Wa Yu ah Say? Local entrepreneur keeps dialect alive with new T-shirt line

Entrepreneur Nadia Browne (l)
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By Carlena Knight

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How best to preserve the nation’s unique culture has been an ongoing discussion in Antigua and Barbuda amid fears its cultural identity is dwindling.

Many have found ways to keep it alive through music, art and drama – but one local entrepreneur is bringing a new and creative approach through her T-shirt line, ‘Tiguan Teez’.

The business, which began a year ago in partnership with Dadli Designs, is the brainchild of 31-year-old Pares resident Nadia Browne and offers T-shirts and even onesies featuring popular old-time Antiguan slang.

“Funny story how it started. I’ve always loved studying the culture of a people and I’ve always wanted to be able to contribute to the discussions we have in Antigua about the preservation and celebration of our culture,” Browne told Observer.

“We always hear that the younger generation knows and cares very little about our traditional heritage. One night I thought about a game I used to play as a child and a particular line stuck in my head and I thought, “I’d wear that on a shirt”. I also have always loved funny graphic tees,” Browne said.

 “Then I got excited because I knew I had found my way, a fun way, a creative way, to make the ‘boring culture’ more appealing. Tiguan Teez has become more than just graphic T-shirts and baby onesies in the short space of a year.

“We offer Antiguans and lovers of Antiguan culture a unique expression of identity. Essentially, we offer customers a voice ‘cause by wearing our shirts we make the statement for you.”

Despite having been launched during the height of the Covid pandemic, the business is doing quite well as the demand for the product from overseas has increased. Browne, a teacher by profession, revealed that the firm is launching a website aimed at those in the diaspora.

“We’ve got big plans, which is why I don’t particularly like referring to Tiguan Teez as a small business. We’re a startup business but there’s nothing small about our mission,” she said.

“After the website is online, the next step of the plan is to have our own store in town. That way we’ll be able to cater to those of our customers who need to see and feel the product before they buy.”

The Antigua Girls’ High School alumna did however admit that it has been difficult at times balancing everyday life with a business.

“I’ve experienced everything from people trying to steal our designs to periods with absolutely no sales.

“Running the business solely via social media has been our biggest challenge though because where I am responsible for everything from creative ideas for designs to deliveries, plus a day job as a teacher, it’s difficult to maintain the kind of social media presence with the consistency that is needed,” she added.

Facing challenges and rising to the occasion is not new territory for Browne who in 2018 was named valedictorian at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Jamaica, a feat never before accomplished by an Antiguan at the college.

This drive is something she is now harnessing in the entrepreneurial field with her first business, which she says plays a significant role in the country. And she says she is determined to ensure the business thrives.

“The biggest takeaway from owning what I hope to be the first of many successful businesses, is that I have to know my ‘why’.

Cute onesies like these are also offered by Tiguan Teez

“And for me, my why is what refuses to allow me to give up or fail. Why Tiguan Teez? Because we are needed culturally; because we offer something that no one else is offering in the way we offer it – identity; because the story of who we are in the language that we own is a powerful tale that we should want to tell; and because Tiguan Teez has found one part of the answer to our ‘generation gap’ and ‘cultural erasure’ problem.

“To bring the old into the now…we have to take what already exists and do something new with it,” she said.

She is now encouraging others to take that step and chase after their goals.

“I would definitely advise others who are interested to start their own business but only if they know their why and are convicted by it.

“I would tell them to do it because what we need in this country is more people who have an idea about how to solve an existing problem in a creative way and actually execute it. Do it, and stop waiting on others to do it,” she added.

Tiguan Teez can be found on Instagram at tiguan_teez, on Facebook at Tiguan Teez or through WhatsApp at 775-3052.

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