Interviews

Jamaicans in Business: Sandy Isaacs, Break Away Moments

Written by Xavier Murphy

Born in Kingston, Jamaica and having attended boarding school at Servite Convent of the Assumption in Brown’s Town and St. Andrew’s High School in Kingston, Sandy Isaacs graduated from Queens College, City University of New York in 1981 with a degree in Early Childhood Education and was initiated into Kappa Delta Pi, National Honour Society in Education. She worked as an elementary school teacher for 25 years, most of which was with Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida. Sandy retired from teaching in 2006 to pursue fully her own business,Break Away Moments

. She is the mother of 5 children.   Sandy has been active in her local community as the leader of the ‘Confidence In Crisis’ Women’s Group which she started with the help of her church, the Coordinator of a Mission Trip to benefit Arthur Wint Basic School in Lucea, Hanover in 2007 and has been the recipient of numerous recogniton, leadership and community service oriented awards which also now include the JA/USA Chamber of Commerce’s recognition of Jamaica’s 50 Outstanding Jamaican Business Owners and the Jamaica 50 Honorees recognition by Jamaica’s Hon. Consul General Sandra Grant-Griffiths in 2012. Her desire is to continue to wholeheartedly make an impact on her community through her various endeavors.

Break Away Moments creates themed specialty events which consistently reflect a unique, classy Jamaican/Caribbean island flair. All events incorporate and reflect the interest of promoting Jamaican/Caribbean culture, travel and tourism. Attendees will feel and see the warmth of the islands and the wonderful Caribbean portrayed in each Break Away Moments event. Break Away Moments also hosts a brief ‘Break Away Moments Corner’ weekly radio segment, incorporates promotion of the ‘Forever Paradise’ Caribbean fashion line and too, lends support to charitable interests especially, projects focused on affecting young children in need.
 

Q: Are you a business person or entrepreneur or both?
I like to consider myself an Entrepreneur especially, because of the fact that when I started hosting Break Away Moments events back in 2006 it was clearly evident and also readily expressed by all who came out to experience these events, that the special classy style and flair exhibited which also incorporated reflections of the Caribbean and cultural emphasis was being presented in a uniquely different manner. It has consistently remained a core element of all Break Away Moments events, no matter the theme and appeal to diverse audiences as well. The focus intertwined within the events to use the forum to also entice folks to travel to Jamaica and the Caribbean region was also considered by many to be highly different with the videos on Jamaica ongoing while one is dancing for example…One of my favorite events to date has been ‘Wine, Cheese & Reggae, Please!’ which was the debut themed event.. One of the guests who attended said he came specifically to see who had been finally responsible for being able to get ‘reggae’ and ‘steel drum music’ to be incorporated at a really upscale Golf and Country Club which had never had previously ever hosted anything of the kind.  That’s the difference that Break Away Moments set out to and also continues striving to deliver.
 
Q: What was your profession before you started your business?
I was a Teacher…Kindergarten no less…loved teaching the ‘little ones’ but since I was always ‘theming’ my classroom every month I guess it was somewhat in me to be doing events from way back then :)  I actually was a teacher for 25 years prior to creating Break Away Moments
 
Q: Who or what motivated you to go into business?
Life’s a special journey and so a change in my marital situation with separation made me look to supplementing my teacher’s salary in an effort to singly support my 5 children by hosting themed events and creating those ‘unique event atmospheres’ which Break Away Moments became known for in my community. Prior to the break up of my marriage I literally had no business aspirations whatsoever…hard to believe especially since I am so very passionate about what I do each day in light of the effort and how very much it has evolved into so much more in general over time as well. Break Away Moments was derived from marital separation however, the idea was to take one’s ‘breakaway moments’ by visiting the luxurious and beautiful Caribbean region…i.e. the wonderful ‘vacation getaways’ or breakaway to get wed in Jamaica and the Caribbean
 
Q:  Did you face any challenges in mobilizing your capital?
What captial??? (laugh)
Truth is I didn’t really try to even gain capital from any particular sources or resources at the time.  I just set out to host events and use what I had available to make it happen (which was actually very little at the time…my teacher’s salary basically) So, it was tough…remember the ‘supplement’ idea to the salary that I previously mentioned? 🙂
 
Q: Tell us about your business?
It’s mainly about hosting ‘Themed Specialty Events With A Unique Difference’ with many other aspects also spawned from it as well such as ‘Break Away Moments’ Caribbean Destinations Magazine, the newest one about to debut called ‘Jamaicans In Business’ Magazine, the ‘Forever Paradise’ Resort and Vacation Wear fashion designed by Jamaican Designer Yola Gray of House of Flayva (The name is based on the fact that I consider the Caribbean a ‘Forever Paradise’), the Break Away Moments Radio Show and sometimes Speaking Engagements about Break Away Moments such as FAMU’s Journalism Colloquum which I have spoken at in Tallahassee.
 
