Shelli-Rai James Straight From Yard

Ep. 22: Meet Shelli-Rai James the Creative Genius behind #StraightFromYard


The Interview Series returns with Shelli-Rai James of the brand Straight From Yard .  In this episode, Shelli-Rai and Kerry-Ann discuss Brand #Jamaica, Richard Branson & the Branson Center; Serial Entrepreneurship and defining success on your own terms.


Tell us more about What you do

I’m an advertising creative director 9-5. And that position allows me to keep abreast of all the latest marketing trends as well as to keep my creative skills sharp as we handle some of the largest brands in the region.

I’m also the owner of Straight From Yard, branding and distribution. We find authentic Jamaican products that need a little help in the branding arena. We rebrand them and find distribution channels for them…including Jamaican subscription boxes!

straight from yard gift box

Who or what has influenced/inspired you the most to choose this career or start this business?

I realized that there were many good Jamaican products that were unable to access certain markets because their packaging and branding were not up to scratch. And I realized there were many other products from other countries that were using the Jamaican brand and capitalizing on opportunities that our local products were missing out on. Additionally, I had more than a few friends overseas who longed for a real taste of home but had to settle for what was available to them in their areas.

What’s the best part about your career or business? and What’s been the most challenging part?

The best part is seeing/hearing the reactions of persons when they first encounter our products. They’re so surprised to find out that they’re all local! I’m glad I’m playing a part in helping to change the perception of Jamaican products and help people to understand that we’re capable of so much more. I also love to hear the excitement from people who get their subscription box and feel like a little piece of home was just delivered to their doorstep.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to work & life?

Right now, balancing it all is a challenge. My 9-5 is fairly demanding and trying to get a business up and running is a challenge in itself. Add in family and school…and it becomes an interesting recipe.

What tips, tricks or rules do you have that help you to carve out time for family life and personal time?

Right now, there are no rules. My husband and I don’t have kids yet so we’re using the opportunity to burn the candle at both ends. We take time out for each other every day, and we each have our ‘decompression hour’ when we get home in the evenings. I learnt my lesson the hard way not to overwork myself so now I understand the importance of taking time outs before I need them.

What is one technology tool or app you can’t do without?

I’d have to say my smartphone. Access to email and productivity apps like notepad and good to do are great to remind me of tasks and ideas that pop up all the time.

How do you manage technology distractions?

That’s not a problem for me now. I’m pretty disciplined when it comes to technology and social media.

[Tweet “Biggest lesson on success = you really have to define success in your own terms.”]

What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work, how do you unwind? Or what do you do for fun?

I love to read and travel. I haven’t traveled much in the last few years so I’m currently working on rectifying that.

How do you define success?

The freedom to spend my time doing what I define as the most productive/beneficial activities for me.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned regarding success and failure?

I’ve learned that you really have to define success in your own terms. Not anyone else’s – that is as simple as it sounds, a very difficult task for me. Failures are inevitable. A part of growth…you just have to fail fast and bounce back. And LEARN from them. All clichés but true.

[Tweet “Be persistent but flexible…keep at it until you’re satisfied you’ve done your best. ~Shelli-Rai”]

Share one of your personal habits that contributes to your success?

I’ve always been persistent but flexible. I think it’s important to learn that you always have to try a different angle if the one you’ve been trying isn’t working as you’ve expected. But keep at it until you’re satisfied that you’ve done your best.


Follow Straight From Yard on

straight from yard gift crate

Your Turn

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Connect with Kerry-Ann on Social Media:

Kerry-Ann on Twitter – @carryonkerry

Carry On Friends on Twitter & Instagram – @carryonfriends


Hello friends, welcome to another episode of The Carry on Friends Podcast, this is episode 22. I’m very excited. Thank you for listening. I’m excited about this episode because it is the return of the interview series and my guest for the interview series is Shelli-Rai James of the brand, Straight from Yard. That is the name of the brand and she is ‘straight from yard’ which is Jamaica. But before I get into that, there is a new look that was unveiled on the website which delayed this podcast release; there were some technical things that I need to update. And so for any bloggers listening, I had to update my theme – it was doing little weirdness, so I pushed back the release of this podcast so I could get all the technical stuff sorted out. I’m still working through that, but it’s good enough, it’s not perfect, it’s good enough so we are releasing it. And so I’m excited about the new look, tell me what you think about the new look. I have some pictures up there, some pictures that I did with my photo shoot with my friend and collaborator, Mikelah of Style & Vibes, big up Mikelah. So there’s a lot of pictures up there, pictures of me and as we go along, I’ll be unveiling my personal story and just other things. So I’m very excited about where the podcast is going.

