Twenty-year-old entrepreneur- a student at the Northern Caribbean University, Maria McFarlane, proudly holds branded packages from her online luxury stores outside her Manchester home.
Photo Credit: Contributed
By: Micaiah Morgan
From a background of constant financial struggles, now aspiring media practitioner and entrepreneur Maria McFarlane is embracing the flourish of her top-notch businesses: Ria Tia Jewels and Ria Tia Essentials- two Online Luxury Stores in Jamaica.
But long before her current successes, McFarlane experienced a challenging childhood after being raised in a poor and toxic household in Richmond, Manchester. During her early high school years at MayDay High School, both her parents lost their jobs, which only posed a greater challenge for McFarlane.
“I had to walk to and from school every day. I was on a feeding program throughout high school and at the beginning of my high school years, I was laughed at by students,” she said.
To help in her financial state, McFarlane had to search for a job after completing high school, in an effort to assist her family with the bills, provision of food and the furtherance of her studies.
“I worked as a cashier for the entire summer after high school, while other children were at home enjoying their break. I had to work and save what I could to be able to attend one year of 6th form at the Manchester High School,” she said.
Even though McFarlane worked tirelessly during the summer, she also had to obtain a job in 6th form, working on weekends, to send herself to school the upcoming week. Frustrated by the jeering and the constant financial struggles, McFarlane decided that she must make a change in her life in order to have the future she had always envisioned for herself.
“As the saying goes, I wasn’t born with a gold spoon in my mouth,” she said jokingly. I grew up in a family of hustlers. The struggles motivated me to try to do something for myself, to help with school and to help my parents,” she added.
Her determination to become successful only intensified when she was enrolled at Northern Caribbean University, eventually pushing her to start her business. It was just last year, February 29, 2020, when McFarlane launched Ria Tia Jewels on Instagram.
“The name Ria Tia is a part of my first and middle name. The business has continually featured a variety of high-quality and affordable products since its initiation. Our main focus is creating high-quality stainless steel customized jewellery and other accessories,” McFarlane said proudly.
Though last year was seen as a curse to some due to the emergence of Covid-19, it was a blessing and the start of new beginnings for McFarlane.
“I registered my business and opened a business account which has secured my reputation as a legitimate business. I recently hit six thousand followers in just one year of operation and for me, that is a big win. I have moved from 1 order per month to several orders a week,” She exclaimed.
Also, the young entrepreneur noted that she has opened another business to strengthen her financial status while attending university.
“I recently launched a new online case business: Ria Tia Essentials, where I sell a little bit of everything like clothes, slippers, bags and more,” she shared.
Though McFarlane is proud of her accomplishments, the third-year NCU student said that it is not easy balancing school and work at the same time.
“It is very hard because both of them are time-consuming. However, I try my best to make time to deal with my customers and do deliveries when I do not have classes,” she noted.
McFarlane said she makes a deliberate effort to balance the two by dedicating long nights to complete her school assignments and studies to maintain a GPA above 3.7. Despite the challenge to juggle the two, McFarlane believes this struggle will aid in her future success.
“My business motivates me to work even harder because there is so much more I can achieve” she stated. “I want to share my story to inspire and influence others positively so that they can know that there is a way out even if they don’t see it right now” MacFarlane added.
When asked where she sees herself in the future, McFarlane says confidently that she will be in a better position than today.
“Five years from now, I want to be working in the media industry while still operating my business. I also see myself operating different stores in different parts of Jamaica and being able to employ young persons and help them to become entrepreneurs.”