“You have to make movements to survive, and I am providing an avenue for persons to move forward in their lives through my products.”
“After leaving high school, I found it hard to get a job. No one wanted to hire me, mainly because of my disability. It hurt, but I decided that I was going to make something of myself on my own terms, and in the process, I will help others like me,” he tells JIS News in a recent interview.
Shaquille learned to adapt to his environment, developing the ability to read lips and learning Jamaican Sign Language (JSL) to enable him to communicate with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community (Deaf/HH). He enrolled as a trainee of the HEART Trust/NTA Learning for Earning Activity Programme (LEAP) Centre in May 2015. In March 2016, Shaquille graduated after successfully completing the joint shoemaking programme and receiving his National Council on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET) Joint Certification.
With support from his maternal grandparents, who raised him in Vineyard town, Jamaica, he set out to prove others wrong about his perceived limitations and created Yadz Sandals. Yadz Sandals specialises in handcrafted products including sandals, shoes, bags and belts. Each of his products are made from genuine snake skin leather.
To get capital for his business, Shaquille approached the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) and was referred to the Jamaica Youth Business Trust (JYBT). The JYBT is a social development and transformation organisation that works to reduce unemployment among the nation’s youth through a variety of entrepreneurial ventures and by providing business counselling and microfinancing. Since the inception of the JYBT in November 2000, a total of 159 young entrepreneurs have received training, with 15 businesses receiving capital.
Products in the Yadz Sandals inventory are done to order and can be found in select gift shops across the island. Recently, a local company called DEAF CAN, a social enterprise of deaf persons brewing Jamaican coffee, has reached out to Shaquille to offer him a space in their stores for his products. The sandals and bags are currently his bestsellers. Over the next five years, Shaquille hopes that Yadz Sandals will be a leading brand of handcrafted products in the Caribbean, providing opportunities for the Deaf/HH persons.