LEAD Entrepreneurs Manufacturing New Local Jobs

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How two Haitian constructors have fought the odds to keep business local, boosting the area's economy by taking advantage of LEAD funding.

In Haiti, infrastructure projects are one of the largest employers in the national economy.  Even though aid from other countries boosted the construction/manufacturing sector after the 2010 earthquake, aid has decreased considerably in recent years. Regardless, the demand for quality, affordable, locally-produced, disaster-resistant buildings still remains.

"Locally-produced" is key. Hundreds of retail stores purchase construction material from foreign wholesalers before importing and reselling the material in Haiti. Very little construction material is produced locally, leaving a lucrative market valued at $70.91 million to manufacturers overseas.

It could be a huge market for Haiti, but that money is getting shipped off the island. Haitian construction/manufacturing companies face very few regulatory issues. Two companies have taken advantage of the situation and placed themselves as a permanent part of Haiti's construction sector.

The USAID-funded LEAD program is proud to sponsor two construction/manufacturing enterprises that have served Haiti by producing and constructing locally. The two businesses have been highly successful, independently creating over 1,000 jobs and generating over $5 million in sales. Here's a peek into what makes these enterprises so special:

A home designed and constructed by Veerhouse Voda, S.A.

A home designed and constructed by Veerhouse Voda, S.A.

Veerhouse Voda, S.A.

The 2010 earthquake was devastating, turning buildings into piles of rubble on the ground. Veerhouse Voda S.A. established in 2012 as a result of the earthquake, upon the premise that they could build build a new type of steel construction that would prevent future natural hazards from becoming disastrous. The foreigner CEO, Brendon Brewster, has faced setbacks and unique obstacles, like getting loans from local banks and convincing international investors to invest in a place as volatile as Haiti. After Veerhouse Voda leaped through hurdle after hurdle, they soon found the support they were looking for when they participated in the LEAD business plan competition.

Since winning the US-funded grant, Veerhouse Voda has attracted other investors, enabling them to open a steel frame manufacturing plant in Port-au-Prince. Veerhouse Voda serves its clients by offering a business model that reduces costly material and engineering expenses. Aside from quality construction, their clients appreciate their transparent and open way of doing business.

Their structures are Eurocode compliant, hurricane and earthquake safe, energy efficient, and allow for quicker construction than traditional methods. Veerhouse Voda sells its manufactured material to local hardware stores, thereby building local economy.

They also offer trainings for "affiliate builders," or their partners, on using a variety of steel frames they produce in new engineering techniques.

The company grossed only $360K last year, but this year they have six construction contracts totaling $3.9 million. Major construction projects include a therapy center, rehab center, dialysis center, hospitals, and schools.

Aside from their construction projects, Veerhouse Voda is launching several socially-oriented projects, including an educational program on Expanded Polystyrene (EPS). They also train other construction companies on how to use the EPS construction method, thereby disseminating their disaster-resistant construction methods.

As of August 2017, Veerhouse Voda has created 931 jobs and has generated $3.6 million in sales. Veerhouse Voda takes pride not only in its many building projects, but more importantly on the thousands of lives its projects have changed.

Expert Concept owner Monique Duperval presents on her company and LEAD.

Expert Concept owner Monique Duperval presents on her company and LEAD.

Expert Concept

Expert Concept S.A. is a woman-owned company that specializes in the construction of hurricane- and earthquake-resistant buildings. It constructs buildings using reinforced concrete or steel and provides electromechanical installation services. The company opened in 2006, but it wasn't until 2013 that it integrated into the metal structure construction market by opening one of Haiti's first metal factories. Its strategy is to offer specialized services that are usually outsourced to foreign firms.

After winning the LEAD business grant, Expert Concept had enough capital to open another workshop and since then, its production has increased significantly. The firm is part of the very few that offer quality construction services and products at an excellent price ratio.

In a highly male-dominated sector, Mrs. Monique Duperval, the CEO of Expert Concept, is the only woman in the country who is managing such a large construction/manufacturing company. The many successes of her projects have been acknowledged with awards all over the country. She's led the construction of schools, hotels, and the reconstruction of a college.

"The LEAD program's support has been a concrete bond," quips Duperval.

Expert Concept is now the only Haitian company that has a metallic structure workshop. With two strategically located workshops, it has been able to grow with more clients than ever. Expert Concept has created 275 direct jobs and generated $1.5 million in sales, as of August 2017.