The next thing I’m excited about is really this interview. I’m so excited to be back doing the interview series. I am excited for you to get to know Shelli-Rai. I had a great time talking to her. So Shelli-Rai as I said before is the founder and creative genius – and after my conversation with her, she’s a serial entrepreneur as well behind the brand, Straight from Yardwhich is beautifully created gift crates and she has subscription boxes of authentic Jamaican products by entrepreneurs there in Jamaica. And what I love about Shelli and what she’s doing withStraight from Yardis that she is exposing those products to a larger audience. And it kind of reminds me of what Target does during the holidays. I think they still do it, but what Target does, it goes and it finds local businesses that are – they are all over the US and they have a section in target, specific for these products that are from these other companies and I think that is what Amazon has recently launched. And it’s just a really great way to curate really great products and expose these brands to a larger audience and expose the audience to really great products. I’m so excited about this.

Now, I’m not sure where you are listening to us, on what platform, but we are on iTunes, we are on Stitcher Radio, we are in TuneIn Radio – we’re there. And if you are on android, you can also find us through your local – not local, but I have a link to any of the feeds that will use on android device. So we got you covered. So what I want you to do for me if you can, you can share this podcast with your friends; iTunes, android, whatever it is – Samsung, iTunes. We play peace and we cover all the bases. So you can check us out and I will have links for that in the show notes. Another amazing thing that I can’t believe I forgot to mention before I got through all of that, we have over 1500 downloads. So very exciting, yay! I’m hoping to get more than 2000 or 2000 by the end of the year and I might be on target for that. So let me just challenge myself to say 2500 downloads. I’ll give you an update on that. So let me write it down – 2500 downloads, getting a piece of paper to write that. So you guys keep me accountable, 2500 downloads by December. So let’s make it happen please. I also have links that you can review on iTunes and leave a rating. It’s really important for the podcast and the show because it makes it easier to be searched and it ranks better. So your feedback, your review will be helpful. So I won’t keep you waiting much longer, here is my interview with Shelli-Rai.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Shelli-Rai, thank you for being a part of The Carry on Friendspodcast. Welcome, how are you today?

Shelli-Rai James:I’m great Kerry. Thank you so much for having me. I’m looking forward to it.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:I’m excited. So I want you to tell us a little bit more about what you do forStraight from Yardand a little bit about yourself so we could get our audience comfortable with who you are, what your story is, and inspire the people.

Shelli-Rai James:Well okay, no pressure there. Okay well, I have a 9-to-5 in Jamaica; I’m in advertising, and the creative aspect of advertising. So that kind of fed into what I’m doing withStraight from Yardbecause it helps me to keep my creative skills sharp and abreast of all the marketing trends. And I think the two kind of go hand-in-hand although it comes with some challenges, but really advertising is one of my first loves. SoStraight from Yardis kind of building on that and the skill sets that I have actually learned or honed over the past 15 years in advertising. And so I guess it’s kind of like a natural progression of things. Should I say a little bit more about whatStraight from Yardis?

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Absolutely.

Shelli-Rai James:Okay. Well Straight from Yard, I’m sure you would know, but just for your listeners, it’s a branding and distribution company at its core. So what we do, is we find existing Jamaican products that might need a little bit of help on the rebranding side and distribute them internationally and locally. So if we find – for example, one of our main products is Cocoa Nibs that comes from a really great place, Mount Pleasant Farms in St. Thomas. And if we can a little bit later, I’ll tell you about their stories; this amazing couple. But what we do, is find their products, we get their products and we kind of rebrand them and repackage them a little bit and then distribute them in gift crates which is one of our signature items, corporate gift crates. And they are being eaten up by all of corporate Jamaica right now. They absolutely love them. And then we hope to find distribution channels for them elsewhere, internationally as well. So we do – I mentioned the gift crates, we also do wedding souvenirs, favors, branded tokens. So if corporate Jamaica is having a little event and they want little giveaways, then we will find ways to incorporate Jamaican items into something that is kind of customized for them and for that particular event and that’s another channel that we distribute through. And we also do subscription boxes – yeah, for the Jamaican diaspora especially. If you are away from home and you’re missing a little taste of Jamaica and you want a convenient delivery of your favorite products every month, then you can just go to and we will arrange your special customized package for you. So that’s just a little bit of what we do.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:That’s awesome and I should back up a little bit for our non-Caribbean listeners. “Yard” is a term of endearment that we refer to Jamaica. So everyone says, what is “yard”? So yard just means home and most often it refers to Jamaica. So I just wanted to clear that up. It’s not necessarily straight from the backyard or anywhere else. And I’m not being facetious, I literally have people ask me like what does “yard” means. So I just wanted to clarify that.

