“You will find the solution to your problem.”
That was the lofty promise meted out by RBC/RBTT branch manager Roger Hassell one Wednesday evening at Cocktails and Contacts, a networking social designed specifically for professionals. This is one of the signature events from RSVP Marketing, a small company helmed by Shernell Melissa Lionel; founder and principal consultant.
“We have professionals at different levels, managers, directors, secretaries, we invited nurses and doctors, just to come in, get to know each other, and exchange business cards. Sometimes you really have a good idea, and you never get an opportunity to speak to the right person. So this is the place to come because you never know who you might meet and everybody is open to conversation.”
Originally, Lionel set out to be a banker. After coming out of Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, she landed a job at the Eastern Caribbean Financial Holdings Company (ECFH). In 2005, Lionel headed off to Trinidad’s School of Business and Computer Science where she completed a degree in banking and finance from the University of London. But it was during her academic tenure that the marketing bug first bit.
“I started studying a professional marketing qualification. It’s called Chartered Institute of Marketing.And I realized, why am I doing banking and finance? This is what I really want to do. Nevertheless I was almost done so I finished my degree, came home, and went into investment banking. I said maybe this is where I’m meant to be but my passion was still being pulled towards marketing.”
Eventually, Lionel was able to snag a position in the marketing department of ECFH, where she remained until she ventured out on her own and RSVP Marketing was born.
The self-described ‘seasoned banker’, has used some of that finance background to draw in sponsorship.
“We have sponsors like RBC/RBTT who present, because being a former banker I think financial intelligence is really important. We have the Indian restaurant Golden Sun. I also work for them because I do marketing for small businesses. They’re trying to expand the restaurant so this is a good opportunity for them to meet different people. We also have JP Chenet featuring their Chenet Ice. Just dealing with them I learnt so much about the brewery. There is a rich history which I had no idea about.”
Cocktails and Contacts is a direct reflection of Lionel’s personality. She admits to not being too fond of the regular club scene and has a particular preference for mixers and corporate events.
“It’s kind of my vision for what I want.”
Helping to mold that vision is Ron Isidore, who together with Courtney James, owns the Secret Lounge, a somewhat off the grid establishment in Rodney Bay.
“When we first opened the Secret Lounge what we were trying to do is create a venue for young professionals to have fun in a different light,” he said.
“Shernell and I have been working together for a couple of years now in terms of graphics, and she approached me about doing the event. I was like, I think that’s a great concept. Let’s do something that would drive young professionals to meet each other, to mingle and develop some great relationships. If we are the future, we need to collaborate together and that is how the whole Cocktails and Contacts developed into what it is now.”
“It’s really good and I’m hoping it will pick up even more. I think in the next two months we might have to find another venue because it’s going to outgrow this one. Interest has been phenomenal and people are like “Oh man I forgot to register, can you squeeze me in?”
The social is held every other Wednesday, and those interested can register online for free at cocktailsandcontacts.rsvpmarketing.net.
On this particular evening, JP Chenet kept the drinks flowing from their line of fine wines, Golden Sun kept palates satisfied with authentic Indian cusine, and there was one more surprise; a phone giveaway compliments of Digicel.
Which was won by yours truly. Guess Hassell was right. I needed a new phone and I got one.
A lot more is in store for Lionel, who hinted at a new idea brewing in her pot.
“There is something I’m working on. It’s in the development stage but it’s in line with bringing an artistic experience to St Lucia.”
But right now, she is thrilled with the direction her company is taking and this particular pet project.
“It’s small. It’s me.”