Over the last six years, St. Lucia has seen many nightlife locales come and go. Some last for a few years, others for a few months.
Many St. Lucians have been searching for nighttime dining and entertainment spots that would make them feel at home and where they could be themselves, besides the normal Gros Islet Street Party. Usually, there is a dry spell in the calendar of events for the year, with the majority of parties happening around the months of June and July. In 2011, a local brand emerged on the scene, adding excitement to Saint Lucia’s night and party life like never before.
Meet Lamar Sifflet and Shameela Rambally, the faces behind the brand ‘Verve’ —the latest addition to St. Lucia’s nightlife landscape.
Lamar Sifflet is a past student of the St. Mary’s College Secondary School, who furthered his studies in finance, business and marketing in Oklahoma and Trinidad & Tobago. Also, a past student of Monroe College, he was recently honored as ‘Outstanding Alumni 2016’ by the college. Just like Lamar, Shameela Rambally holds a degree in business management, marketing and project management. She’s a former student of St. Joseph’s Covent Secondary School and the University of the Southern Caribbean in Trinidad.
Lamar and Shameela’s entrepreneurship journey began while students, where the two appeared on a reality TV show here in Saint Lucia with the hope of attaining funding for one of their business ideas. However, efforts proved futile as they were eliminated soon after making the top ten which they always light heartedly joked about.
In 2012, the pair launched a community bar called Jammerz, located in Corinth that soon expanded to Jammerz in the Gros Islet town. Soon after, eager for a fresh challenge, they took on the revamping of Happy Day Bar, a former hot spot in Rodney Bay. After infusing life into Rodney Bay nightlife once again, VERVE in Rodney Bay evolved and by extension the popular VERVE Events. VERVE can be characterized as a multi- pronged movement with the bar having its own unique vibe, driven by the amazing customers and staff as a bar and the events carrying its own unique signature.
We sat down with Lamar and Shameela for a candid chat about their journey as entrepreneurs, the ups and downs, and how they’ve become a catalyst for exciting changes in the local entertainment scene.
Dazzle: Where did it all begin?
Lamar: We first appeared on a TV show with an idea for cakes whilst at school. We made the top ten but were voted out first. We also started a painting company called Paint 4 U, however, that never got off the ground. That was motivation to start Jammerz. The experiences made us stronger individuals, learning from failures and enabling us to be poised to take risks.
In 2011, I was working at an establishment that dealt with bars in its daily operations. During that tenure, fearing complacency, I came up with an idea to open up a bar of my own for some extra income. In opening the bar, I realized that I loved that more than working my office job, although it was the stepping stone and foundation. It was a challenge, in fact it was very hard work and sleepless nights, but we loved the vibe and decided to open up another bar. That was the birth of the Jammerz brand.
Shameela: I started to work here in Saint Lucia and moved away for some time to work on a project in the Middle East. When that was over, I decided to move back home. This was admittedly, a hard transition from working overseas to working back home.
Dazzle: How did you guys get into business together?
Shameela: It was something natural. We both studied along the same lines; business and marketing. Lamar started off Jammerz whilst I was away and when I came back it happened naturally. I just joined the movement he started.
Dazzle: How do the two of you deal with conflict?
Shameela: It’s still a work in progress. Like everything, it took time for us to realise each other’s strong points and how our styles complement each other in the business field. We are both very strong-minded people. We both see things at times in different ways. In doing things repetitively we concluded that you’re good at this, I’m good at that, let’s just keep it that way. That didn’t happen overnight though!
Dazzle: On May 18, 2015 VERVE was dealt a setback when the property went up in flames. Tell us about that whole ordeal.
Lamar: We hit rock bottom and undoubtedly it took an emotional toll. In true nightmare form, we were in bed and got a call at 3:00 a.m saying everything is gone. We thought we had lost everything, but the heartening experience was when we looked up our messages, emails, on social media and saw the outpouring of support from family, team members, friends and strangers, this fueled us to keep going and not throw in the towel. It really echoed the sentiment and vision for VERVE that ‘VERVE is for everyone’ Vigor, Spirit & Enthusiasm. That’s what brought back the spirit to revamp Verve. If it wasn’t for the support of the people, we wouldn’t be here today!
