Haiti: President Martelly and U.S. Ambassador See Impact of Investing in Small Businesses

By Nadia Cherrouk, Country Director, PADF Haiti and Chief of Party, LEAD project

The factory floor of Le Jourdain Atelier located in the city of Cap-Haïtian in Haiti’s northern coast was the perfect setting to host a high-level delegation from Haiti and the U.S. to showcase the impact that a small and medium business investment project funded by USAID and implemented by PADF is having on the local economy.

The delegation, which included Haitian President Michel Martelly, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Pamela White, U.S. Special Coordinator to Haiti Thomas Adams, government ministers and USAID representatives, listened to Carl Jean Louis, owner of Le Jourdain Atelier, talk about how an investment from the project called LEAD has transformed his small business.

Long before this visit ever happened, it seemed like an improbably idea to think about starting a garment business. But after talking with his sister-in-law, a trained and experienced tailor who now oversees the company’s quality assurance and employee training, Carl decided to run with the idea. In 2009 he launched the small sportswear and uniform garment manufacturing company with his own funds and with loan money he received from local financial institutions. He hired just seven employees and worked from a single room at his home.

It was clear, however, that if the business was to grow, he would need to find new investments.

In 2012, he heard about a business plan completion that PADF had started with support from USAID, an initiative that was looking to identify viable businesses and invest in them in three key local markets—Port-au-Prince, St. Marc, and Carl’s home base of Cap-Haitïan.

During the selection process he presented his plan to a panel of development experts and respected Haitian business leaders who knew extensively the local markets and the odds of a business flourishing in Haiti’s post-quake economy. Earning good reviews from the selection panel, in September 2012 Carl was approved for more than $138,000 in matching funds to help grow his one-room manufacturing plant.

As Carl showed the delegation the factory floor and the items they produce, he described how the grant helped to retrofit the factory building, improving working conditions for his employees. The funds also helped purchase more than 30 new pieces of equipment, including electronic sewing and embroidery machines needed to provide advanced embroidery services. Today, Le Jourdain Atelier is the only company in northern Haiti to offer this kind of service.

And the investment has already paid off. The business, which hires mostly women, now has 70 employees, 10 times more people than when they first started. This has increased revenue by 74 percent and helped launch the production of a new undergarment line. Carl’s goal is to add 20 more jobs this year. Already the business is selling more than 1 million garment pieces a year to schools, non-governmental organizations, and religious groups located in northern Haiti. They have also received orders from the U.S

“This is what I am talking about. People gaining twice the minimum wage and working in a proper and safe environment,” said Ambassador White, clearly pleased to see the facilities and the quality of work that is being done.

President Martelly also congratulated the workers for their achievements and reminded them that hard work was the way to make a better life for themselves and their families.

Employees said afterward that these visits make them want to work even harder to achieve great things.

And we know they will.