A recent study shows that Belizeans are seriously overweight; in fact most women are obese. So an enterprising Belizean with assistance from the Youth Business Trust has made that statistic a business opportunity. A new store has been opened on Douglas Jones Street in Belize City to cater for plus size women. News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports.
Jose Sanchez, Reporting
The carnival road march may have been shorter but many of the participants were a little bigger this year. And it wasn’t the statistics, but the lack of clothing options for her friends that drove Ozzy Okwonkwo to open a store for her plus size friends.
Ozionma “Ozzy” Okwonkwo, Owner of Wazobia Fashions
Ozionma “Ozzy” Okwonkwo
“I’ve always wanted to open a business, to be able to hire people to help people because I know with this economy it is difficult for people to get jobs so I always wanted to make it possible for people to get jobs through me. Even though I find myself working in places, my dream is to hire people and this boutique—I decided to open this boutique because I have friends that are big girls that I know that it is very difficult for them to get clothes when they go to other boutiques like 4XL, 5XL and all those stuff. So I decided to do something for them. So the boutique includes clothing for small women and it also includes for big women. So that’s the reason why I decided to open Wazobia Fashion. If you wonder what Wazobia means; it means come, come, come in three different Nigerian languages: Wa, Zo and Bia. It all means come so I am inviting everyone to come over to Wazobia Fashion at #16 Douglas Jones Street and come and see what we have. We have things for everyone.”
Ozzy had help from the Youth Business Trust, which has assisted fifteen businesses in 2011 in developing their product.
Patrick Robison, Business Development Officer, Youth Business Trust
“Belizeans youth within eighteen to thirty-five, come to us with a business idea. We then take them to a training class to develop business idea and develop a business plan. They then present their business plan to our credit committee and if funded, we then distribute funds to assist them in getting their business off the ground. The unique thing that separates us from other entrepreneurial programs here in Belize is that we also provide them with mentorship. Belizean business people take time away from their busy schedules to meet with our entrepreneurs and assist them for two years to get their business up off the ground. Ozzie came to us and she had a real drive and she had a vision for doing business. She came up with a unique idea for offering clothes for everyone else.”
And according to Pan American Health Organization’s report called Belize Country Cooperation Strategy 2008-2011, everyone else is overweight. A section called Risk Factors says “70% was considered overweight or obese; women were more obese than men in all age groups.” So the statistics show that the population is not only larger, but wider. Mass participation in the Carnival Road March shows that plus size women are proud and want to be well represented in all social activities. So Ozzie’s store actually caters for the shape of a typical Belizean woman. In addition to training from the Youth Business Trust, the 2009 UB graduate credits her alma mater for preparing her for the business world.
Ozionma “Ozzy” Okwonkwo
“UB played a huge role because I took business management at UB and it helped me a lot because during my training session at Youth Business Trust it made things easier for me to catch on quick because I already had a background already in business and a way to do business. So it made it very easy for me to draft my business plan out very well. So I’m very grateful for the teaching I got form UB and Mister Kevin Geban I have to give a big shout out to you. He taught me human resource and he did a great job so I will never forget to use the things that he has taught me.”
Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez
Ozzy says that if you spend thirty dollars or more, you get a free pair of flip-flops.