The Women in Tech Caribbean Community takes pride in giving our members a platform to share their stories. In today’s spotlight, we introduce Kemoy Kayan – the leading Cultural Commerce Strategist in the Caribbean, who is of Jamaican heritage. Kemoy describes herself as an “Audacious Leader, Equity Advocate, Customer First Thinker, Lover of Caribbean Culture, and Trusted Advisor.” She is inspired by the movements of various Caribbean icons – Marcus Garvey, Walter Rodney, Dr. Eric Williams, and Mia Amor Mottley – and strives to leave a legacy of a nation builder.
Driven by the challenge to impact the economic development of the community where her family grew up in Jamaica, Kemoy chose to become a Cultural Commerce Strategist. Cultural Commerce is any form of social exchange that expresses the traits of a local community and celebrates identity, diversity and cross-cultural relations; via retail or e-commerce. When asked about her reasons for choosing this career path, Kemoy expressed that her observations of the remittance economy in Jamaica prompted her to think critically about how funds were being used towards entrepreneurial development. She stated, “In 2019 15% of Jamaica’s GDP came from remittances sent by Caribbean nationals who migrated. In 2020 these remittances grew to account for 21% of Jamaica’s GDP — which is $2.9 Billion USD. I began to research how the money was spent, and question why more of these funds weren’t being spent with entrepreneurs invested in developing their communities to thrive as their business grows. This resulted in me thinking of ways I could create change, by leveraging my 15+ years of executive sales leadership experience with prestigious retailers such as Bath & Body Works, Sephora, Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret, and Casper.”
Cultural commerce energizes Kemoy as she wakes up everyday thinking about what actions she can take to contribute to economic empowerment in the Caribbean. Her career path is not just a professional brand for her – it is also her personal brand as she commits daily to using 5-10 products/services created in the Caribbean or by someone of Caribbean descent. Kemoy wants to inspire the Caribbean diaspora and nationals to actively purchase, support, and invest in Caribbean-owned brands that are dedicated to stimulating economic growth in the region. She is currently working on a few projects which keep her day-to-day life exciting. She works with a few Jamaican-owned beauty brands to expand their e-commerce/retail presence in the US, and she currently works with the #1 direct to consumer sleep company in the U.S. to transition one of its traditional retail locations into an omni-channel concept store.
From her first role in tech to the present day, Kemoy has found success in the field of cultural commerce. Hence, in 2020, she was a featured Contributor in the Amazon Best Seller: “Retail Pride: The Guide To Celebrating your Accidental Career” by Ron Thurston. However, with every success story, challenges always present themselves and Kemoy is no different. With a background as a Retail Sales Executive, one of her biggest challenges was figuring out how to break into tech by effectively and confidently communicating her transferable skills. She was also passionate about ensuring that her first role in tech was with a Caribbean-owned tech company dedicated to serving the community she wanted to serve. Evidently, Kemoy has proven that through practice, dedication, connecting with Caribbean Tech Entrepreneurs, and soliciting feedback, no challenge is too great. Building her personal brand and sharing her journey led to several speaking and leadership opportunities, including her role with the #1 online marketplace for authentic Caribbean products – Caribshopper.com which serves the US and Canada. Breaking into tech taught her a valuable lesson. In her own words, “When breaking into a new field, create opportunities for yourself to demonstrate that you can do the work. You have to invest in yourself first, before anyone else can.”
Kemoy is fueled by opportunities to leverage her personal brand to teach and inspire others on the importance of buying products and services that are in alignment with their values. She believes that every dollar we spend should be a reflection of the change we want to see in the world and within our community as our buying power is a tool to build ecosystems and generate wealth for consumers and business owners in the Caribbean and abroad. She realized in her 30’s during a sabbatical from work, that learning how to leverage her skills to create and manifest work opportunities in alignment with her life’s purpose was the best gift that she could give to herself. She spent two years exploring and engaging in activities that intrigued her, challenged her, and that she enjoyed. This experience halted her search for the ideal work-life balance when she was able to thrive, earn, and play by maintaining a strong connection to her life’s purpose daily. Kemoy has found her ultimate happy place through cultural commerce, and advises other women who are interested in her career path that they should not be afraid to explore, invest, and experience what brings them joy on a daily basis.
She also shared more advice to women and girls wishing to carve their own path in tech:
- “Join and add value to communities, like Women in Tech Caribbean — that offer you opportunities to share your expertise and learn from others.
- You are the CEO of your life; create a career/life plan based on the desired impact you want to have in the world — not solely based on the results you think you can achieve.
- Commit to executing what you learn.
- Acknowledge failure as a part of the personal growth process.
- Always find ways to create opportunities for yourself that demonstrate how you can add value.
- Collaborate and connect with other stakeholders in the same industry. The entrepreneurs, investors, customers, and community builders — the access and knowledge share this provides is priceless.”
The Women in Tech Caribbean Community is proud of Kemoy and her efforts to use tech to support Caribbean-owned businesses and drive economic empowerment. To follow Kemoy, connect with her on the following platforms: