From an early age, ACCEL entrepreneur Roxanne Brathwaite had been passionate about furniture and design. As a child playing with her doll house, Braithwaite would throw out the dolls and play with the miniature furniture instead! As she grew older, she grew out of doll houses, but maintained her eye for furniture. Often, Roxanne would take home discarded furniture, fix it up, and add her own creative detail to the pieces.
A year ago, Brathwaite started her own company Hollis-Netwon, a company that specializes in re-imagining antique and vintage chairs into bespoken pieces with a modern aesthetic. With this new company, she has been able to turn her passion into a business.
“I always had a love for the upholstery trade and antiques and vintage furniture in particular, but I’ve always had an impulse to remix things and bring something entirely fresh and new” says Brathwaite.
Brathwaite first had the idea to start a company after receiving her Fine Arts degree and looking for avenues to use her creativity. She got in contact with Berkley Peazer, a master upholsterer and owner of Burkraft Furniture Company Ltd, a shop specializing in upholstery and restoration of antique and vintage furniture, and apprenticed under him in 2015. Through the apprenticeship, she built up her upholstery and restoration skills while also learning about the technical aspects of the furniture business.
“I’ve always had an affinity with furniture and a family that values and pursues entrepreneurial efforts; it was a natural step for me. It felt like it was time, and I felt like I was ready. It pulls all of what I’ve done and puts it together.”
On top of running her company, she also competed in the 2018 ACCEL Pitch Competition last December. The ACCEL Pitch Competition showcases entrepreneurs making a pitch for their business or social enterprise in front of a panel of judges. Roxanne’s strong pitch for Hollis-Newton won over the judges for first prize.
“That was my first pitch competition and I had a fear of public speaking” Brathwaite recalls. She credits the ACCEL coaches in helping her to develop a strong pitch and create a good value proposition for her business. “(The coaches) were amazing. They showed me what the judges might be looking for and what to include and in general how to present myself.”
For the near future Brathwaite will be growing Hollis-Newton’s brand and aims to eventually expand internationally once the company generates good brand recognition in the industry.
If you are interested in becoming an entrepreneur, Centennial’s ACCEL program has been developed to incubate and accelerate small businesses. Participation in the program is limited to highly qualified, self-motivated candidates. For more, please visit How to Apply.
By: Pierre Ross