Shelli-Rai James:A couple times as well, but the funny thing is that “yard” is actually a term used for a lot of Caribbean islands. I mean Trinidadians refer for to their home as yard as well. So I mean it works, it does.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Good, great. So I’m so excited about this. So subscription box and the branding aspect for corporate events, that is something that I know is not necessarily new, but subscription boxes, that’s something that we see a lot here in the states. Is that something that is new in Jamaica? Are you carving out a niche for yourself? How is the reception of that? Do you find most of your customers – so let’s say you are in Kinston and you have someone in Montego Bay, I’m sure they’ll probably drive to Kinston, but do you find people locally trying to get the gift boxes outside of corporate events or is majority of your customers in the US or outside in the diaspora?

Shelli-Rai James:Well, the entire subscription box category is just beginning to take off in Jamaica. Like literally maybe, I think myself and one other company are doing subscription boxes right now. When I started, there was nobody doing it. I know it’s huge in the states and other places internationally, but Jamaica is kind of slow to pick up on e-commerce on a whole. So that’s why I just figured it’s something I need to jump into because I kept on hearing, especially college students saying that boy, they wish they could get their paradise plums or their Chippies Banana Chips – you know those types of things that you are really craving and you need to get them fresh because a lot of times, you probably can’t find your favorite brand wherever you are or they are out of stock this week or when you get them, they are not as fresh as you would like them to be or they don’t have your flavor. So that’s whereStraight from Yardreally kind of picked up the need to fill that gap and we started little custom packages for my friends to begin with and now we have more and more person picking up from different places. I have a friend in Norway who, she really misses spices – you know her seasonings, her Jamaican, her curry and those things. So you’d be surprised at the different things that people really, really miss.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:But it makes sense because whenever I come to Jamaica – I was telling a co-worker that yeah, we have an empty bag because we’re coming back with curry, the chicken seasoning – we’re coming back with everything.

Shelli-Rai James:Exactly.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:So really a great idea. Now, I just want to touch on something you mentioned before and one of the platforms for Carry on Friendsis helping the career professional or the Caribbean American entrepreneur in terms of providing tools and resources. And specifically I want to ask you about you getting into – we call it here, a side hustle because it’s something you are doing on the side on top of your regular 9-to-5. What led you to really want to be an entrepreneur for a lack of a better word or start a side hustle?

Shelli-Rai James:Well I have been an entrepreneur for quite a while. I mean I can think of even way back in school days, I used to write stories for persons. So if you wanted me to write a story about you, I would write the story about you and you would pay me five dollars.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Oh, I love it!

Shelli-Rai James:At UWI, I did so many little things. Like I remember we were sitting in a class and we got our reading list. And as soon as the class was over, we went straight to the bookstore, but there was only one copy of it left. And I’m like, but how is the entire class supposed to get access to this book if there is only one copy. They said they weren’t ordering another for maybe another couple months, they weren’t placing another order. So I went back to the class, took orders for persons who needed copies, went next door to the printery, had copies made and then resold those copies. I went to the class who graduated ahead of us, got them to sell me their copies and then resold those as well so that everybody in the class would have a copy of the book. So it really is just something I guess…

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Love the hustle.

Shelli-Rai James:And I just found ways to fill gaps. I never really considered myself an entrepreneur at the time, but just looking back, I realized there are so many little things that I had done that I guess I just had it in me.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Yes, yes. And like you said, you saw the need and you sought to fill the gap.

