Made in Haiti: Social Entrepreneurs Get a Boost

PADF administers a  USAID-funded program called LEAD (Leveraging Effective Application of Direct Investment) that supports the growth of small businesses in Haiti. The four-year, $ 12 million program is an attempt to support long-term economic growth in the area. We spoke to Yve-Car Momperousse, a Haitian American who received $ 200,000 from the LEAD program to grow her business,  Kreyol Essence , which sells organic beauty products made in Haiti.

Q: Why are businesses like Kreyol Essence significant to Haiti's future?

A: Kreyol Essence is a social enterprise, says Momperousse. "Social entrepreneurs focus on market-based approaches to problems. [This] leads to sustainable and more scalable solution [s] than aid programs. Aid programs are typically focused on short-term solutions, "she says.

Q: Tell us about your company, where it operates and what it does.

A: "Kreyol Essence is an agribusiness that offers an extensive array of luxury beauty products. We are the first portal for organic and authentic commodities from Haiti. Our initial product portfolio consists of hair growth oils, exotic hair pomades, therapeutic body products Including soaps and candles. Currently we employee over 50 people and project that we will grow our employee level to 300 in the next few years. "

Q: What are some of the challenges you face as a business owner in Haiti?

A: Challenges abound in Haiti, says Momperousse from spotty Internet connections to difficulty in recruiting local staff. "We also work with farmers and micro-entrepreneurs. They are critical parts of our supply chain," she says. "This requires lots of patience and time, and work."   

Q: What kind of improvements was your business able to implement with the LEAD grant?

A: The grant enabled Kreyol Essence to make substantial improvements to its infrastructure through the purchase of computers, management software and tech resources, she says. The company hired consultants to assist farmers in cultivating the crop and support the production process. "The grant allowed the company to build the foundation necessary to compete globally, adds Momperousse. "We couldn't export our products and create jobs in Haiti without the funding." 

Q: How has the LEAD grant shaped the company?

A: The grant was the first grant-based investment we received, she says. "We were able to leverage the grant for --other kinds of investments. This is extremely significant so our team can focus more of our time on running the business than in raising capital. "

Q: What do you want people who have never visited Haiti to know about you, your business and the country?

A: "Most of what is seen on the news about Haiti is negative ," says Momperousse. "Every time I read an item about a country deporting Haitians, it reminds me that economic development is very significant for Haiti. I want to make Haiti a place its citizens want to come home to rather than returning when pushed out by others. " 

Q: Why do you believe it is significant to support women business owners and to generate employment for women?

A: "The rationale for supporting women business owners, employment of women , etc. is very simple. Women are the backbone of the Haitian economy. Forty percent of women are heads of households in the country. Studies show  that when a woman has financial stability, she takes care of her immediate family and her community; the same is not true for men."