Q: Many businesses have a moment they call their “big break”, whether it be a news story, a big contract etc. Have you or your business had that “”big break ” yet?
I think so…I have felt it at different times for different reasons though.  For example, when Break Away Moments had debuted the first event, there was a feature write-up in 3 different major local newspapers and it was pretty exciting being already enthused about the event as it was unfolding as well as to be ‘interviewed’ officially for the first time.  Also, less than a year into the business, I was featured in the Orlando Business Journal as a rising Entrepreneur and received a huge plaque and my head shot was on the front page…when the reporter came to my home office and did an interview that was also for me a big moment…going on radio was also an ‘awakening’ and when I was asked to syndicate the ‘Break Away Moments Ultimate Radio Travel Experience Show’ (which I did opt not to do all the same, but still had liked being asked to do so) that was a highlight to being on the air. Also, when I met and exceeded the goal with the 2nd issue of Break Away Mioments Caribbean Destinations Magazine of 25,000 print copies, that was a HUGE thing for me..I got the advertising interest to make it happen and felt suuuuppppper good! My original goal was for 10,000 copies…Copies were in all the Panera Bread and Walgreens locations throughout Seminole County targeted a high clientelle in the area. That was very pleasing!
 
 
Q: Currently what is our biggest business challenge?
Maintaining the level of interest and keeping up with the many things which are spawned from the various aligned interests.  It’s also sometimes really difficult to choose between addressing ‘business or community commitments’ one often has and that of family relationships, my personal relationship with Dave and now especially with 3 of my children being married and my having become a grandmother 3 years ago and a newer grandchild still in the making it becomes a greater challenge to juggle it all….but, I can tell you I think that this is all going to be toning down more and more as I am looking forward to simply ‘being still’ more to focus too on my ever growing love of Christ and becoming more grounded spiritually in my walk with Him. Some days, the ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ just needs to be quelled to focus differently…real balance is the key, I know!
 
 
Q: Other than the money what types of satisfaction do you get out of your work?
I simply have a true passion for this all!!!
That passion remains a driving force however, as I mentioned just now, there too needs to be balance and sometimes it’s difficult for me to slow it down ‘just because’ …I do love what I do.  I’m technically a retired teacher (I opted for early retirement when the interest in the business started to supercede my interest in staying directly in the classroom) and so, at 55yrs and heading soon toward being 56yrs I’m rounding a different corner about now. Time will tell.

Q: What motivates you on a day to day basis?
Just loving what I do every day and the enthusiasm which I still have for it all
 
Q: How do you motivate people that aren’t close to you and enable them to see your vision?
I teach…(ha, ha) the teacher is still inside of me so I guess I just never give up…once a teacher, always a teacher!  It’s sharing the love of it all too….I do very much feel that I see things so clearly as to what is really good for us as a community so I keep imparting the necessary information.  One might have to try different strategies but I believe in persevering and also, I think that those who do embrace the vision help to also propel it along.  Relationships matter…
 
Q: How do you remind yourself of what’s important?
Being spritually grounded is important and I recognize that more and more each day so that is a definite continuing work daily.  Also, in light of the focus on what is happening around us everyday with the growing needs or even failures in our communities one cannot help but become cognizant of what is truly important…Christ and His love and ours for Him has GOT to be the center of our lives!
 
Q. What time do you wake up and do you have a routine?
I wake up at all different hours of the night…sometimes I wake up in the very wee hours of the morning after typically having gone to bed super late to begin with and then stay up until time for bed again that night or I sleep and wake, work and sleep and wake again…there’s truly no method to this ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ of mine that’s awakened’ it seems. See, I call it the ‘messages in the wind’ that wake me up with all kinds of creative ideas that burn inside and which I want to share so I get up and write them down or start to draft them at all hours of the morning, noon or night…literally!
 
