November Mom - Yhordanka Akwanza
Born in Cuba where she trained as a professional dancer, Yhordanka migrated to Jamaica in 2003 after marrying her husband and now business partner Ketao Akwanza. She taught herself to read, write and speak English as well as sales, computer and business skills. She is a do it yourself-er, who enjoys housework and taking care of her family. Yhordanka is the Co-Founder and COO of Eyeland Eyewear LTD. A leading eye care company in Jamaica with locations islandwide. After exploring the dance world in Jamaica during her first year on the island she decided to switch careers and dedicated herself entirely to her husband’s family business. She managed the first Eyeland Eyewear store and later managed their second location. In 2006, she focused on customer relations and purchases for the three new locations. In 2016 after a short-lived merger of many family optical stores, she became the COO of eight Eyeland Eyewear stores. Since then the company has grown to seventeen locations and a head office with over sixty employees. Yhordanka a jack of all trades and ensures that the team is well trained, the company is marketed, the stores are furnished with the best quality and the best styles in eyewear, and guaranteed customer service. She has a passion for style and sharing creative poses on Instagram. She also uses Instagram as a platform to bring awareness to up-and-coming entrepreneurs and their businesses as well as social and environmental issues. Her creative style has been published in international magazines, InStyle magazine, and National News Papers.
- What is your name? My name is Yhordanka Akwanza
- What is your age? I am 36 years old.
- Where do you live? I am now based in Kingston Jamaica but I also call Atlanta GA my home.
- Who is your family? My husband of 17 years, and my three boys, Zab - 7, Enzo - 6 and Tao - 2-month-old.
- What is your favorite color? It varies, I have never been married to one color. Right now, I am in love with any variation of yellow.
- What is your favorite food? Whole-wheat pasta with veggie marinara.
- Who is your favorite artist/band? The music of Bat for Lashes, Ceu and She Owl speak to me with every note. My favorite Latin artist is Shakira (in Spanish) and band Mana. From Jamaica Junior Gone Marley.
- What is your job besides being an amazing mother? I am the Co-Owner of Eyeland Eyewear, one of the leading eye care companies in Jamaica with 17 stores islandwide. I manage operations and marketing.
- Why did you decide to do the work you are doing now? Jamaica was in dire need of affordable eyewear. The privilege of bringing clear sight to those unable to afford it and their gratitude trumps it all. It was a no brainer. The eyewear industry is also very interesting, it mixes fashion and health care.
- What do you like to do in your free time? With a newborn, free time is scarce and a luxury. I try to do ‘me-time’ whenever free time arises. I get in my 25-minute workout or take a self-taken photo. I also really enjoy cooking.
- Have any quirks or weird habits? Yes, I must take a self-taken photo every day! I set up my tripod and camera, press the timer, run and strike a pose. I do this literally anywhere LOL. I also love hugging trees; I believe they are an endless source of energy. I hug a tree, close my eyes and imagine its power running through me. After, I feel energized. You should try it sometime.
- What inspires creativity and poses in your photos? I see social media as a very powerful tool to influence people in a positive way. If I can get over 600 eyeballs on a photo, why waste it with a simple boring pose and deconstructive caption when I can express positivity, enlighten, and express my creativity of movement. I was a professional dancer before dedicating myself to the optical world. My poses are the expression of the dancer that always lives in me.
- How do you typically start a regular day? Breastfeeding baby Tao so I can get some hands-free time to prep lunch for Zab and Enzo to take to school. While they get ready, I go over unanswered Whatsapp messages from my managers and supervisors and update my to-do list for the day. After that, my husband drives us to drop off the boys at school. When we get back home, we hold a breakfast meeting. My husband is also my CEO ;)
- Where’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled from home? To Ghana, Africa. This trip was life-changing. I have also traveled to China, it was a very eye-opening trip.
- How different was your life exactly one year ago? I would say I was in more of a routine, well-balanced and more self-centered. A newborn transforms your life hahaha.
- What is your ideal way to spend a weekend? By a beach house with my family or at our small cabin in the Mountains or even watching movies all day with my kids is the perfect weekend for me. I am a sucker for animated films.
- What is the strangest/most surprising thing that ever happened to you? My kids, every day ;)
- What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their life? Travel outside of your country, and by travel, I mean to go to another land and truly experience the local culture and people. Don’t just go on a cruise for a couple of days or to an all-inclusive resort where they feed you a curated version of the country. Travel will feed your soul and spirit.
- What kind of traditions are you passing on to your kids? Our family is mixed. The strongest influence we have is the Chinese from my husband and the Cuban from me. We make sure that they keep speaking Spanish and we keep Chinese cuisine as part of our diet and they always take part in the cooking.
- Do you abide by a specific dietary law? If yes, what inspired it? (vegan/vegetarian/pescatarian/keto) Our family became a vegetarian about 6months ago. We went in search of better health and found a way to it through a change in the way we eat. We also were influenced by documentaries such as ‘What the Health’ and ‘Forks Over Knives’
- If you could change one thing about this world, what would it be? Our disposable consumption habits and the way we have allowed big corporations to manipulate our best way of living for their monetary benefit
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