Shelli-Rai James:It is, it is. I just kind of fell into it. One summer, my boyfriend at the time wanted a PalmPilot – that was all the rage. He wanted a PalmPilot and there was no way to get them in Jamaica for a reasonable price. So a friend of mine told me about this little website called eBay (at the time nobody had heard of it) and I went on eBay and I found one for him, ordered it. A friend of mine who had someone coming down, brought it down and by the time we got it, it cost a fraction of what he would have paid for it out here. And then so many other people were like, “Oh that is so cool. You got one of those? I want one of those.” So before I even started thinking about ordering inventory or anything, I put a little ad in the paper saying that I was selling these PalmPilot and then persons started calling. I’m like, “No, I don’t have any at the moment, but I can take in order for you.” And that’s how another little business of mine started out and I ended up selling PalmPilots. Yeah, the hustle thing was kind of just there all this time. SoStraight from Yardis just like a manifestation of something that was meant to happen. But really, this particular project came out of the need to, I would say extend brand Jamaica’s reach.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Yes! Yes!

Shelli-Rai James:Really great product. We have so many really great entrepreneurs that I’m not linking with and it is just a matter of either they are not really understanding the importance of branding or don’t really have the money to access the graphic artists and those type of things and the consultancy. So that’s another gap I definitely – because I went to a wedding with my husband a few years back and we ended up getting these little wedding favors. They came from Boston Jerk, but it wasn’t from Jamaica’s Boston Jerk, it was from Massachusetts. Can you believe that?

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Massachusetts, okay.

Shelli-Rai James:They are using our brand to sell a Boston and I’m using air quotes, you can’t see me now, but “Boston Jerk Sauce”. So I’m tired of seeing these other brands masquerading as Jamaican products and capitalizing on the opportunities that we could have.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Yes. My blogger bae- ‘bae’ is the American term, but I joked the other day say, “Yeah, mi good up good up fren!” So Mikelah, she does Style & Vibes and she recently did a post on Tommy Hilfiger’s most recent collection. It was heavily influenced by Jamaican culture and we see this in mainstream whether it’s in the movies, whether it’s in music, whether it’s in fashion and really not capitalizing on brand and taking that into our own hands for lack of a better word. Like you said, it’s the understanding of e-commerce, the Internet, the digital marketing.

Shelli-Rai James:It is. Brand Jamaica could be huge.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Yes, yes. So I’m really excited that you are doing that and I can’t wait to hear about the other products that you are going to introduce us to. So remember, Straight from Yardand we’ll include a link in the show notes for you to check it out, subscribe, support. Support brand Jamaica and support Shelli-Rai. So what’s one thing you wish you knew before you started a business or this business or what are lessons that you’ve learned over your many stints to get you to this point to startStraight from Yard?

Shelli-Rai James:Okay, let me tell you why I don’t like that first question, “one thing I wish I knew” because there are so many things that you’re going to wish you knew, however, it’s worth it to just go in and learn it by doing it. And that is something I guess I can’t reinforce enough because I just – the journey itself has been so amazing just to get to this point because at first, I was always hemming and hawing, you know what if and what if and what if. And once I just decided to just do it, you know things just started evolving, things just started kind of unfolding and it’s just a great journey. Every day I get up and I’m not sure what is going to happen, I don’t know who I’m going to meet, but the fact is that, it just kinds of expands your mind and your confidence grows because now you learn that you can take on more things. And it’s – I don’t know how else to describe it, but it’s just so much fun. It’s so much fun and so thrilling.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:It is because what you realize is that what you thought was difficult maybe – and it doesn’t have to be like months ago, it could be literally weeks ago, you now realize it prepares you to climb the next step and it’s really great. And the other thing you touched on that I really like is, not everything we need to go back to school to learn it, some things you just have to do it in order to learn it. There is – in my 9-to-5 in the legal industry, what I’ve been doing for over 12 years, they are just starting to teach in law school. They are just starting to teach that in law school and it’s a heavily debated topic. So I say that sometimes you just have to do things. Going back to school is a great thing, but some things you just – school is not going to teach you everything that you need to know. So I really like that, that learning is doing it and it’s part of the journey. So that’s great advice.

Shelli-Rai James:It is because I’ve actually heard – and when you think about it, it’s really true, that what they teach you in school is what other persons have actually gone out and learn and then they are passing that back down to you.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:That’s a great thing.

