NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A Bahamian company that started with a few hand-made soaps and a cultural vision is going into expansion mode, moving into spacious manufacturing headquarters and expanding staff and its retail footprint thanks to a partnership with one of the premier investment firms in the region.
The transaction awarding 26 percent of My Ocean to Jamaican-based progressive investment company FirstRock Private Equity Limited was announced by Simplified Lending, the Bahamian firm that brokered the historic deal.
The equity position in a Bahamian company, which was approved by local regulatory authorities, was a first for the funding leader and an innovative capital-raiser for a local manufacturer-retailer with a growing footprint.
For the founder of My Ocean, Tanya Klonaris, FirstRock’s injection of capital is a game-changer, allowing her to grow the business and its culture she calls “effective altruism”.
“Well beyond just a capital injection, this investor partnership relationship comes with an expertise and dedication to propel My Ocean into an internationally-recognized brand,” said Klonaris, who believes the company she started on a shoestring and grew to a success story before COVID put her dreams on hold will become “a premier exporter of hand-made Bahamian elements and ingenuity”.
FirstRock Private Equity Managing Director Chris Yeung noted that the partnership aligns with the interests of both companies.
“The interest in My Ocean is in line with the company’s growth strategy,” he said.
“This acquisition is aligned with our strategy to be one of the leading private equity partners for small and medium-sized enterprises in the region.”
Simplified Lending founder & CEO Robert Pantry said the minority equity position by a regional player in The Bahamas is evidence of the critical nature of access to capital.
“My Ocean, with its beautifully hand-crafted rolled soaps that remind you of the sea, is one of so many companies that have a great product, good management and perseverance,” he said.
“The company was doing extremely well and, in 2019, looking forward to its best year ever.
“Then the pandemic hit, shut down tourism and severely impacted businesses like My Ocean.”
The financial infusion is allowing My Ocean to move into a new 11,000-square-foot headquarters east of Mackey Street off Shirley Street.
The company also intends to up its social media presence and expand retail locations beyond its current eight, which include Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA), Atlantis and Baha Mar. Among its newest locations is MSC’s private island destination, Ocean Cay.
Klonaris said she plans to include high-tech system automation and industrial machinery, and also add eight additional full-time staff with a two-year plan to build to a total of 42.
“Our ‘hand-made in the Bahamas’ international branding will also be closely associated with our new social media marketing intent on illuminating the Bahamian culture and the personnel being afforded opportunities for career advancements in a training-centric culture,” she said.
She added: “This is excluding the collaboration with local artists and other talent to reach new customers and even change the nature of our relationship with our clients.”
The values that inspire Klonaris’ designs include the health of the ocean, and altruistic corporate gift-giving will benefit environmental organization the Bahamas Reef Environmental Educational Foundation (BREEF).