Colette Ferguson’s Coco Leaf Craft transforms straws into unique shapes for apparel and home use

Inspired by a 1994 Department of Tourism initiative to promote authentic Bahamian products, Colette Ferguson began making art and accessories out of straws, seashells and pink sand. After more than 20 years of artistic development, a grant from Access Accelerator has allowed us to expand our product line and purchase the equipment we need to bring our unique items to market.

He left retail in 2015 to pursue his passion for art. She founded Coco Her Reef Her Craft Her Company, transforming items commonly found on the beach into body and home accessories.

“I have been making crafts for 28 years, but never focused on straw products until I started my business. I became interested in crafts because I wanted to, and realized that the best way to do that was to make straw products.”

The Department of Tourism launched an Authentic Bahamian campaign to encourage people to use native resources to create products. He said it motivated him to join the initiative. After seeing her diverse range of products, she realized she could make them out of straw and she had stumbled upon her own niche.

“The encouragement I received in that program inspired me to start my own business. That department of the Ministry of Tourism still exists today, promoting 100% Bahamian products. It inspired me to take craft making seriously,” she said.

After sourcing raw materials, she did two years of research before launching her own product on the market.

“I have traveled to different family islands to learn about straw in the Bahamas and how it is cut and prepared. I taught myself how to make woven jewelry, but I had never been able to cut straws and make my own shapes.”

Ferguson has learned how to handle straws so they don’t split easily, can be cut into different shapes, and don’t have a sticky texture.

“After deciding [the] I wanted to cut the straw into the shape I wanted, so I bought a tool that would get the job done. After applying the treatment, the straws were dried for 5 days. During that time, I machine-cut it to make jewelry in different shapes and sizes. ”

Although she focuses primarily on her straw work, Ferguson said she also enjoys sand art for home decor.

“I didn’t know Cat Island had pink sand until I went there and saw the beach. I decided to decorate with seashells, I also make leather moldings and tealight holders, and the response I’ve received has been amazing.”

Ferguson had a vision to take the Coco Leaf Craft Company to the next level, but didn’t have the funding to make it happen. She decided to apply when a close friend of hers told her about her Access Accelerator and her efforts to help small businesses.

“I didn’t expect anything, but I was shocked and blown away when I received the $4,992.29 grant. I applied for more training as I don’t have a lot of free time and the virtual classes were very useful.

After receiving the grant, Ferguson came up with the idea of ​​embroidering patterns on cutouts of straws. This is another design decision that has never been executed before, she said.

“I realized this was something new, so I used an embroidery machine to make patches and tags,” she said. “This wouldn’t be possible without Access Accelerator. Their funding allowed me to buy a sewing and embroidery machine, along with thread and other threading materials.”

Ferguson said she hoped tourists would endorse her work, but was surprised by the positive reaction from locals. she said.

Ferguson said finding a stable location was by far the most important challenge. However, there are still stores interested in showcasing her products.

“In 10 years, I want to grow into a consistent business that my family can run even when I am not around. My products are unique and the market is wide open, making Coco Reef Crafts internationally popular. I can see it growing into what it is. Any help is important and I am grateful that Access Accelerator has pushed me forward.” Colette Ferguson’s Coco Leaf Craft transforms straws into unique shapes for apparel and home use

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