Shelli-Rai James:Yeah, if you want to forge into new frontiers, you have to go out there and do it yourself. You go out there, you do it yourself and then afterwards, people are going to be learning it way after you. But I mean, it’s just an incredible journey once you go out there and you try because you can create your own path, you can. I have no idea whereStraight from Yardis going to go. I think I have an idea of the direction, but every day I’m just happy to learn that I’m progressing, making a difference.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:I just so love talking to you. I’m so excited because I’m like yes, you’re talking my language. Yes! Yes! Yes! I can’t explain it, it’s just like you, I saw my grandmother selling ice because not everybody had electricity at the time, so she sold ice. And she made what we call coolies which is basically mixing the drinks and putting it in the bag to freeze it and sell it – all of those things. Yes, drops – everything. She did it because she needed to supplement her income, but I don’t think it’s much different from now. You see the opportunity, she took advantage of it and she sold what she could. And we all have different things that are problems for lack of a better word to solve. And the other thing I want to talk about is how do you differentiate yourself. I mean for right now, it’s you and another brand that’s doing subscription services, but in terms of the corporate gifting, how do you differentiate yourself because I know very early, I would say oh someone else is doing it, I’m not going to do that, when I’ve learned that not everyone could service the market and you have to differentiate yourself because why I will buy from Shelli-Rai is different from why I would buy from someone else. So how do you differentiate yourself in the market and what advice would you give to someone who is thinking of starting a business or selling a product and they are concerned about the competition or how they are going to be different?

Shelli-Rai James:That’s a great question, but that’s an easy one to answer. For me, I am right now the only Jamaican gifting service.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Are you serious?

Shelli-Rai James:As in not just a gifting service in Jamaica, I am the only gifting service that uses only Jamaican items, the only one.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Oh my goodness.

Shelli-Rai James:So when I go to a corporate entity say for instance – I’m not going to call their name, so when I go to these companies and introduce myself as a Jamaican gifting service, they are like, “Oh my God! What took you so long?” Everybody has been waiting because we keep on getting these tacky gift baskets with all these imported products and it’s not exactly what we’re looking for. It doesn’t reflect our brand. It’s not who we are. It’s not who we want to support. So thank you so much for doing this and thank you so much for coming to us because this is exactly what we needed. And because of my background in marketing and advertising, I have an understanding of what it is they want. So if they want things customized, if they want things branded, if they want things engraved, if they want things done specifically for them, then it’s an easy thing for me to do because I already have that understanding on their side.

Another way of differentiating yourself I would say in any market is definitely through service. You have to deliver. You have to deliver. I’ve gotten a lot of complaints from persons saying that the person who they were with before didn’t understand customer service, they didn’t understand delivery times, deadlines – those things. So you know Jamaicans, we tend to be very laid-back. But again, coming from an advertising background, we are very deadline driven. So if you say you need to get something by Friday, it has to be done by Thursday. It must be done by Thursday. So if there are any hiccups, you can still make your deadlines so they appreciate that. And they can call and say listen, “I really need you to get something tomorrow, is that something you can do?” And that’s always those types of stops we try to pull out just to make everything happen so be proud that they can count on us.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Service, differentiate with service. And if your company is basically products, you are delivering on customer service, but what would your opinion be if you are delivering just services, consulting services on time, how would you deliver on service? Would that be through educating the client consistently? How would you say someone can differentiate themselves in the service area for a service based business?

Shelli-Rai James:Well in the service area, it’s still going to be about service. So it may not be service in terms of delivering a product, but it’s service in terms of delivering your information, it’s about communicating with your client and ensuring that you are on the same page, it’s still about meeting your deadlines. It’s also about as you mentioned, educating your clients to make sure that whatever it is that you understand, they have a better understanding because you have to be giving them more value. You have to always be delivering more value than the other person. So I think that’s just definitely three easy ways that you can differentiate yourself in any field.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Alright, so what advice would you have for anyone who is trying to start their own business?

Shelli-Rai James:Do it!

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Just do it.

Shelli-Rai James:Just do it. I’m actually with the Branson Center of Entrepreneurship.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Yay! I know that! My brother-in-law did that.

Shelli-Rai James:Yeah?

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Yeah, Brian Brown.

Shelli-Rai James:I know Brian.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Yay!