More about our work in Haiti.

Urban Oasis: A Haitian Entrepreneur's Vision

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.”

LEAD Expo Celebrates Entrepreneurs

Port-au-Prince, Haiti — The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) celebrated the success of dozens Haitian entrepreneurs supported by the LEAD program at a large exposition at the Karibe Hotel on June 8, 2017.  Through the LEAD program (Leveraging Effective Application of Direct Investments), USAID has provided 45 Haitian and diaspora-led entrepreneurs with the capital and technical support needed to grow their business. Implemented by the PADF, the program supports long-term economic growth in the region.

Each company was awarded a grant after successfully completing a business plan competition. Together, these enterprises have created more than 13,600 jobs in Haiti and are on track to create a total of 18,000 jobs by the end of the year.

“We congratulate the entrepreneurs here today,” said Brian Shukan, Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Haiti. “You are the leaders of Haiti’s new economy. The LEAD project’s investment in these innovative entrepreneurs has unlocked millions in private capital. As their businesses grow, we anticipate that they will continue to attract financing from banks and equity investors, driving further economic development.”

Since 2011, USAID has invested $7.4 million in businesses in various sectors of the Haitian economy, unlocking $12.7 million in private capital. LEAD has also delivered more than 10,000 hours of training to entrepreneurs to build their capacity and improve business operations. Together, LEAD supported businesses— from the sanitary paper production plant to the solid waste processing plant, have generated nearly $ 28 million in sales.

“It’s inspiring to be in a room with so many dynamic and creative Haitian entrepreneurs,” says Nadia Cherrouk, PADF country director. “Their businesses are a testament to what can be achieved through hard work and persistence. Through LEAD, we are helping Haitians realize their business goals and creating a network of innovators. These entrepreneurs are paving the way to a more prosperous Haiti.”

The event included a business-to-business networking session to help the entrepreneurs forge important relationships with financial institutions, service providers and sector experts. 

About LEAD
USAID’s Leveraging Effective Application of Direct Investments (LEAD) project aims to attract investments in Haitian SMEs and increase the development impact of remittances. LEAD operates in the following three development corridors: Cap-Haïtien, Saint-Marc, and Port-au-Prince. The project is implemented by the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF). Since 2011, LEAD has awarded grants ranging from USD$50,000 to $200,000 to 45 small- and medium-sized Haitian enterprises, allowing them to expand their operations and increase employment.

The American people, through USAID, have been working around the world for over fifty years in humanitarian assistance and economic growth. For more information about USAID programs in Haiti, visit our website: www.usaid.gov/haiti 

About PADF
PADF is a nonprofit organization that brings together many stakeholders to improve livelihoods, empower communities, strengthen civil society, support human rights, protect the environment and respond to natural disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean. www.padf.org

Leveraging Investments with the Haitian Diaspora - USAID

"Today, more than 62 million Americans—a full fifth of the nation—are first or second generation diasporans."

Presented by a recent USAID report, this statistic exposes the potential of diaspora engagement in the United States. Although they may live far away, much of the diaspora population is still closely connected to their country of origin.

Click on the photo to read the report.

Click on the photo to read the report.

The report, released by the U.S. Global Development Lab, highlights several successful engagements of diaspora populations. Funded by USAID, our Leveraging Effective Application of Direct Investments (LEAD) program is featured for rallying the Haitian diaspora in the United States to support Haitian businesses.

The LEAD program has demonstrated a successful model for developing small- to medium-size enterprises in Haiti. Read more about the LEAD program.

Haiti is Open for Business: Lead Expo 2017

Haiti’s entrepreneurial spirit was on full display at an Expo showcasing Haitian- and diaspora-led businesses in Port-au-Prince on June 8. Dozens of businesses received funding and support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Leveraging Effective Application of Direct Investments (LEAD) program, which is implemented by PADF.

With the theme “Engines of Economic Development,” The LEAD Expo was a chance for entrepreneurs to network and display their products to members of the public and private sectors as well as potential investors. U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Brian Shukan congratulated the entrepreneurs on their success. “Today we celebrate you all as you display Haiti's economic potential,” he said in his remarks. Several of the LEAD entrepreneurs also spoke about their experiences running businesses in Haiti.

