Drive and purpose are beautiful things! Janice Hall never thought she could be an entrepreneur, neither did she plan it, “but I did know that if I did, the business had to offer something unique and bespoke”.
It was while she was up late one night, scrolling through social media, that she saw a charcuterie board made with epoxy resin. Hall shared that she kept seeing the board – envisioning exactly how she wanted it to look — but could not find anyone to produce what she had in mind.
“I wanted one soooooo badly,” Hall insists. “So being the Virgo I am, I researched how to make something similar. Within three days, after seeing it on social media, I made my first piece.”
It was something only a few businesses were doing — a skill that could be taught, and it had the potential to put Jamaica on the world map of art and creativity in a different form. Hall’s single experimentation with epoxy resin and wood inspired the multiplication of projects — from functional living and dining art to one-of-a-kind household furnishings. Combining both sustainable elements that are also easily repaired, Milly-Zo Designs was born.
Mixing her newborn passion along with her maternal drive, Hall had a business registered, invested in equipment, and sourced all the raw materials locally, from the lumber to the epoxy, and was ready to pour her all into the art.
The business is named after her first-born – Milan Zoe Henny (who was three years old at the time) – because she knew she wanted to name it after “something that drives me and gives me purpose” and, essentially, was building “a legacy I could leave for my child”.
Resin is a two-part epoxy that hardens into a transparent, durable plastic and is becoming popular with professional artists and DIY craft enthusiasts. Millions of posts on social media platforms show resin being used in everything from ornaments to jewellery and acrylic paint pouring, but Milly-Zo Designs has created a collection of more functional pieces featuring charcuterie and cutting boards, tray and coaster sets, wine caddies, clocks, planter boxes and even tables. The designs are vibrant, incorporating a kaleidoscope of colours, using patterns of Jamaica’s natural landscape or inspired by whatever craft and culture Hall researched. With resin art, no pieces are truly identical.
She said, “The uniqueness in each wood and its type, the grain formation and density, the wood colour and variations, even the degradable pieces offer room for art. Epoxy is the best complement, offering a wide array in colour, and like wood, can be easily manipulated into any shape or form.”
If one catches Hall in action, it is likely that she may not be in her best outfit, but there is hardly any time to notice that. Certainly, other things will stand out quicker, like her nails — as she marks out a piece of lumber and places it on the table saw — manicured and painted in the brightest colour.
“It’s the one thing everyone almost always will ask about — my nails. For a business that is very labour intensive, I still have to find time to pamper myself,” Hall shared.
And labour intensive was probably an understatement. Each piece takes her three to five days, depending on the workload. Step one is to cut and prep the lumber; mould and pour the resin, which takes a couple [of] days to cure; plane, shape, and sand, which takes an entire day (sanding from 80 to 400 grams). Hall will oil and add the finishing touches once she is satisfied with the result, “and the satisfaction gained after creating is super”.
She added: “As it relates to the workload, I am not the businesswoman who tries to get all orders in. I aim to create, wow my clients and make them content. So I take on what I am able to manage while ensuring the quality of each piece is not compromised. So I have turned away clients to ensure both are maintained.” As every parent knows, it’s near impossible to get much done around the home with a little one, and she worked right up until the due date of her second child only because she wanted to make sure her clients were happy, she said.
SUSTAINABLE AND FUNCTIONAL
Milly-Zo Designs studio is currently located in a separate workshop at her home because the epoxy resin may cause irritation, and its fumes can be harmful if breathed in.
With her epoxy resin and wood art business, she is able to create in stages and still be active in her children’s lives. In a relatively short space of time, Hall has become a successful sustainable and functional art entrepreneur in her own right while her business continues to go from strength to strength.
“After my first piece, which was a blue mahogany tray, I shared a picture of it on Instagram the following day on my newly created page, ran an ad for US$10, and it was sold for $9,000 to my first customer on Cecilio Avenue in Kingston, and [I] received six orders. [It was then that] I knew this was a business. I took that first sale and treated myself to a fabulous dinner as a celebratory move. Then I went into research and planning mode. Each day, I improve my skills, which, by the way, were all self-taught. I was never formally educated, nor had I a clue about wood, carpentry, or epoxy. I’ve done all the pieces by myself and have recently sought assistance to finish the pieces,” Hall shared.
Since December 2019, she has made close to 400 sales.
Hall developed her own style to meet the challenges her clients give her and says that “once you profess drive and purpose, there really are no such things as roadblocks. You just get it done”.
“I’ve had a few failures, which opened doors for improvements or improvising. Now, I have a little over 200 clients, lots of those who are returning. I started a business from a personal goal that I needed to make extra funds and ended up with a business. I am extremely grateful to those that have supported and the clients who keep supporting,” Hall continued.