Fit, fashionable and forward-thinking

No one who truly knows Celia Collymore can deny that she is resilient, strong-willed, a forward thinker with a spirit to succeed, and an entrepreneur on her own terms. She exudes confidence. But even more so, this certified corporate wellness specialist, trainer, and assessor, has learned how to master the art of overcoming obstacles, while seeking to serve others as best as she can.

The former student of the Coleridge & Parry School who, grew up in the rural parish of St Lucy, may be best known as the face of Bajan Fusion, originally a brand which she birthed with tourism in mind, while living in New York. Over the years, she has managed to share Bajan Fusion with countless others, impacting the lives of many through her various fitness, wellness and other social programmes.

Celia has also overcome her hyperthyroidism challenges and Graves’ disease which she battled for over three years, from 2007. But like a phoenix, she has risen from the ashes, and appreciates her new lease on life.

Own her own business

As a teenager running around the villages of Checker Hall and Greenidges in St Lucy, Celia who also attended the St Lucy Primary School, wanted to become a teacher. But as she grew older, this youngest of her parents’ children, affirmed that one day she will own a business. That affirmation came to pass.

At Coleridge & Parry she got involved in various sports, including netball, track and field, and basketball. It was the latter that would take her places and propel her into getting two scholarships, enabling her to complete both her Bachelor’s and Master’s studies at Pace University in the United States of America (USA).

“It was around the age of 14 that I got more involved in basketball at Coleridge & Parry. As a member of the sports team, we also started practising with girls from the Alexandra School, and later became known as Northern Stars.

Celia recalled with a laugh, “We used to get beat a lot, but by 1998, we were playing basketball and winning. Northern Stars at the time was sponsored by Days Bookstore.”

Going on to the Barbados Community College (BCC) where, she was a member of the basketball team and also played at national level, Celia would often be told there was the possibility that she could one day be granted a scholarship.

As it turned out, she was the third of three people at the time from Northern Stars, to receive scholarships to study at Pace University. Hers came in August 1998.

The athlete went on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a specialty in accounting.

“I wanted to study hospitality management, however it was not offered as an option, so I was doing what my family said would be best for me.”

Upon graduation, she had the opportunity to work at Pace University as a graduate assistant and residence director, and went on to complete her master’s in public administration with a concentration in non-profit management.

Celia next worked for the Bank of New York Mellon

as a human resources administrator and recruiter from 2005 to 2011, before returning to Barbados in October 2011, when her work visa had expired.

“At the time I did not want to come back. I was in New York for 13 years. After my return home, I simply could not find a job, especially in human resources.”

What this daughter of the soil did have though, was a big idea to bring people from New York to Barbados for Crop Over.

“When I came home the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation was hosting a twoday summit. I registered for it, and shared my idea to bring people to the island.”

Celia was advised to write a proposal, which she named Bajan Fusion. The idea was to focus on fitness and selling the Barbados culture to those abroad.

Some local businesses were sold on the idea, and the budding entrepreneur achieved much needed sponsorship for the venture project which she shared with a partner who, was based in New York.

In June 2012, just under 12 people arrived in the island, and by August of that year, 20-plus visitors arrived under the Bajan Fusion brand, to celebrate Crop Over, and to sample the island’s tourism product.

Wellness brand

The plan was to repeat this each year, but realising that she needed further support and sponsorship, Celia turned to the Barbados Youth Business Trust in 2013. She told them about her brand, and was successfully matched with a mentor, in the person of Lynn Rollins. Having registered Bajan Fusion in 2012, the company soon metamorphosed into a wellness brand, with the slogan, “fusing fitness… empowering borderless communities.”

Today, Bajan Fusion is all about introducing locals to food, fun, fitness, wellness and overall Bajan experiences, which many locals don’t always get to experience.

“We are now essentially a fitness lifestyle event management service helping people to get fit for life through engaging events that fuse entertainment, education and excitement. We are still open to bringing persons to Barbados, however we continue to work with service providers as ideas are created.”

With a packed calendar of various weekly, monthly and annual events – be it hiking, archery, golfing, paddle boarding, horse-back riding, kayaking, flex and stretch, social wellness, glass bottom boat tours, camp outs, or whatever wellness-related idea Celia has – whether on land or at sea activities – she shares them with fellow Barbadians, and has successfully built up a clientele. Lifestyle workshops and team building, exercise classes, fitness parties, and wellness activities, are part of the service offerings.

“I enjoy the process of creating, then seeing what I have created come to life.”

Undoubtedly, Celia has laboured long and hard to get to where she is.

On March 16, during this International Women’s Month, she received the inaugural ‘Egalité… Knowing Your Worth’ Award from DaMica Services – a new boutique-type, solutions-driven service business, comprising of like-minded professional women who also seek to make a difference and give back to other women in society, for their tenacity and hard work. Celia was recognised for her work in the Marketplace.

Good to be rewarded

“I was in essence being told: “We see the work you are doing in empowering communities.” The truth is, I do it for God. He gives me the strength and the skill set. It’s good to be rewarded,” a humble Celia said.

But Celia also knows the importance of giving back. At least four non-profit organisations have benefited from her philanthropic causes.

“I still feel there is lots more to do,” said Celia who, since cheating death back in 2007, actually had the

desire to turn fitness and wellness into a career.

“Back then I felt I was given a new lease on life, and I knew that fitness was the way to help people better care for themselves. We must always make the right choices when it comes to our health. We must be more proactive.”

This “village girl with the city flair, and international personality”, who sits on the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Third Sector, Promotions and Awareness Workplace Wellness Sub-Committee, headed by Dr Dwayne Devonish, has another goal in mind. It is to write a book about the ten-plus years she has spent building her brand. Meanwhile, she wants to continue empowering people to take charge of their health, wellness and overall lifestyle. (CH)

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