This is a Forbes original article.
Haiti’s social and economic narrative is being rewritten by innovative entrepreneurs dedicated to championing sustainability and self-sufficiency while celebrating the vibrant and creative culture of the island and its citizens, which dates back to the Haitian Revolution that started in 1791 and represents the world’s first and only successful slave revolt.
Political instability, natural disasters and a lack of economic opportunities have contributed to mass migrations away from the island and a view of Haiti as a troubled nation in the eyes of the world. A generation of enterprising young Haitians are chipping away at that imposed narrative and replacing it with one that speaks to the strength, ingenuity and beauty of the country and its culture.
Here you will meet ten young entrepreneurs who are creating opportunity in this Caribbean island nation to uplift Haiti’s environmental, economic and social landscape.
These inspiring Haitian entrepreneurs are demonstrating that a nation can overcome its challenges and rewrite its story, both for itself and in the eyes of the larger world. They also prove that a combination of innovative ideas, effective use of technology and a dedication to solutions that honor the integrity of both the natural and the human landscape can produce truly transformative results.
Jude Celiscar, Goodoo Courier, LLC
In his travels between Haiti and the U.S., Celiscar became aware of the difficulties that many Haitians face in the purchasing and delivery of consumer goods. Recognizing that commerce is the backbone of an economy, Celiscar formed Goodoo Courier to address those issues. The company partners with small businesses and university students to help stimulate economic growth on both the individual and societal level. Concerned with the natural environment as well as the economy, Goodoo Courier uses recycled materials from other areas of the island for its packaging materials.
Daphnée Karen Floréal, Bijou Lakay
With a talent for art and finance and possessing a strong business sense, Floréal merged her skills and passions in forming Bijou Lakay. Taking inspiration from Haiti’s native elements, Floréal uses wood and beef horns to create ethically sourced handcrafted jewelry pieces. While inspired by international trends, her pieces strongly reflect and celebrate the vibrant Haitian culture. Along with reducing unemployment and having a positive impact on the economy, Bijou Lakay’s community of artisans also strives to preserve and pass on the creative crafting processes and cultural heritage of Haiti.
Floréal is actively engaged in promoting entrepreneurship and other activities that have a positive impact on the youth of Haiti, such as literacy and sports. In her love for her home, commitment to cultural authenticity and entrepreneurial spirit, Floréal is a reflection of the current reshaping of Haitian creativity and identity.
Always dream big. Even if you are living in one of the poorest countries in the world, your country can’t define your story. You are the only one who can decide what your life, what your family and what your business will be. – Daphnée Karen Floréal
Mike Bellot, Solo Bag
After losing a close family member in a fire started by a candle that was being used to provide light for evening schoolwork, Bellot was driven to invent the Solo Bag. The school bag, embedded with a solar panel and an integrated LED light, allows students in the rural areas of Haiti to study at night. As only 37% of the population has access to electricity, many children are unable to do schoolwork after nightfall. Poor lighting affects literacy and leads students to be less productive, with many often giving up on school entirely and perpetuating a cycle of poverty.
This revolutionary sustainable solution not only helps the students of Haiti, but can also help the 1.2 billion people worldwide who do not have access to electricity.
An economist, entrepreneur and innovator with degrees in International Trade and Global Political Economy, Bellot also invented the world’s first mobile aquaponic garden system, Ancora BoxFarm, a system designed to help farmers in areas that are vulnerable to natural hazards and disasters.
Nora Jeanne Joseph, RADIKAL
Jeanne Joseph established RADIKAL to address the root causes of gender inequity and economic disparity with a business model that creates revenue opportunities for women in Haiti. RADIKAL creates micro-enterprises that offer organic beauty, wellness and environmental products to underserved consumers through a dynamic network of micro-entrepreneurs. Utilizing the internet, social media and mobile technology has transformed the ability of these micro-enterprises to create financial independence in marginalized communities.
Jeanne Joseph is dedicated to changing Haiti’s global image by demonstrating that the island can rely on its own resources to foster economic growth and gender equality. Embracing the use of only organic, high-quality local raw materials and using a circular economic model that allows Haitian women to invest in their own thriving micro-franchises, RADIKAL redefines sustainability in the current context of the country.
I am passionate about sustainability, women’s empowerment and Haiti!– Nora Jeanne Joseph
Stephane Jean-Baptiste, Kreyòl Essence
Endeavoring to tackle the socioeconomic disparities that plague Haiti, Jean-Baptiste formed Kreyol Essence, a company with a business model that benefits the country both economically and environmentally. A high-end product available to the global market, Haitian Black Castor Oil is helping to ignite an aggressive reforestation plan that propels the growth of undervalued native tropical vegetation. Imported commodities from around the world have crippled the agricultural economy of Haiti and Jean-Baptiste is driven to correct that problem, creating prosperity and self-sufficiency through the use of the island’s natural resources.
