PADF administers a USAID-funded program called LEAD (Leveraging Effective Application of Direct Investment) which supports the growth of small businesses in Haiti. The four-year, $12 million program is an effort to support long-term economic growth in the region. 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 important 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,” she says, which are typically focused on short-term solutions.
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 premiere 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. We currently employ over 50 people and plan to employ 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 that are critical parts of our supply chain,” she says. “This requires lots of patience, time, and work.”
Q: What kind of improvements was your business able to implement with the grant from LEAD?
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 also hired consultants to train farmers and producers on cultivating castor. “The grant allowed the company to build the foundation necessary to compete globally, adds Momperousse. “We could not export products and create jobs in Haiti without the funding.”
Q: How has the LEAD grant shaped the company?
A: The lead grant was the first large grant we received, she says. “We were able to leverage the grant for other types of investments. This is extremely important so that we can focus more time on running the business then spending time raising capital.”
Q: What do you want people who have never traveled to Haiti to know about you, your business and the wider community?
A: “Most of what is seen on the news is negative about Haiti,” says Momperousse. “Every time I read an article about a country deporting Haitians, it reminds me how important economic development is for Haiti. I want to make Haiti a place its citizens want to come home to when others push them out.”
Q: Why do you believe it is important to support women business owners and to find employment for women?
A: The rationale for supporting women business owners, women employees, etc. is very simple. Women are the backbone of the Haitian economy. Forty percent women are head of households in the country. Studies show when a woman has financial stability, she takes care of her immediate family and a village; the same is not true for men.