In total, the 45 LEAD enterprises have stimulated the Haitian economy by creating 13,695 jobs and producing $27.9 million in sales.

LEAD aims to facilitate the mobilization of investment capital from the diaspora and other sources and to increase the impact of that investment in small businesses and community-based social enterprises. Since 2011, USAID has invested $7.4 million in businesses in various sectors of the Haitian economy, unlocking $12.7 million in private capital.

Trash to Treasure: LEAD Recycling Business Partners With Timberland

Edouard Carrié, a Haitian entrepreneur, is taking steps to simultaneously address the issues of sanitation and employment. He created a recycling business, Environmental Cleaning Solutions S.A. (ECSSA) in 2010, not only keep the streets of Port-au-Prince clean, but also to provide income to the poorest Haitian households.

Since its founding, ECSSA has grown to employ thousands of Haitians who deposit bags of discarded bottles at collection points throughout the Port-au-Prince region. ECSSA collects, compacts and ships hundreds of millions plastic bottles for further processing into recycled plastic pellets that are used in over 120 countries to make everything from t-shirts to tables.

In fact, they're used in Timberland clothing. The above video shows how trash collected from the streets of Haiti is turned into high fashion, creating jobs and empowering people along the way.

ECCSA received support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through an initiative called LEAD (Leveraging Effective Application of Direct Investments) that focuses on developing Haitian businesses. Implemented by PADF, the LEAD program provides grants to Haitian entrepreneurs to help them access much-needed capital. The program also offers technical assistance to help enterprises implement their business plans and strengthen their operations.

“USAID and PADF’s LEAD investment is allowing ECSSA to ramp up collection and provide more Haitian households with the opportunity to earn income," says Carrié.

10 Best Development Ideas from the Haitian Diaspora

Launched in the fall of 2016, the Diaspora Challenge Initiative aims at leveraging ideas about potential development concepts among members of the Haitian Diaspora looking for opportunities to contribute to Haiti’s development. 

The initiative is carried out by The National Alliance for the Advancement of Haitian Professionals (NAAHP) in collaboration with the EDEM Foundation, GRAHN-USA, and the Society for Haitian Research. Funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the initiative is part of the broader Leveraging Effective Application of Direct Investments program (LEAD) implemented by the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF). 

NAAHP and partners invited members of the Haitian Diaspora to submit their development ideas. The  proposals were reviewed by a jury of experts, based on criteria including sustainability and economic impact. 

Among the 190 submissions received, the 10 Best Development Ideas were selected by the jury. Ten winning applicants were awarded an exclusive trip to attend a conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to present their ideas to potential investors and network with their peers, as well as local, regional and international donors and funders with the potential to help promote or realize the ideas. Here are the

Top 10 Best Development Ideas
From Members of the Haitian Diaspora

Emmanuel Ronald Bertrand
City/ Country: Georgia, USA
Project: Education
A mentorship program with Haiti’s graduating college students to support the municipalities (local mayors).

Steve Chérestal and Didier Jean-Baptiste
City/Country: Florida and Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Project: Microfinance
A web platform to provide nano loans and to serve as a virtual marketplace through harnessing

Jean Conille
City/Country: Dominican Republic
Project: Environment
Ecologically-friendly gas stations for public transport vehicles (tap-taps). Empower drivers to convert diesel vehicles to propane

Michel Degraff
Cambridge, MA, USA
Project: Countrywide Education
Promoting STEM education in Haiti through technology and the Kreyol language

Scheeler Devis
City/Country: New York, USA
Project: Agro-industry
A distillery to produce alcohol, green charcoal and purified drinking water

Paul Obed Dumersaint
City/Country: Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Project: Agriculture, Energy, Environment
Merging agriculture, energy and the environment using biotech and promoting cutting edge research in Haiti.

Nedjeda Jean-Paul
City/Country: Quebec, Canada
Project: Healthcare
Creation of a medical test laboratory

Marc Raphaël
City/Country: California, USA
Project: Solar Energy
A chain of affordable, solar-powered food trucks that double as Internet hotspots

Wisblaude Thermidor and Beverly Malbranche
City/Country: New Haven, CT, USA
Project: Fair Trade Development
A sustainable way to eradicate food insecurity in Haiti

Marcel Wah
City/ Country: Chisinau, Moldova, and Plainsboro, NJ
Project: Agriculture:
Bee farming to generate income from bee-related products and reverse pollinator decline

For more information, visit the Diaspora Challenge Initiative website.