Shelli-Rai James:And it is an amazing initiative. And one thing Richard Branson is always saying, “Listen screw it, just do it!” That’s a famous saying of his. So that’s my advice to anybody out there, screw it, just do it! You will learn on the way down, just jump.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Yes, just do it. You know that’s one of the things because my brother-in-law was telling me that he went through the program and I said, “Oh my God, I love it!” And he’s like well yeah, they’re trying to get people to sign up. I’m like, they’re trying to get people to sign up? The minute that they opened up, if they were here, my goodness, they would have sold out. They would have like no room, we have no more room.

Shelli-Rai James:I don’t know – they have to turn back so many people. They have no problems trying to get people to sign up now, it’s extremely competitive, but it’s an amazing program. It’s an amazing program. Even if you don’t get selected to be one of the final cohort members, you still get free training by their online platform and it actually helps you to develop a  pitch deck which is what you need if you’re going to be looking for investments. But he definitely focuses you, so you have to sit down and think about the plan for your business and put a structure behind it. So at the end of that process, you’ll have a business plan, a business pitch deck. So even if you don’t get selected, you still have given something to your business to take the next step forward. But really, really amazing initiative, love it.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:I’m so excited about it. I love it, I love what they’re doing and I know Brian has been doing some great things and I’m just like yes! So yes I have another Branson Center cohort. I love it. I really like initiatives again that help or support up and coming entrepreneurs because really if – we need to create examples for a newer generation to see that this is possible. All the other avenues that are created, not only in terms of you and a for-profit, but also social entrepreneurism that is something that still exists. And I think there is volunteer tourism now, that’s another thing that is happening. So we really need to have as many resources to foster and groom entrepreneurs or seasoned business owners because again, we need to always prove and learn like you, what’s the newest tool, what’s the newest resource to help push my business forward. So yes, I’m loving it.

Shelli-Rai James:Yes and the process is always evolving, so you have to evolve with it.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Exactly and that is the key. When you are in business or when you’re blogging, you have a podcast – I told someone that I’m doing a pivot and they are like, you did a pivot last year. I’m like yeah because I grew from last year so I have to change the direction to reflect where I am now because I’m assuming my audience is growing too. So yeah, you have to do that, you have to take stock.

Shelli-Rai James:I have to share with you, during advertising week, we did latch on to a few outstanding quotes and this one is particularly not just relevant, but it forces you to re-examine where you are…

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Go-ahead man, go ahead.

Shelli-Rai James:“If you don’t like change, you’re going to hate irrelevance.” Yeah and when you stop and think about that, you’re like oh my God, it’s not just funny, it is so absolutely true. We are in an age now where everything is moving so quickly, that if you don’t force your change to keep on moving, force yourself to change and just keep on evolving, you’re going to get left behind quicker than you even realize it.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:And on top of that, one of my favorite books is How the World Sees Youand in our pre-recording chat, I spoke about how I see myself and how I see myself as one thing, but how other people say, “You know Kerry, you’re this, you’re that.” I’m like really. And one thing in that book, well there are a lot of things, but in the book she’s like you know, people have an attention span of three seconds and you have to fascinate them in three seconds or that’s it. And so if you aren’t evolving and if you aren’t showing a growth, a personal growth, then people don’t want to hear from you and like you said, you become irrelevant. You either change or become irrelevant. And I think in this age of – I think someone says we’re in an age where everyone just loves themselves; it’s selfies and it’s all about me, me, me. Being irrelevant is almost as being – having leprosy. No one wants to be irrelevant.

Shelli-Rai James:Exactly because if you don’t have anything of value to offer me, there are so many other places I can go and get it.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Exactly, exactly. Oh my God, I love that quote. I love it. I love it. Alright, so I’m going to get into some fun questions. I like to call it fun, but you know, yeah. Because then it gets away from the seriousness of the business and your career and everything. So what is your favorite book or TV show or vacation spot?

