A Conversation with the BERMEMES Team - Karriem Sharrief, Déjon Simons, Elizabeth Varão and Makeem “Haz” Bartley

by Kristen 5th September 2014

Two years in the running, BERMEMES - Bermuda's most popular satirical news company - is starting to sprout major wings.

 By way of humourous graphics & memes, they deliver online social commentary with the primary goal of promoting the Island in a way that Bermudians can relate to & non-Bermudians can learn from.

Check out what the famous four have to say about the importance of business connections on the Island, building a brand with zero funding &  watching the change that comes with inevitably crossing the journalism line.

BYP: What is the primary goal of BERMEMES?
Déjon: Simply put, it uses laughter to promote Bermuda in a way that Bermudians can related to and a way that others can learn from.
Haz: It's satire and social commentary.
BYP: Can you explain all of your roles?
Simons: I'm the Chief Executive Officer. With a small team though that means some days I’m the role of comedian as content creator and others I’m directive as CEO or project coordinator. I’ve definitely learned to be well-organized by wearing many different hats.
Sharrief: I’m the Web Developer, Marketing and Social Media Strategist.
Varão: I serve as the Business Development Director. Ultimately my role is to deal with all the administrative work. I also connect with other businesses to engage in cross-branding initiatives in order to build relationships.
Haz: I take on the role of Graphic Designer but we all do what we can here; wearing the hats that need to be worn. I design, create content, contribute ideas; I've even hosted BERMEMES events.
BYP: What has been the biggest change on the Island affecting this project?
Sharieff: Bermuda culture is extremely diverse and constantly evolving, so when there is any kind of social shift, we find that our focus has to pivot to address any issues that arise.
Varão: From a financial perspective, many of our concepts are having difficulty launching because of the economy and lack of potential investors that are willing to fund our ideas. We are pretty much doing everything out of our own pockets at the moment for zero profit.

For those who don't know, BERMEMES has essentially turned into a media outlet, where people can find commentary on the Island’s current events. With that responsibility, how do you draw the line between seriousness and comedy?

Simons: We definitely have come to understand that we are not just a trending entity anymore. There have been times where we’ve held internal meetings regarding certain social events or scandals just to decide whether we should put on the gloves and get in the ring.

Sharrief: Occasionally we'll create something, but choose not to run it publicly, because it's either too sensitive of a topic, was approached incorrectly, or because it's not necessarily something we think is in the best interest of the brand or any other involved parties.

Varão: As a satire brand, people look to us for enlightenment during difficult times. However there are certain subjects we try not to poke fun at. If they come up, we try to go more with the awareness route, such as our #BerRights campaign which focused on human rights.

Simons: All in all, I would say that we are crossing the line more and more. I love hitting those taboo topics we hear about on the street, but never in the paper or certain social circles. Sometimes you just got to break the rules for the things to change, for people to speak up or for truths to be exposed.

Haz: I say why separate them at all?— Seriousness and comedy, that is. Your favorite comedians are usually the ones who package the grim, hard-to-swallow truth in a way where everyone can laugh about it—that's BERMEMES.

BYP: Where do you see BERMEMES in 3 years from the perspective of your own role?

Sharrief: From the web development side, I see a site redesign, with a lot more interaction and community engagement features.

Varão: I envision BERMEMES being one of the top advertising media on the Island. We've also launched our subsidiary company BERMUNCHIES, which focuses on Bermudian cuisine and offers original recipes. I see BERMUNCHIES ultimately becoming a restaurant —one of my biggest dreams.

Haz: I definitely see a more tangible presence: hosting more events and releasing video sketches. I'm itching to release some merchandising. An animated short for Ace Boys is always in the back of my mind.

Bermemes Ace Boys

BYP: You seem comfortable in where you want this to go, what would you want Bermuda to do for you going forward?
Varão: More support in terms of financial investment. Without investment we will not be able to grow BERMEMES into what we envision.
Sharieff: Yeah, since we started this brand by ourselves, in a zero-resource environment, it was initially difficult to keep content going. We all have our specialties, but our main downfall has been due to our ideas being larger than the available funding. Right now we are trying to find a balance between our labour of love and the sheer economic reality of living on the Island.
Simons: I'd really like to work with the Bermuda Tourism Authority and have an opportunity to give insight of the talent within the younger blood on the Island.
Haz: We also need Bermuda to continue to show love and be willing to broaden their minds; and of course appreciate and share our content!
BYP: For those with startups or thinking about starting up, what advice can you give?
Sharieff: If you are passionate enough about something that you'd do it for free, compensation is essentially unavoidable. That being said, know when the appropriate time is to cut your losses.
Simons: Write everything down. Don't throw any ideas away.
Haz: Many startups don't live because individuals in a team drop out in the beginning. Aways put your brand/team before your personal gain. Communication is key.

Bermemes Vurds Vif Bermewdians

Complete these sentences with the first thing that comes to mind:


Unlike many Bermuda projects, this one strives to unify all types of Bermudians by showcasing the Island's uniqueness through a fusion of traditions. (Elizabeth Varão)

The reason why Bermuda entrepreneurs...are increasing is because there is an awakening of Bermudian pride. (Makeem “Haz” Bartley)

It's essentially turning into...
a collective voice and major social platform for islanders to speak about the issues of the hour. (Karriem Sharieff)

Out of experience, I'd strictly advise against...
jumping the gun. (Déjon Simons)

The only thing I can add...
is that we are at a wonderful crossroads of having a phenomenal community behind us and an insatiable hunger for expansion of our offerings. Seeking funding is a large goal moving forward. We'd love to work with well-established brands that will assist us in promoting Bermuda and its culture. (Karriem Sharrief)

BYP: Thanks so much for speaking with us. Keep up the good work!

Want more BERMEMES? Click the banner or follow their entertaining Twitter accounts here.


Posted by Kristen
5th September 2014 7:15 am.
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