Carrime St Rose is not your typical beach boy. During the busy months of the cruise season you’ll find him on Vigie beach pushing his business, Soulagement, which includes beach chair rentals and professional beach-side massages. When the season dies down he falls back on his refrigeration and air conditioning certification – carefully honed skills that have earned him quite a reputation with some of the island’s biggest hotels. At 27, Carrime knows a good opportunity when he sees one, and this week we got him to spill the beans on a very multi-faceted (not to mention ambitious!) professional outlook.
TELL US WHAT YOU DO.
Carrime: I run a small beach chair operation at Vigie beach to complement the new beach facility the government built with the Taiwanese. I have my beach vending license, which I got from the National Conservation Authority (NCA), which allows me to rent out my chairs. I also have a massage therapy vending license which enables me to, more or less, administer massage treatments on the beach. The massage component is a partnership between myself and a young lady called Carla Marie who is the original therapist for the business. I have two massaging apparatus that I can use – one table and one Italian massage chair – so I can accommodate two persons at one time. With the chair, you can do your chest and your back in a sitting position.
DESCRIBE A TYPICAL DAY.
Carrime: We’d get tourists coming by off the beach and locals would also come but mostly by appointment. We advertise treatments and promotions – they’d be able to get five treatments for a reasonable price. The tourists are more interested in the ‘US$1 a Minute’ promotion. It’s the same price for locals but if they have a specific treatment, then they pay the regular price for that treatment unless they come with a promotion or gift certificate, which is also available. When it comes to getting customers, the taxi drivers are really the ones behind it. The guests come off at the cruise ship terminal and then they find themselves here, through referrals from the taxi drivers. They tell the taxi drivers they want to go to the beach. Most times they want to go to Pigeon Point or ‘the ramp’, specifically, because they know there’s water sports but when they want a nice quiet place to relax, without pushy vendors, they come to Vigie beach.
IS THERE A LOT OF COMPETITION?
Carimme: There is. Now that I have more competition this year, business has gotten slower. Last year I was here alone and I was winning. The massage offering came on board this year. I started with the beach chairs last year and there was no one else on this beach. I was the pioneer here with the beach chairs; before you knew it that changed. Now there are three new vendors. I have noticed, though, that the NCA has stopped issuing beach vending licenses for this period because they don’t want too many vendors on the beach. I would make good money on a weekend but my chairs are empty for now. I have to hustle more. I have to stand by the road to make sure the taxi drivers come to my designated spot because, if not, they go further down the beach. We have a good partnership going. Sometimes you need to give them an incentive. Some of the chairs in this area are not mine but I treat them like my own. They belong to my ‘padna’, Blackboy. Just because we’re in business, doesn’t mean I’m going to hold him by his throat.
WHAT IS YOUR PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND?
Carimme: I am a refrigeration and air-conditioning technician by trade. I got my license from Sustainable Development. I’ve worked at different resorts, on a full-time and part-time basis. When it’s the cruise ship season I normally take a break from work and I come to the beach. I come not only to relax – because it’s a wonderful setting – but, as they say, ‘to make a change’. When there is no cruise, that is what I go back to – installing and repairing; generally that’s what I do.
WHAT LURED YOU TO BUSINESS ON THE BEACH?
Carimme: Having more disposable income, and the ambiance.
HOW DO YOU PROMOTE YOUR BUSINESS?
Carimme: I use the various social media platforms, especially Instagram and Facebook, for the massage aspect. For the beach chairs I like to use Cruise Critic, a forum website, very much like TripAdvisor. It’s a little more personal. People email you about their arrival dates, what they’re looking for, if they can pay in advance . . . things to that effect. If you have PayPal they want you to organise various things, even beach chairs. I’ve had to put together packages with beach chairs, meals and drinks for the day. I like to use IG as well: I put up images of the beach, massage video clips, and I tied it all in with my personal IG.
WHAT IDEAS DO YOU HAVE TO IMPROVE VIGIE BEACH?
Carimme: I have two; one really big one: Vigie beach has a very strong current; if the government, or another investor, could put a wave breaker in that would reduce the loss of sand on the shore, that would be great because now, there is no proper way to access the beach. If you want to go down to the shore, you have to jump, slide or do something. That’s one of the most important things. Besides that? Water sports, and I think that’s coming soon.
HOW DO YOU INTERACT WITH OTHERS IN THE MARKET?
Carimme: Other than the taxi drivers, there’s really one other entity that I deal with on the beach and that’s Hibiscus Tours. They run a site tour for sometimes an hour or two which includes a train bringing people to the beach for that time period. That’s where we see a lot of numbers coming to the beach, especially Vigie beach. With the taxis, the further they go, the more they can charge. There are some other companies that have started doing site tours but mostly for pictures. If they started spending some more time on Vigie beach, I’d be able to say we have a relationship with them.
HOW DO YOU PERCEIVE DOING BUSINESS IN SAINT LUCIA?
Carimme: Doing business in Saint Lucia requires a lot of discipline and determination, especially as a young person. The first time I came up with a business concept it was an endeavour called ‘Extreme Sports Saint Lucia Limited’. That never went anywhere. I tried to introduce paintball with two other guys. These two other guys butted heads and split ways. I was kind of the mediator between the two of them. I registered a company and tried to get them to come together. I had the land, they had the money – you find that injection is often the hardest thing, to get people with money to support you. I had done all the legwork in terms of preparing the land, getting the land surveyed and organised, getting the business name registered; it was up to them to put up their money to buy equipment. When we finally got to that point I found out they’d already bought the equipment and were bluffing me about having money so, they basically just took my idea and started their own thing. Doing business in Saint Lucia, you just have to be a hard worker. It’s always a challenge to start something new but it pays off when you keep trying.