Shelli-Rai James:Oh my word. Wow, that’s a tough one. I can’t even tell you my favorite book. I’m at the point now where I’m on Blinkist, it’s an app that allows you to read a new book every single day in five minutes because I’m just going through them and it just gives you little nuggets and summaries of every single book…

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:No, you have to tell me that because I’m a book lover. Did I tell you that my husband…

Shelli-Rai James:Blinkist. Because I used to order books from Amazon every single month. I used to put aside like a quarter of my pay check and order books from Amazon every single month and pay the shipping all the way to Jamaica. And then I discovered the Kindle when Amazon launched the Kindle, I’m like oh my God, my prayers have been answered so I can save so much money, I can download books like in just one click. And now there is Blinkist. Like I said, everything is evolving so quickly. So yes, you need to check that out. It’s amazing.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:My husband told me don’t buy any more books until you finish reading all of these you bought. Because I just bought them and then I said okay, so I discovered – I use the Nook. And so with the Nook, I connect my library card and then I started downloading books. I mean I have so many books, I’m in a Caribbean book club. And they asked a question about which do you prefer, a physical book or the Nook and I said there is nothing that is going to ever replace the feel of the book in your hand and flipping through the pages. But you know what gets me more excited, knowing that like a whole library in my back like on my iPad or whatever you use. That gets me more excited because at any given time, if I feel bored, I don’t know when that happens, but I could always go and look in my Nook and just read anything. So yes Blinkist. That’s the app right?

Shelli-Rai James:My favorite TV show is I’m going to say Game of Thrones. I love Game of Thronesand Empire, but I really do – there are so many other shows that people keep on trying to get me to watch and they are like “Oh my God, you need to watch this. It’s so good.” And I’m like no, I’m going to limit all of my TV intake so it has to be amazing for me to dedicate my time to it. So yes definitely, Game of Thrones, that’s worth my time.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:I get that because the more TV shows you watch, the less time you have to manage your career and run a business.

Shelli-Rai James:Exactly and you get so into them. Once you start following them, you feel like you’ve invested so much that you can’t leave it behind. So no, I’m not going to invest into too many programs at all even though they are so amazing now.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:There are some really good shows out there. I’m into Blacklist.

Shelli-Rai James:Yes, I’ve heard of Blacklist. Even last night, somebody was trying to get me to watch Blacklistonline. I try to keep myself away from it. I heard it was really good.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:That’s why I stay away from Game of Thronesbecause I see everybody getting all in a tizzy. I’m like no, I don’t want it. I don’t want it, let it stay over there.

Shelli-Rai James:Game of Thronesis an emotional journey. It’s a roller coaster.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:I don’t want it. Leave it, I’ll stay with Blacklistand the other shows that I have. I’ll keep it. So yeah, I totally get it. Now, I’m going to ask you what superpower do you wish you had and why?

Shelli-Rai James:Ah boy. Why do you have to ask me these questions Kerry? Wow, that is a toughie. Superpower?

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Yes.

Shelli-Rai James:I would say that I know this is going to be a double edge sword, but I would like to be able to read people’s minds. I would. I’m one of those people, I do people watch and I like to kind of trying to figure out what’s going on, what’s your motivation. When you are in advertising especially, you’re trying to get to what the customer’s motivation is all about because a lot of times, they can’t articulate it to you, they can’t tell you why they like this or why they choose this because a lot of times they aren’t even aware of why this brand over another. So yes, I think mind reading is probably something I would be interested in if I was to pick one.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:There is a lot of synergy that we have because I’m a very observant person. Like one of my favorite Jamaican songs is Hopeton Lewis, he says “I get my kicks from watching people…”, like that’s me, going to and fro, like I’m so observant, like I look and you’re like, “Did you catch that?” And I’ll say, “Yeah man, I saw it. I remember the day you did that, you did that.” “I didn’t know you were paying attention.” I’m like, “Yeah man, I pay attention to a lot of things.” I know the double edge sword, because then you get what you need, but then you hear a whole bunch of other stuff that you really didn’t need.

Shelli-Rai James: Yeah, didn’t need to hear all that. But I mean, it’s interesting. I think your mind on a whole is interesting, psychology is fascinating. Neuromarketing is another interest of mine, so it’s just absolutely phenomenal when you think about what we’re capable of and what things influence us. So I mean that’s just intriguing to me.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Cool, so as we wrap up, what are you most excited about? What are you looking forward to? What’s next?

