The Tweeted Confessions of an Entrepreneur: Lacey-Ann Bartley

May 10th, 2016

I find Jamaican tweet chats most enlightening. I am a tremendous advocate for Twitter and its many uses and applications – although I know the so-called “Twitterverse” remains a mystery for some. Why do I enjoy tweet chats? Well, because they are structured conversations that can take you in different directions and lead to insights, new contacts and even future offline collaboration. One must never forget the all-important hashtag: not a gimmick, but actually a clever and clear way to track a conversation, step by step. It creates a record of the whole thing.

Lacey-Ann Bartley's tweet chat.

Lacey-Ann Bartley’s tweet chat.

This evening’s enlightenment was a chat with young entrepreneur Lacey-Ann Bartley (Twitter name Goddess of Wood, which I love). She is not just an entrepreneur; she is a manufacturer and a creative designer and craftswoman. The name of her Mandeville-based firm is Bartley’s All in Wood. She is a highly focused young woman, making her way in what could still be seen as a “man’s world,” at least in Jamaica. At work, she dons protective gear and wields power tools. She creates furniture, small items such as boxes, jewelry and hair ornaments (designed by herself) – all from beautiful local wood.

So, Ms. Bartley is hands-on, make no mistake about it. During the chat she conceded that her work is physically demanding. She carries lumber, and boxes, and does not pay much attention to men who make comments. She just gets on with the job at hand. It’s not for nothing that Ms. Bartley and her company were among those selected as “The Bold Ones” in 2014.

To me, the most interesting aspect of Ms. Bartley’s entrepreneurial journey (as she described it in bursts of 140 characters or less) was not so much the physical challenges nor the business strategy, but rather the necessary mindset for traveling down that road.  One example is the need to shrug off the “negatives.” Talk is cheap, but as Ms. Bartley noted, all one has to do is to stay focused and show one’s worth through one’s actions. Then the talk will die down, and the detractors will give up. 

The influential Yaneek Page, with her down-to-earth style, is a role model for young Jamaican entrepreneurs.

The influential Yaneek Page, with her down-to-earth style, is a role model for young Jamaican entrepreneurs.

While young Jamaican women have embraced the world of entrepreneurship (encouraged and empowered by the likes of individuals like Yaneek Page), this does not mean it is smooth sailing. As in any aspect of business, that “glass ceiling” somehow hovers above you, even when you are your own boss. How does that happen? Is it that people (other men and perhaps women) don’t take you seriously? I suspect that women are under additional pressure to “prove themselves” in business, as in other areas of leadership. Self-belief and mental strength are, therefore, essential qualities in the quest for success. It’s an inner toughness that, in another era and a different field, Margaret Thatcher described thus: “I’ve got a woman’s ability to stick to a job and get on with it when everyone else walks off and leaves it.”

“Maggie” was the “go it alone” kind of woman, though. She had to be. Nor was she by any means a feminist, except perhaps by accident. On the contrary, Ms. Bartley, while tapping into her own reserves of resilience, is quick to acknowledge the support of others – for example, peer mentors who are able to re-energize her when she feels she is running out of steam. The support of family and friends is also critical. She is also not just doing this for herself; it gives her satisfaction to know that she is able to provide employment for young men in the community.

As one of the world’s most famous (and rich) risk-takers Sir Richard Branson said, “Entrepreneurship isn’t just a label – it’s a lifestyle.” He is a classic example of actually living (and by all accounts, loving) the path he has chosen. This seems the best platform from which to work: oneself, one’s heart and soul, even. If it’s not in your blood, you might as well not bother.

Lacey-Ann Bartley is a Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship graduate. (Photo: Branson Centre)

Lacey-Ann Bartley is a Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship graduate. (Photo: Branson Centre)

This reminds me: Ms. Bartley, among other young Jamaicans, is a graduate of the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship – Caribbean in Montego Bay, which has been very successful. Last year, the Centre launched Branson Centre Caribbean Online. Its graduates, whenever I come across them, have a special kind of energy. That glint in their eye seems to say: “I have set my goals, I am going for them, and I’m going to enjoy the ride.”

Now Ms. Bartley, along with some other entrepreneurs, is embarking on a crowd funding exercise, enabling her to expand and make some of her business plans a reality. The platform will be provided by JN Foundation, which is already doing a superb job in  supporting social enterprise. We will hear more about this shortly.

I am convinced that I would not be able to do it. I lack all the strengths that Ms. Bartley has – in particular, I suspect, patience. If anyone thinks entrepreneurship is an “overnight success” thing, they had better think again. Another woman entrepreneur who participated in the chat, when asked to describe the experience in one word, said: “Gritty.” 

When I think about it, the entrepreneurial experience seems almost like a metaphor for life. We’re in for the long haul (hopefully) – whether we like it or not.

You can find Bartley’s All in Wood on Facebook and Twitter @Bartley_s  The conversation described above can be found at #BAIWChat.


Ms. Bartley gets down to work.

Ms. Bartley gets down to work.



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