Pink hibiscus flowers greet visitors to Lakou Breda, a hotel in northern Haiti's city of Cap-Haïtien. The gardens are full of fruits and vegetables and guests can see chickens, guinea fowl and rabbits roaming the grounds. It's an oasis in the city with historic significance as the home of Toussaint L’Ouverture, leader of the Haitian independence movement during the French Revolution.
At the heart of the hotel is owner Herold Decius, whose persistence and vision has created a sanctuary for the local community as well as for weary travelers. Lakou Breda also offers nature classes for young school children.
Born in Cap-Haitien, Herold attended school in Canada, but longed to return to his homeland. “The day I finished university, I took a plane back to Haiti,” he says.
But starting a business in Haiti wasn't easy. “The loan at the bank is really expensive,” he says. “It's very difficult.”
Decius received a matching grant and technical assistance from the Leveraging Effective Application of Direct Investments (LEAD) program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The program supports small and medium-sized Haitian business, allowing them to expand their operations, increase employment and spur economic growth.
Today, the hotel includes 46 apartments and 10 bungalows. Decius is in the process of expanding the business to offer a full-service conference center and pool. Even before the construction started, the Haitan National Police came for a three-day conference.
“We’ll have the best conference room in Cap-Haitien,” Decius says. “It will be sold out.”
In addition to funds, LEAD is providing Decius with technical support in tourism, administration and marketing.
For Decius, the secret to becoming a successful entrepreneur is never giving up.
"You have to adapt," he says. "It’s like driving from Port-au-Prince to Cap-Haitien. You know where you want to go, but you have to adjust your course to avoid potholes.”