TT bra boutique Peri's Plus Ltd owner Peridot Webster, who placed third in the inaugural Entrepreneurship World Cup (EWC) regional finals pitch competition, said she is proud to have put this country on the map.
The EWC is a non-profit organisation that supports 175,000 entrepreneurs in 200 countries. The first-ever regional finals of the annual EWC pitch competition was held virtually on July 25 and Peri's Plus emerged third out of 17 finalists. Webster was the last finalist to make a three-minute presentation and began with a description of her company.
"From the young lady going through the early stages of puberty to the mature woman looking for style and comfort Peri's Plus: The Bra Boutique has responded to the needs of women by offering quality bras and undergarments at an affordable price, paying particular attention to the fuller busted woman."
She founded the company in 2007 while working in the telecommunications industry.
"It was out of my own (problem) of not getting proper-fitted bras as a fuller busted woman. One could be very slim but also have a big bust."
She recalled when she was going through puberty she was very busty and her mother could not afford the type of bras necessary for her support.
"It has been an issue for me from then up to now."
She took her savings of $1,500 and started off with six bras. She went door-to-door selling and also visited workplaces.
"People really appreciated the personalised touch."
She eventually opened her business at Isaac Junction, Couva. Webster said the Peri's Plus approach is to cater from the developmental stage up to a mature woman and for years operated as an importation and retail company. The company offers bra sizes from B to P cups, along with free bra sizing, ladies underwear from medium to 6XL and underwear for the entire family.
During the initial covid lockdown in 2020 the boutique was closed. The company, however, was able to see a boost in sales by launching their Virtual Bra Room which provided deliveries as well as breast care, health education, and bra tips. At this time Peri's Plus expanded into manufacturing their own cotton bralettes, panties and sleepwear with Bureau of Standards certification.
The Peri's Plus team is made up of six women including two seamstresses.
"During covid, all of them were employed with the exception of one of them for whom sewing is their bread and butter. We were given an opportunity to help her and she was very happy for the opportunity."
They have started with cotton bras but have sourced a company locally to do the underwires for bras.
"It is creating more employment and it is now so expensive to bring in goods. So it is good to know these can be sourced in Trinidad."
In 2012 she won Young Woman of the Year and Business Woman of the Year in a competition held by the Ministry of Youth and Gender and Affairs and NGO Network of Women.
The company also works alongside the Cancer Society to provide pap smears and breast examinations and local detergent manufacturer Langston Roach which provides delicate wash for their products. They also have a programme "Every Girl Deserves Care Period" which has customers donating hygiene products to earn Peri Plus Points towards their purchases. The donated items are sent to children's homes and Webster said while people focus on donating clothes and food hygiene products for the young girls is an often-neglected area. They have partnered with the company Cotex since 2017 to provide sanitary napkins to homes.
In 2017 Peri's Plus organised the first-ever TT Bra Festival in celebration of their 10th anniversary.
Webster said most of her customers comment about the level of customer service and the level of care.
"Sometimes you go into a store and the sales clerk says, 'When go by the cashier tell them number 5 or 11'. We really take time to provide the personal touch. It is one of things we really pride ourselves in."
Peri's Plus has a total following of more than 10,900 on Facebook and Instagram. The company also visited St Vincent and the Grenadines in 2017 and held a pop-up shop there.
The pitch competition
On the EWC competition, Webster recalled someone sent her the application and said she should apply. "I started and did not finish because I was so busy with other things."
She described the application as lengthy and "like writing a thesis".
She eventually did complete the application and only discovered the notification she was one of seven finalists for the TT leg just three days before the July 15 competition. Despite having limited time to prepare she won the local leg. She said articulating her business was not difficult and her background in media helped with doing the pitch.
" When I was told I won and was going on to regional finals I thought, 'This thing serious.'".
The regional finals were held on July 25 and Webster was going up against entrepreneurs from 16 other countries, namely: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Martin, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname.
During her three-minute presentation, she outlined the company's philosophy, corporate social responsibility, events held for customers such as motivational speeches and hygiene/puberty information for young girls and their parents, and the success of the Virtual Bra Room.
Judge Steve Maximay, a university lecturer, praised her pitch.
"Bravo. Well done."
Judge Rafael Pinto, strategic advisor for the Young Americas Business Trust, asked about her sales channels currently. Webster replied while the brick and mortar store was closed during the lockdown they offer deliveries via the Virtual Bra Room.
"We have videos and tips of how to take care of your bras, breast care education, and we still partner with Cancer Society and others."
Judge Dr Monica Masino, an entrepreneur and educator, said she liked how agile the business was.
"Covid came and everything was shut down and you moved immediately to the virtual environment and you are still offering the services to women and girls."
She also liked the whole line "There's something for everyone there."
Judge Chad Fraser, a technology solutions entrepreneur, said she had a "good presentation" and asked about the US $70,000 she requested in her pitch.
"Where do you project to take the business after receiving the investment?"
Webster told him the additional capital injection will be to purchase raw materials from local fabric stores, acquire additional sewing machines, and pay additional seamstresses.
"We are creating a new economy because no one in TT is offering this."
She explained her six other main competitors were strictly retail but no one was manufacturing bras and underwear.
"Not only will we be able to export but we will be able to sell wholesale to our current competitors."
Webster described the experience of doing the pitch as "okay".
"My main concern was that I stayed within the three minutes. I was also hoping I would be able to answer all of the questions. From what they told me most of my responses were favourable."
The next stage
When it was announced that she had placed third Webster recalled feeling grateful.
"I saw online that there were so many TT supporters and a lot of TT flags on the YouTube chat. I am very thankful as there were so many other businesses that were worthy of coming in the top three. TT coming third is really a testament to the amount of talent that we have in the country and that sometimes we take for granted."
After her win, her team called and were "screaming down the place".
"They were very happy. For me, it is all about doing what I love doing and leaving a legacy for my children."
Second place went to Jamaica and Elizabeth Terry of the company UNUH, and first place went to Martinique and Shirley Billot of the company Kadalys. First place will automatically join the Global Finals on November 14-18 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, while second and third place will be placed in the Accelerator Program along with finalists from around the world. From this training and mentorship programme the remainder of the 100 finalists for Saudi Arabia will be selected.
Webster said the programme should begin the week of August 1 and last for two months. And for her win she has received US $100,000 worth in kind (business advice, legal advice, help with technology set up website, free consultations business person all over the world) and the United Nations also pledged a cash prize to every finalist that was a woman. She pointed out that coincidentally all three finalists were women. She added the win provides opportunities for other business events coming up for 2021 and 2022.
"That is another thing I am very excited about. With one door other doors open as well."
And if she receives the opportunity to go to Saudi Arabia?
"It will be a humbling experience for me. To think the $1,500 I invested 15 years ago has brought me this far."
Webster said she was glad to put TT on the world stage.
"Especially now for us, oil is no longer king it is an opportunity for another market to be born."
She said one never knows who is listening during these competitions and since her win, several people have reached out to her.
"The possibilities are endless not just for Peri's Plus but for TT. It shows how important entrepreneurship is and it drives an economy. Especially now."
She pointed out while a lot of businesses closed down during the pandemic a lot of did extremely well, especially a lot of small businesses.
"Don't think that you are not good enough to dream big. Don't ever think that your idea is too small to achieve greatness."