Dazzle: It must have been really hard to hear a lot of negativity in relation to the cause of the fire. What are your views on this?
Shameela: We ignored it. We know the truth. To this day we are yet to know what the actual cause of the fire was. There are stories circulating in the air but it’s nothing that we want to indulge in. We believe that it has happened already, we’ve moved on and we have put things in place to ensure that this does not happen again.
Dazzle: VERVE Events was birthed years ago. How did the idea originate?
Shameela: We used to have a lot of private events on a small scale for example, the open events at Happy Day Bar, New Year’s parties and boat rides with friends, but our first major event was the 2012/2013 New Years’ Eve Memoire. After Memoire, we realized that we have a passion for organizing events and nothing
can replace creating a joyful and exciting atmosphere for everyone. We placed more and more energy into it and it really got our creative juices flowing. This paired with our excellent support team, Verve Events has taken a life of its own.
Lamar: VERVE is beyond us. The people make VERVE. It has become a family. That drove us to constantly want to make each event better. We know we have our support system and our people always wait for something exciting that needs to be delivered and executed at a high level.
Dazzle: Over the years Verve Events has added a number of events to the calendar. How do you come up with the ideas and concepts for each event?
Shameela: In talking to people, team discussions, sometimes ideas just pop up. Sometimes Lamar wakes up in the middle of the night with ideas and that sparks something even bigger, sometimes not realistic haha.
Lamar: It’s a bit of spontaneity and seeing things out there. We get vision and inspiration from people and events all over the map including here in St. Lucia.
Dazzle: Why do you think people gravitate towards your brand?
Lamar: Because it is relatable. We created an atmosphere where people want to come and be themselves. The team behind the brand always remains fun, accessible, authentic, humble, and always aim for the highest standards. We always try to emphasize the freedom of expression; no judgement zone is what you would find at our events. Hence, we always encourage people to push THEIR fashion to the limits at our events.
Dazzle: As a brand with a huge following, it may find it difficult to please everyone. How do you deal with different feedback?
Shameela: At the end of every event, that’s what we look out for. Tell us what is good. Tell is what is bad. We are very open to criticism because it’s not about us. We use the comments to make the next event better which drives us even more.
Dazzle: You guys have a strong social media presence and a vibrant team. How do you keep your team members motivated?
Lamar: Our team stems from the two of us, to our families, to our core team and our VERVE bar team. We keep everybody happy and we appreciate everyone on the team. They are the ones on the ground putting in work as well, some team members people don’t see at all because they prefer being behind the scenes.
We motivate our team through different challenges and we encourage those with individual brands as well, knowing that they have the collective support of everyone. Example — Wavemaker Photography, Dream Vision, Hershey’s the Entertainer, D’Funmachine, Dwane’s Electrical, Body B & OHG VLOG. We’re in it together. We take on challenges with all the events by making each one better. That is something to motivate them – to look forward to the next one because we try to do everything differently.
Dazzle: Being a great entrepreneur and a successful corporate entity requires corporate social responsibility. How has your group of companies done so?
Shameela: Two years ago, we started assisting a young man from Gros Islet. We teamed up with the Honourable Leonard ‘Spider’ Montoute to reward him financially, based on his stellar performance in the Common Entrance Examination. We keep in contact with his family regarding updates on his adjustment to secondary school life and he is. Proudly he is doing very well academically and athletically. We feature him on our pages and will be featuring him on our upcoming website. We want people to follow his story and how we continue to assist him in bettering himself. We hope to continue to grow our corporate social responsibility in the future.
Dazzle: When Lamar and Shameela aren’t handling business matters, what do you do in your down time?
Shameela: Sleep. Although we enjoy a good party every now and then!
Dazzle: What is your source of motivation?
Lamar: The internal drive I must say, I’m far from perfect. The drive to always become a better man and leader, improving in all areas personally and professionally, and helping others along the journey ranks up there as my top sources of motivation.
Dazzle: What are your plans for the future?
Lamar: We have some plans, but I don’t think it’s the right time to unveil them as it’s still premature. However, the short-term plan is to improve on what we are doing first before we venture out. We have some ideas, but we want to improve the art now to be better and raise our quality & standards in the future.
Shameela: From the events standpoint, there is a lot that we want to do. Moving forward, the production and the experience will be taken to a higher level than it is now.