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Jae-Ann and Vernon Willie: Bet You Never Imagined This

Racquel Simpson, Youthlink Writer

When you hear the acronym BYNIT, don't you dare think of putting it in the bin. Think, instead, of Bet You Never Imagined This. CEO/co-founder 24-year-old Jae-Ann Willie and financial analyst/co-founder Vernon Willie are aiming to change our perspectives of garbage by transforming commonly used items into unique cosmetics and household accessories.

This father-daughter duo sat down with Youthlink to talk about their two-year-old upcycling gift shop and work relationship.

Youthlink (YL): Whose brainchild was this?
Jae-Ann Willie (JW): Starting the company was my idea. I had just graduated from the University of Technology with my BSc in information and technology and wanted something creative to do other than a nine-to-five. I approached Daddy, as we both love art. Things blossomed into us making unique decorative stuff since then, and here we are two years later.

YL: Who came up with the name for the company and how?
Vernon Willie (VW): It was derived from something that I came up with. We were brainstorming names when I remembered the margarine 'I can't believe it's not butter'. That struck something for me in terms of uniqueness. We brainstormed some more until we arrived at Bet You Never Imagined This (BYNIT).

YL: What are some of the areas in which your company specialises?
VW: We make candle holders, drinking glasses, birdcages and dumbbells (exercising weights) from items in and around the home.

JW: Other main things that we make are hair accessories and unique jewellery holders which I have dubbed 'Rocks Rack'. There will be other things coming on stream soon.

YL: Does BYNIT have a central location?
JW: Currently, our central location is on social media. Persons can find us at: facebook.com/bynitjamaica, on Instagram @bet.you.never.imagined.this, and http://bynitja.wix.com/bynit. We can also be contacted at 555-5511.

YL: As an upcycling company, how do you collect and sanitise your materials before crafting them for sale?
VW: I make time to explore the outdoors to find useful materials. In addition to that, my wife is so supportive that she rarely throws away any used items before consulting with me, allowing me to stock up even more. Sanitising these items is a crucial aspect of our business. The items are washed with cleaning chemicals twice or more, if necessary. The plastic items are also treated in hot water, and the glass items soaked for a day or more in cleaning chemicals, depending on where we got them or how dirty they were.
JA: I make random stops by heaps, while driving, to pick up stuff I may come across. I also save most of my used items, and my friends tend to save their items for me as well, given that they are aware of BYNIT. The sanitization is very important and Daddy stated it all.

YL: How do you manage task specification to suit clients' needs and avoid clashes with each other, which stem from youth versus adult perception of art?
VW: The good thing about this is that I'm much younger than I look (lol). I'm very up to date and in touch with what young people like. This makes it easier to create things according to their needs. Outside of that, it's up to teamwork whereby I'd make a drinking glass and she would put the finishing textual crafts to it if we have such a request.
JW: I find that our clients vary in age group, due to us operating from two different locations based on our residence. This forms an automatic job specification as Daddy would get more masculine and mature requests and I'd get more requests from the youth market.

YL: What is the most sentimental item that you guys have made together?
(JW and VW) smiling: A birdcage!
JW: We made a birdcage together using compact discs (CDs) and the aluminum section of fan faces. I've dubbed it 'House of Fantasy' (it's just a play on the word fan, lol). This is so because we eventually entered this in a competition and we won. Looking back, it was confirmation; it assured us that what we've started out of mutual passion is appreciated and fascinates others. It gave us confidence to continue and expand.

YL: What's one significant lesson that you've learnt from each other as a result of this professional relationship?
JW: I am a humanitarian and, while he encourages my kindheartedness, my dad also teaches me that 'it takes cash to care'. He has instilled in me management qualities that help a lot in a financial sense.
VW: I've learnt about the importance of social media marketing from her and how to do this well. 

View photo highlights here: http://www.youthlinkjamaica.com/gallery/bet-you-never-imagined