New `Maco’ publication to hit bookstores soon By Linda Rutherford
Guyana Chronicle
July 4, 2004

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`What I am trying to do is promote intra-island trade so that we don’t have to go out of the Caribbean anymore to find these products. So my purpose for being here is to let the Guyanese manufacturers know that this magazine is coming out, and for us to come together and promote ourselves.’ Toute Bagai Managing Director, Neysha Soodeen

REMEMBER Toute Bagai? That ‘macocious’ little ‘Trini’ outfit that taught us to ‘maco’ with style and live a little vicariously when it launched its lifestyle magazine, ‘Maco Caribbean Living’ here a few short years ago?

Well! It’s up to its old tricks again (bearing in mind that to ‘maco’ is to peep, or more appropriately, mind other people’s business), enticing its readership to ‘maco’ what can be had, here in the Caribbean, in another tastefully put together little publication called … ‘Maco Caribbean Interiors Sourcebook’.

Said company Managing Director, Neysha Soodeen while here on a fact-finding mission earlier in the month: “What I am trying to do is promote intra-island trade so that we don’t have to go out of the Caribbean anymore to find these products. So my purpose for being here is to let the Guyanese manufacturers know that this magazine is coming out, and for us to come together and promote ourselves.”

The young publisher said that with the much-talked-about Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and free-trade practically on our doorsteps, it is now more important than ever that the Caribbean come together as a region and market itself as one bloc….the Caribbean bloc.

Buoyed by the success of the company’s flagship, ‘Maco Caribbean Living’, Soodeen said: “I really want everyone to know that ‘Maco’ has done fantastically well internationally; that we’re coming out with this new magazine; and that we want Guyana in there…everyone…from the small man to the big companies,” Soodeen said.

Noting that most of the big local firms are already on board, Soodeen said what she would like to do is work with those other entities who are interested, on their advertising, even if it means coming down here herself and helping them put them together.

“Ads have got to be looking real good, ‘cause the magazine is going to be full-colour glossy. When people flip through a magazine like this, the pictures really need to be nice; they need to be visually stunning for the readers to keep them interested,” she said.

The new glossy, which is due out in another three months or so, will comprise departments on antiques; home furnishing; soft furnishings; ornamental designs; patio furniture; and flooring among others.

“Every page is going to be a full-page ad. So someone in the Caribbean can look through this sourcebook and find everything for their home that’s made right here in the Caribbean,” Soodeen said.

Interestingly enough, it was coming to realise, from her travels throughout the region to find stuff for ‘Maco’, that more and more people are now going for furniture that look like it’s made in the Caribbean, but actually bought in Miami that really set her into seriously thinking about launching just such a publication.

This and the fact that she actually witnessed a ‘Trini’ couple pay ‘a leg and an arm’ for a ten-piece wicker patio set she recognised as having come from Guyana. This incident, she said, occurred last year while she was out window-shopping with a friend in Miami.

“I recognised the wicker set, and it’s made right here in Guyana. And that was a bit upsetting to me,” she said, “because I’m trying to promote our local manufacturers. So, if the Trinidad population knew what Guyana had to offer…. because you guys make some amazing products…..then they wouldn’t have to go all the way to Miami to source it.”

A criminologist by profession, Soodeen, who was barely 29 when she started the company, said her interest in publishing first peaked back in the late 90s when she came to realise that the only magazines available to Caribbean women were those like ‘Architectural Digest’ and ‘Bon Apetit’ which were North American in origin and as such were not truly reflective of the way we live in the Caribbean.

“Looking at homes in ‘Architectural Digest’ really doesn’t compare to our homes, because we live in the tropics,” she said.

Today, ‘Maco Caribbean Living’, which evolved from ‘Maco Caribbean Architecture’ and is one of five publications ‘Toute Bagai’ puts out, is said to be doing so well, it is now on the bookshelves of Barnes & Nobles, and Borders, two of the biggest bookstores in the US. They’re also in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and to a lesser extent, because of the language barrier, in South and Central America.

She said, however, that while ‘Maco’ has had measured success here, there’s still lots more that can be done, particularly where advertising is concerned.

“We have advertisers from right across the Caribbean…but the one thing that’s lacking is Guyana,” she lamented, adding that she’s not sure whether this was a reflection of the state of the economy, or just plain reluctance on the part of the local business community to spend money on advertising.

She also lamented the fact that Guyana, in spite of its wealth of resources (human, natural and otherwise), does not have a comprehensive business-oriented publication like the one her company does for the Trinidad and Tobago government, called ‘Business Trinidad & Tobago’, which it uses at trade shows to woo potential investors to come invest in Trinidad and Tobago.

“Guyana has so much potential,” she said, “but when you guys go to trade shows, you have nothing to show a potential investor….this is what we have to offer…these are your tax incentives…this is how easy it is to build your factory….these are our labour laws; you can be protected.”

She believes, however, that the situation is not irretrievable and claims to be currently speaking with the Guyana Office for Investment (GoInvest) about doing a similar publication for Guyana.

She also plans featuring more of Guyana in future editions of ‘Maco’. The magazine comes out every four months. The first time anything was ever done on Guyana was a few issues ago, where the focus was on Guyana as a destination.