Did you say ‘Routine’?…What routine???   There’s truly none for me at this stage. I had a real routine mainly when my children were younger and life for me was solely about teaching Kindergarteners and being involved as a Mom with promoting an academic focus with my children and too supporting the interests of the numerous extra-curricular activities such as tennis, AAU Basketball for two of my children, dance, gymnastics, swiimming, shopping, team Mom stuff, NJROTC, School Advisory Committees and the like. My children were all super involved in these things and I ran around with them as most Moms do .  Difference between then and now is that I wasn’t an ‘Entrepreneur’ so it all seemed so easy and also wonderful!  With a husband and these 5 very active children who exceled at what they did and given those commitments, yes,  I had a definite routine. Now it’s very different…I enjoy pretty much just simply ‘doing my own thing’ and also ‘following the beat of my own drummer’ though I work really, really hard at what I do and the numerous things in which I am too involved all the same.  Despite turning down many varied opportunities for which I am often approached, I am highly involved in a variety of aspects which have been created directly, and also indirectly, from branches which have grown out of the hosting of events where I have gained all kinds of other relationships.  Also add to that being on radio which fostered a different realm of Break Away Moments, the addition of the ‘Forever Paradise’ resortwear fashion line, the ‘Break Away Moments Caribbean Destinations’ magazine, Mission Trips, Outreach Programs in which I’ve gotten involved and a lot more where there’s a host of community interests and needs which I try to aid addressing to varying extents and it all demonstrates that there are things spawned from the main emphasis when one becomes an Entrepreneur.
 
Q. Do you have any hobbies?
Other than talking and socializing with others? (laugh)
 I love to dance so I’ dance around to music at home, enjoy other peoples events and love on my family.  I also am a big scrabble enthusiast and I enjoy watching movies (when I don’t actually fall asleep), I LOVE going too to Jazz Concerts and for sure, DINING OUT!  I love eating out in wonderful places and having a variety of ethnic cuisines. But, there are times that I simply enjoy doing absolutely nothing but reflecting and going into quiet inspirational modes!  ‘Chilling out’ is just so good when one takes the time to do it!

Q. If the economy crashed hard and there was no more room for you in the business sector, what would you do with yourself?
Just help to probably look after my grandchildren and spend the time more fully enjoying them (the one I currently have “Journey” who is known to many as ‘My Journey Joy’ and the one that’s coming, of course).  I really know that I would love doing this as I did back off tremendously on creating events and getting involved in projects when Journey was born and I looked after her fulltime as I didn’t want her going to DayCare at a tender age….As one friend shared once ‘Journey is the one person that can stop Break Away Moments fully in its tracks’.  I used to love rearing my children when they were younger and I feel the same about grandchildren too!  In fact, there is an upcoming event in Dec. which will give honour to my granddaughter Journey…It’s themed ‘Journey of Joy’ An Evening of Praise and Inspiration where 50% of the net proceeds will go to the Championship Fund which I have established along with Dave via Food For The Poor organization to help build a low cost home for a family with young children in Jamaica.
 
Q: Seven day, six night, all expense paid, my vacation destination is…
Hands up, down and all around it would be JAMAICA!!!
Seconded only by an ‘ALL BUTLER CONCEPT’ such as what Sandals has in the Bahamas at their Emerald Bay Resort for which I might be significantly torn (laugh)  Maybe I should suggest that they do the same in Jamaica to avoid that possible conflict…what do you think?…they might take it under advisement??
 
Q: My favorite guilty pleasure is…
Chinese Food and shrimp, shrimp and more shrimp along with chocolates!
Only thing is that I really don’t even have that ‘guilt’ about it though I maybe should…maybe that’s the shame in it because, I am a relentless diner of these things without a care in the world about it.
 
Q: My favorite Jamaican food is
…Any Jamaican Soup, ackee and saltfish with all the provisions included (yam, banana, boiled dumplings), fried plantains
 
Q: My favorite Jamaican restaurant is
…Tough one as we have some good ones here in Orlando…Can’t choose one so would have to be all three of my top ones which include Taste of Jamaica, Caribbean Sunshine Bakery, Negrils Jamaica Restaurant
 
Q: What advice would you give someone who wants to achieve the same level of success you have?
Work hard and hold on to a high and passionate spirit along with lots of perseverance…but also find time to enjoy family and special relationships which also give one the joy in life as well which makes it all the more meaningful
 
Thanks for the interview. Do you have any closing thoughts for our readers?
Of course, everyone who knows me also knows I’m not short on words to express myself and always have an ‘extra something’ to say..hmmmm…I’ve saved the best for last.  As my Mother used to often sing ‘Smile a while and give your face a rest, raise your hands to the one you love the best, then shake hands with those around and smile, smile, smile’
Life’s too short so live it well and always keep your smile on! 
Share your joy with others and keep the ‘SON’ SHINE’ (the Lord) in your life!…

About the author

Xavier Murphy