“I am proof that you don’t have to be a product of your environment.”
By Hadassah Deleveaux (née Hall)
Toni Lewis grew up through Ross Corner, a stone’s throw away from a crack house. Although she no longer lives over the hill, she decided to plant her event planning and floral store in the heart of that community.
“I am proof that you don’t have to be a product of your environment,” said Toni.
Toni is the owner of Buds and Blossoms, located on Market Street, near Wulff Road.
“The struggle is real with Value Added Tax (VAT) and they changed the road, but I survive. My business has done work for clients Lyford Cay, for hotels and events expecting 5,000 guests,” said the businesswoman.
Exquisite creations by Buds and Blossoms
Toni has her take on why over the hill has gotten such a bad rap since its early development.
“There is a stigma attached now, but that wasn’t always there. It’s a different place. It has a bad rap because of the foreign element,” said the forthright woman.
Nevertheless, Toni continues to trudge ahead. She said, despite the criminal element that exists, she does not have a fear of having her business over the hill.
“Over the hill is a hub. People are passing all the time. It’s busy. I’ve never had a robbery. I just don’t have that fear,” she stated.
“Talent abounds in these communities. Sometimes your environment puts the hustle in you,” said Toni, who has owned Buds and Blossoms since 2011.
Toni remembers growing up in a single parent home, where she knew early that she would not be given dainties on a silver platter.
“My mom promised me a high school education, so I knew whatever I wanted, I had to work for it. I paid for myself through college. The day I graduated from St. Augustine’s College (high school), I got a job that very day and started work the day after. I’ve been working since then,” she noted.
“I got off at 5 pm, had to be to class at 6 pm and got out at 8 for plenty years. I lost friends from school along the way,” she recalled.
Today though, this determined woman has an Associate’s degree in Public Administration from the then College of The Bahamas (now University of The Bahamas), a Bachelor’s degree in Management from Nova Southeastern University – which had a presence in The Bahamas – and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA), also from Nova.
Meantime, life has thrown many challenges at Toni. She is a four-time cancer survivor, who was first diagnosed 10 years ago. Besides that, three people near to her heart have passed away from cancer, including her daughter Treazure, sister Tiffany and their mother.
Questioned as to how she survives, Toni said, “I really try to enjoy every day. I know nothing is promised. Here today. Gone today. I live my life to the fullest,” she said.
Toni Lewis (r) is shown here with friend, Felicia Archer, founder of the Fresh Fire Outreach Ministries International, who is helping her with the Tiffany Treazure Hope Foundation, in honour of Toni’s sister (Tiffany) and daughter (Treazure), who have passed away from cancer.