She is a busy lady. When we interviewed her she was at the Tax Office. No wonder she needs a creative outlet. After leaving design school, Dana Baugh knew she wanted to be in business. She also figured out quickly that her business would be in a creative industry. While working full time in hospitality management in 2012, she started what she called her side hustle.
“I come from a family of business owners, from my grandmother who took over my grandfather’s business when he passed, my Aunt Dorothy who owned her own salon in Kingston and my mother who has owned and operated her chain of travel agencies in Western Jamaica for over 35 years.,” says the owner of BAUGHaus Design Studio. “Seeing ‘business owner’ in my parents’ passports I felt like this was something I would end up doing. Creating these products is the area I enjoy most and it comes naturally.”
Like most passionate artists and entrepreneurs, Dana worked on the business every spare moment she had. “I focused all my time, energy and salary into building the business on nights, weekends and holidays,” she says. “I was constantly reading online articles about starting a business, watching YouTube videos, pinning to Pinterest, basically feeding my mind in the way I wanted to go.”
When she decided to take the leap and follow her dream of starting a design-based business, Dana bought her first set of equipment, signed up to do a show, made a few samples and showcased the products. She got a lot of publicity and a few sales. Then it grew into more shows, more sales and a slow and steady growth of her business.
It is not surprising that she invested in her dreams and herself. As a child, she was always engaged in creative tinkering. She believes her talents were nurtured with various craft projects from early, when she and her two brothers were growing up in rural Jamaica. Her father introduced her to clay, and at various times she did calligraphy, basket weaving, glass etching and clay modeling.
“These activities helped to expand my curiosity and gave me a knack for figuring things out,” she explains. “My father comes from a creative family, so it runs in my blood,” says Dana. But it was also a blessing to grow up with strong women in businesses that I could look up to.”
After doing a first degree in Psychology at UWI, Mona, she worked for 10 years with Sandals Resorts, starting as a Management Trainee at Sandals Whitehouse and ending as Marketing Manager, where she had responsibilities for product development and revenue growth in the on-property revenue outlets. She says she was careful to not make her side business overtake her commitment to her day job. She was open and honest with her bosses about what she was doing and made extra effort to work late when needed.
“I had very long days and then went home to work on my website or a new product,” she explains. “I made the sacrifice because I knew I had a goal and was focused on that.”
She got big support from the CEO and his wife, who were some of her first clients for custom lighting. A few years later, she made her first online sale to a total stranger overseas. “I felt like I was actually moving closer to my goal,” says Dana. Sandals paid for her to do an interior design degree at Parsons School of Design in New York which broadened her design skills and taught her a lot about colour, composition, scale and technical skills needed in the design field. While at Parsons School of Design she took a sketching course in Paris, France, to sketch the city’s fascinating architecture. “It was an exciting learning experience,” she gushed.
Dana says her other “aha!” moments were when the United Nations Development Programme funded her trip to Tanzania for a month so she could work on her craft, and when she won an award under the Development Bank of Jamaica’s IGNITE programme.
She first heard of IGNITE (Innovative Grant from new Ideas to Entrepreneurship) when the Jamaica Manufacturers Association sent an email to entrepreneurs they thought would qualify. Thrilled that this opportunity presented itself, Dana went for it zealously. “I saw it as a great opportunity because grant funding that aligns with my business is hard to come by,” she says, “I also needed equipment and other things for my business that I could not afford, even proper work space.” At the time, she says she was working in a tiny backyard studio, her mother’s laundry room and garage.
The IGNITE programme aligned perfectly with Dana’s goals. She had new products. She planned to export and what she was doing could certainly be called innovative. She applied and pitched confidently, taking samples to showcase her product.
With her $2.5 million IGNITE grant, Dana quickly bought a ceramic 3D printer, that immediately raised her game. She also bought a pug mill, which mixes the clay and helps to fill the 3D printer cartridges faster, shelving for increased storage and a shipping container she plans on converting into a work space so she can increase capacity.
She moved back home to Savanna La Mar in 2015 to focus on BAUGHaus and as a way of making sure the business survived since it helped her cut costs.
Her typical day now is an early morning start, first checking emails and perhaps create a few drawings, review her to-do list, then on to her studio to make products until late evening and there is little else she can do. “Then I head back to my room to decompress,” she explains. “Somewhere in there I think I sleep, eat, shower and watch some movies, and do my social media posts.”
Of course, like many hustling entrepreneurs, she handles the invoicing, production scheduling, sales, taxes, and everything else in between. Dana is ever alert for sales and marketing opportunities, constantly seeking funding, and always revising her strategies.
She’s now busy modifying a 45′ shipping container to house a team of ceramicists to get BAUGHaus products in every corner of the world. Her ultimate dream is to become a leading player in the design industry locally and regionally, to help grow the sector and to encourage others to start their design-based businesses.
For Jamaica’s 56th Independence she plans to showcase some new and innovative products, using the equipment she bought with her IGNITE grant and encourages others in her industry to join her in innovating and bringing new Jamaican products to market.
She also won the IGNITE People’s Choice Award in 2018.
“If my day were a movie…it would be a jam-packed roller coaster ride of a thriller!” she says triumphantly.