eternally grateful for the network of visionaries who hold me accountable for our mutual successes and who provide the many spaces for the amplification of our work, to truly influence and impact on the world. The journey has many corridors, roads, hills and bends, but the purpose remains my priority!