Using ethically sourced and organic ingredients to craft a luxury brand that celebrates the vibrant and bold imagery of the island, Jean-Baptiste is working to rewrite Haiti’s narrative and change the global image of the country using sustainable materials and practices.
I consider our work as an opportunity to develop new marketing strategies to help me visually communicate our multicultural perspective with all people. – Stephane Jean-Baptiste
Jessenia Thimotee, Epis Kreyol
Thimotee is promoting Haiti’s native vegetation, food culture and sustainable practices with Epis Kreyol. Made with non-genetically modified organisms and organic Haitian spices noted for their healing properties, the flavorful seasoning sauce is safe for almost all palettes. The ingredients are grown organically, making it equally safe for the island’s natural environment.
Epis Kreyol is putting Haiti on the map with its native spices, allowing food enthusiasts from all over the world to enjoy an authentic taste of Haiti.
- Johnson “Blada” Desauguste,
Desauguste was inspired to form the nonprofit organization, Kay Blada Recycling, after growing up witnessing the extreme poverty and environmental devastation that plague Haiti. Kay Blada Recycling addresses both issues by providing sustainable employment to local Haitians in the mission to alleviate plastic waste on the island. Along with the direct recycling effort, Desauguste is also dedicated to educating Haitian citizens about waste management and environmental stewardship. Cleaner streets and waterways are a direct result of his mission to inspire and empower people to clean up Haiti’s natural environment.
In the three years since its founding, Kay Blada Recycling has grown to employ 100 people and has recycled over 85,000 pounds of plastic. Desauguste continues to seek out ways to further the causes of lowering unemployment and decreasing plastic waste.
That’s 100 Haitians that otherwise would not have anything to do with their time due to the high unemployment rate in Haiti, and 85,000 pounds of plastic that was going be burned or end up in the ocean. Think about it. – Johnson Desauguste
Tima created L’Union Suite to serve as an online platform for networking and connecting young entrepreneurs with established professionals in entertainment, sports, culture and humanitarian efforts. The platform gathers and curates authentic stories about Haiti, Haitians and Haitian-Americans to reveal the unique and inspiring life of the island and its citizens to the world. These accurate and authentic accounts excite interest in Haiti and attract tourists, boosting the nation’s economy.
Dedicated to changing Haiti’s narrative, L’ Union Suite has created a wave of young ambassadors to tell and share the stories that no one else will tell. Sharing news and information about efforts and accomplishments allows the world can see Haitians and the Haitian diaspora with less focus on the country’s difficulties and more on the joy of a strong and resilient people. Tima’s ultimate goal is to inspire others and create a legacy of hard work, dedication, and community change.
Since launching in 2011, L’union Suite has attracted over 10 million visitors a week and gained more than 300,000 subscribers via the site and social media platforms.
Christian Tribie, 121 Consulting Group
Focusing on sustainable development in energy, water and agriculture, 121 Consulting is comprised of a group of individuals dedicated to developing a better Haiti. The group’s first project was the engineering, procurement and construction of a 130 kilowatt PV system with a 196 kilowatt-hour lithium storage capacity. The system supports an office building that provides services to improve Haitian education, health, children and orphanages. The project developer, 10Power, promoted gender equality and the empowerment of the local workforce, along with providing valuable training on OSHA safety and code compliance (NEC 2017).
The project represents the largest solar installation on a UNICEF base to date and was a Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum (CREF) 2018 Industry Award Winner. It stands as a benchmark for the growth of renewables development in the Caribbean. 121 Consulting and 10Power continue to pursue more projects where local empowerment will drive economic success in Haiti.
With the continued tenacity and innovation of organizations like these, the Caribbean’s switch to a clean and resilient energy grid will be much sooner than many thought possible. Adam Carter- Advisory committee member, CIBC FirstCaribbean
Duquesne Fednard, D&E Green Enterprises
Fednard is a passionate social entrepreneur who seeks to break the cycle of extreme poverty by using innovative approaches in employing local resources to solve local problems. He has created several programs to address and successfully alleviate extreme poverty in Haiti and is always looking for new ways to solve social issues in a financially viable and scalable manner.
Fednard built Haiti’s first and only business processing outsourcing center (BPO), providing training and high paying jobs to underprivileged youth. He has also created an automatic savings program(SxC) for ultra-low income people by harnessing their existing spending on basic food staples. Other successful projects implemented by Fednard and D&E Green Enterprises have been corncob- and solar-powered micro-grids that provide reliable power to more than 300 households and a factory for producing highly efficient cookstoves to slow the deforestation caused by the excessive use of charcoal.
“I believe if we can create financially viable systems to provide universal access to basic services such as clean energy, health care and education, extreme poverty will be a thing of the past.” – Duquesne Fednard