Shelli-Rai James:What’s next? Wow, I can’t even say, I can’t pinpoint one particular thing. I’m just looking forward to the journey. That’s what I can tell you. I love the fact that I have no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow. I love that. I love the fact that I can just get up knowing that I have to challenge myself or try something new or go somewhere different. So yeah, that’s essentially what I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Cool. And you know what? I can embrace that. I can embrace that because it’s so simple and sometimes you just really need to keep it simple. Yeah, I like that. I’m going to try that for a week and see how it works out. I’m serious. It’s just because a few weeks ago, I really felt like I burnt out and I just said you know what? Stop, no emails, nothing. Let me just chill and I think I did that. It was just like I’m just looking forward to tomorrow, whatever it is, I go to work, nothing else – I don’t want to say low expectations, but deal with anything as it comes. So yeah, I’m going to try that.

Shelli-Rai James:…dig in. You have to attack every single day and challenge yourself every single day. But I can’t say there is one particular thing that I’m looking forward to. I’m just looking forward to it all.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Cool. So any final words to our community of friends? Any advice? Anything you want impart?

Shelli-Rai James:Well, I think one of the questions you’d ask me’s answer on the Q&A was, it took me quite a while to actually pin it down – what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned regarding success and failure? And I’ve learned that you really do have to define success in your own terms or learn to define success in your own terms because I found out that’s extremely hard to do because there’s so much different versions of everybody else’s success out there, bombarding you every single day. It’s hard for you to just quiet all of that and tap into your own mind and figure out what it is that makes you tick or what it is that you are looking forward to or what would you consider success to look like. So that I think would be my advice anybody out there who is thinking of going forward and doing something. You have to learn to find out what your version of success looks like, just sit down and try and figure it out. It’s not – like you said, a lot of Caribbean moms and dads are thinking doctor, lawyer, engineer. If it is not really you, then don’t waste your time and do it because I’ve heard from so many doctors who regretted their choices. You’ve invested so much money and time into becoming a doctor and when you get there, you’re like boy, this is not really me, but it’s too late to turn back. That’s the rest of your life now.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Yeah, I think that is a really good thing to impart because as I said before in our prerecording conversation, it’s easy to look at what everybody else is doing, but you really have to look at what gives you joy at the end of the day, you know I’m satisfied. And in this very visual age where where everything is on Facebook, on Instagram and everyone is posting their food pictures or their pictures on some exotic trips, you kind of feel like maybe you are not doing so great. And I think that’s where there is a big disconnect and that’s where we are not being kind to ourselves because then we expect more from ourselves and at all times. We are really trying to do the best we can and the person’s whose picture is showing the exotic trip, there is a whole bunch of other stuff going on before they get that pretty picture. But I found a quote like months ago on Instagram that says, “Don’t judge your behind the scenes by someone else’s highlight reel because their pictures are just the highlights” and you don’t know what’s going on behind the scene. And that’s what we do, we are comparing ourselves to what someone packages and presents to us and that’s not always fair. So yeah, I really love that. Thank you for sharing that. And thank you for blazing the trail. I’m so excited. This is what gets me excited. I want to see brand Jamaica, brand Caribbean, Caribbean American entrepreneurs in the diaspora – wherever you are, just really create a positive impact locally for your local communities, in the region itself, the diaspora and the world because we have the potential. We don’t want it to stop at and we all love Bob, we all respect Bob, but we don’t want it to stop just there and we don’t want it to stop at Usain either. We love that they do that, but now that we have the spotlight, what else are we doing with the spotlights? Show them what else we are made of because I know there is a Shelli out there, I know there is a Brian, I know there is a Mikelah, I know there is so many other people doing great things and we just need to let them say “Yow, we deh yah!” We are here. So Shelli, thank you again for being on the show. It was a pleasure having you and I…

Shelli-Rai James:Thank you for having me.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Yes, yes. It’s just amazing. And there’s going to be a recap on the blog. There’s going to be a link to Straight from Yard and we’re just going to have a whole bunch of goodies and information as to how you can order and you could support Straight from Yardand the products coming out of Jamaica. Not products done here, but products straight from Jamaica supporting entrepreneurs there. And again…

Shelli-Rai James:Straight from Yard.

Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Straight from Yard. So thanks for listening.

Shelli-Rai James:Bye.


Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown is Founder & host of Carry On Friends one of the first podcasts dedicated to the Caribbean American Experience. She is leading the way for Caribbean Podcast as the founder of Breadfruit Media, the first Caribbean podcast production company; and founder of the Caribbean Podcast Directory a place to discover podcasts by people of Caribbean Heritage.