Our first article for the month features an interview with a young, intelligent and ambitious female entrepreneur from Trinidad and Tobago. Let’s get to know Radeyah Ali.
Who is Radeyah?
Radeyah H. Ali is an Attorney at law, called to the Bar of Trinidad and Tobago in 2016, a bookstore owner of Scribbles and Quills Ltd and a School Administrator at Eniath’s Montessori and Prep. She has lived in Trinidad and Tobago for all 25 years of her life. She loves to read and write and has had her writing including poems and prose, published in numerous international anthologies. She also enjoys playing with her cats, Nala and Freya as well as her dogs, Bella, Zeus, Sirius and Casper (but not at the same time, because they do not get along!)
- Do you think female empowerment is an important issue in the Caribbean?
I think female empowerment is extremely important in all parts of the world. It troubles me greatly when a woman is perceived as anything less than a strong independent human who can accomplish anything that she sets her mind to. I believe that women can do anything. I know that a woman’s strength knows no bounds and a woman’s determination is unrivaled.
Our Caribbean history puts women in the home as caretakers for the family. Today, we see that women can do that and so much more. As women, we are the first to nurture other humans – we have to be that strong pillar on which both males and other females thrive from; but that is not all we are meant to be.
We are not our families. We are not our parents. We are not our children. We are us; beautifully and imperfectly us and we should be whomever we choose to be. Our thoughts matter, our wants, needs and desires matter. We matter.
2. Have you ever felt discriminated against because of your gender?
I have always felt a certain discrimination because I am a woman. There have been numerous opportunities that I have been offered which I was forced to refuse due to the sole fact that I am a woman.
Growing up, it was clear to me that girls were to be treated differently from boys. The result was simple things like my younger brother being able to drive before me, getting a car before me, going out with his friends before I could. It definitely showed me that in this world, girls generally have to fight harder for the simple things a boy gets so easily.
When I started to practice Law, this gender based discrimination showed its ugly head again when female Attorneys were told that they could not do Prison Visits to interview their clients because it is not safe. I understand the safety issue, especially in the current state of our country, but the reasoning should never be because of gender.
3. How did the idea for your bookstore business come about?
In 2013, I got the idea of having a bookstore one night when I could not sleep. I tossed and turned for hours in bed until I got to thinking about how cool it would be to own my own bookstore. I always loved to read and write and my book collection was and still is huge. I immediately started googling about how to open a business and how to run a bookstore in particular. I did research on my phone until the sun came up and when my parents woke up and were making breakfast, I pitched the idea to them. I remember both my mother and my father looking at me as though I was crazy – and yeah I admit it was very crazy because I was still reading for my Law Degree at the University of the West Indies at the time. However, a year later with my parents’ support, I officially incorporated my bookstore, Scribbles and Quills Ltd.
4. What or who motivates you?
I motivate myself because my ultimate goal is complete independence. I want to be in total control of my life and I know I need to work really hard to accomplish all that I want in this life.
5. What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?
I love the independence which being an entrepreneur gives me. I am able to do a lot of things that I want to do because of the investment I have made in my business.
Being an entrepreneur means that what you put in, is what you get out of it. Your investment is essential to your success, whether it be financial investments or an investment of your time and skills.
6. How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
I definitely did not realise the amount of time that running Scribbles and Quills would need. Over the years, the bookstore has grown in our customer base and for three years I did everything by myself. In 2017, I finally decided to hire help. There were certainly some attachment issues I struggled with in terms of giving responsibilities to another person but eventually I realised that I really just needed help. However, hiring help did not work out great for me since I realised that the last person I hired was actually stealing from me and was extremely dishonest. Since then I have continued to run Scribbles and Quills on my own again. Now, I try to manage my time even better than before to get everything done.
7. What would you say makes your business unique?
The uniqueness of Scribbles and Quills comes from my direct involvement in the bookstore. When a customer comes to me and asks for a book recommendation, I am able to recommend something to them based on their reading likes. I like the intimacy of engaging directly with my customers in contrast to the experience at other bookstores.
8. What advice would you give a young Caribbean woman who would like to become an entrepreneur?
Do it! If you have a business idea, just start. Start small and build yourself up gradually. There are so many resources online to assist you in any sort of business start up. Use what you have and remember that every achievement begins with that first step, so take it!
Follow Radeyah and Scribbles and Quills on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/scribbles_and_quills/
Read our last article here: “Priests Kept Nuns As Sex Slaves!”