It was my second Christmas in London and my first attempt at a Trini Christmas. All the hams in East London were sold out. I was in a mood on Christmas Eve. Then, on Christmas day my dear friend Mr A turned up with some ham he had cooked Trini style. He had walked miles because he couldn’t get public transport. Still new to London life and with limited funds a taxi was not an option. Act of kindness like that is what makes Christmas. The expat experience is nothing without a touch of tabanca (which is the sense of lose or feeling blue that comes with losing/missing someone/thing dear) and Christmas is an emotive time.
When I found out about entrepreneur Marcia Seales-Rodney and her business the Tabanca Box) I knew I had to tell my readers about it. I first heard about Marcia on Culture’s Insta story, when they visited Tobago earlier this year. This is Marcia’s Interview
TTT: Tell us a bit about yourself.
TB: My name is Marcia Seales-Rodney. I am married to my best friend and business partner, Merrell Rodney. We have four amazing children – 2 girls and 2 boys. And Tabanca Box is our second business idea.
TTT: How did the idea for the Tabanca Box come to about?
TB: Both my husband and my mother live abroad along with our sisters. Every year – they come back home to Trinidad (either at Carnival or Christmas). And every year when they visited we would pack a huge suitcase full of food. Until 2013, when BOTH moms and all FOUR sisters came to Trinidad at the same time ad we found ourselves just doing a TON of food shopping and I told myself that there HAD to be a better way. We both felt that our families should be able to get whatever Trini food they needed or wanted rather than wait once a year. And so, the idea of Tabanca Box was born.
TTT: How do you select products for your box each month?
TB: Originally, we did have a monthly service where we changed the Box monthly – and to do that we would attend the different artisan markets we have here in Trinidad each month. These markets allowed us to see some of the most innovative products that we have here in Trinidad and Tobago. And one artisan would usually lead us to another. However, it was discovering these new artisans that led us to the current changes taking place at Tabanca Box.
Firstly, we now have two regular Boxes that we offer – The Hot Box and the Sweet Tooth – which can be considered our “starter Boxes” – and then we have special Boxes that we launch according to the occasion – like our Christmas Boxes. Additionally, beginning December 1 – we are featuring some of the new and upcoming food artisans that we have recently discovered AND offer you the opportunity to purchase their product via our website. So, we’re changing – and looking forward to those changes.
TTT: What’s in your December Tabanca Box? And why?
TB: Whoa, our December Box is our Christmas Box. It comes in three sizes – large, medium and a taste, lol! Firstly, what we wanted was to capture the ESSENCE of a Trini Christmas and make sure that the essentials were in there. We also wanted to follow through on our commitment to help you recapture the past whilst introducing you to your future – all through food of course. So the Box has Punch de Crème, Fruit Wine, Black Cake and Christmas Cookies – but then we take a little twist (a Tabanca Box twist) on the theme and we have Sorrel Tea, and Ginger Beer fudge – I hope you’re getting the picture of what we tried to do here. We also threw in some totally locally made gifts that you can keep for yourself or share with friends. A complete listing of each box can be seen by visiting here.
TTT: What advice do you have for an entrepreneur who wants to have an international business?
TB: I would tell them to take their time and think it through – we worked on our systems for a full two years before we launched. And after launch we stopped trading for months at a time as we sorted out new issues that came up even after all the research and work that was put in before. So I would also tell them to persevere. I would also say you need to have a great team of supporters – even if that “Team” is only two people. And a bit of practical advice – you need to find out the laws and allowances that apply to your business and industry for the country(ies) that you want to trade in. Make sure you connect to the relevant business community there – because most times – people are really willing to help you. And finally, don’t be afraid of hearing “no”. Enough no’s leads you to the “yes” that you really need.
TTT: Finish the sentence ‘yuh is ah true trini fuh true if…’
TB: Yuh is true trini fuh true if…yuh does be late for EVERYTHING! Even virtual interviews!