USAID Program Brings Water, Jobs to Northeast Haiti

As the only female machine operator at CASTMI water purification plant in the Haitian border town of Ouanaminthe, Makilise Joseph takes pride in her work. A good job is hard to find in Haiti, she says. A native of Ounamanthe, Makilise moved to Port-au-Prince in order to find work. She was working as a product inspector at a t-shirt factory when the 2010 earthquake happened. Her home collapsed, crushing and killing two young cousins inside. Now she lives back in her hometown and she is able to support her little boy and elderly father with the income she makes at the plant. 

Run by a member of the Haitian Diaspora, CASTMI provides purified water to the public in bulk and individual sachets. CASTMI received a grant and technical assistance from the USAID-funded LEAD program to upgrade their facility with new equipment and move to a larger space. This allowed them to add bottled water to their product line.

Pastor Jean-Louis Vicelot is a regular CASTMI customer.

Our water is the best," Makilise says with a smile. "I see how they treat the water with my own eyes and I’m confident in the process. I trust it.” 

The local community relies on CASTMI for purified water. 

"Life depends on water," says Jean-Louis Vicelot, a pastor at the Baptist church in nearby Huhaut. He visits CASTMI two or three times each week to purchase five gallons of purified water. If there wasn’t a space like this, he’d be treating the water himself, he says. In the past, he had to travel to Cap-Haitian. Now, its nearby.

“I feel so happy the region is developing," he says. "More people will be employed.” 

CASTMI employees pose in front of the delivery van.

Run by a member of the Haitian Diaspora, CASTMI provides purified water to the public in bulk and individual sachets. 

Run by a member of the Haitian Diaspora, CASTMI provides purified water to the public in bulk and individual sachets. 

Empowering Haitian Rice Farmers

Maryse Jumelle and her husband Charles are passionate entrepreneurs who have revived a rice mill in the Artibonite region in Haiti. Charles’ family had been in the rice production business for generations. It was his wife, Maryse, who convinced him to restart operations.

Known as the rice basin of Haiti, Artibonite is a rich, fertile region fed by seasonal rains and the Artibonite river. When Maryse first moved there with her husband, she didn’t know anyone in the area besides her in-laws. It is a traditional community and local farmers are afraid of modernization, she says. “But, when I arrived in the plains of Artibonite, in Pont Sonde, I found a small house—a cottage—and I said to Charles: ‘I love this place, I would really like to settle here and work in rice production.’” The couple stayed and launched Moulin Nan Noté, an enterprise that produces rice and purchases it from local farmers. They operate a rice mill and sell Haitian rice domestically. After 10 years in business, they are now looking to export as well.

Rice cultivation is typically dominated by women in Artibonite and Maryse has also been instrumental in organizing a women’s association of rice producers and laborers in Saint-Marc. The association is called Fanm Plantez Renal-Preval and has over 400 members. Moulin Nan Noté’s location is extremely convenient for local farmers.  It offers local producers an alternative to walking many kilometers to find a mill. Moulin Nan Noté has also built shelters to protect their rice farmers from the blazing sun while they parboil their crop.

Moulin Nan Noté buys rice from local farmers, while also allowing them to use the mill for a small fee, if they wish to sell their rice directly. With funds from the Leveraging Effective Application of Direct Investments (LEAD) program, Moulin Lanoté was able to purchase equipment to modernize its operations, including cultivation, storage and packaging for sale in supermarket.  

LEAD was launched in 2011 by USAID to provide support for small- and medium-sized enterprises in Haiti. The program is implemented by the Pan American Development Foundation, which provides technical assistance. To date, the program has supported 31 Haitian enterprises.

“It is because of the LEAD grant that I could buy modern appliances such as a bagging machine, sealers, and scales,” says Maryse.  “I would not have been able to market at this level without using LEAD, if I did not participate in the business plan competitions and win!”

The company also used its own capital to match the LEAD grant and was able to purchase important equipment such as tillers and a silo.  LEAD has facilitated consultations with international and local agronomists who will help Maryse and Charles to triple their production.

Moulin Nan Noté sells many varieties of Haitian rice—white, parboiled, high-fiber—which they process and bag in their location in Port-au-Prince. Their product is available under the brand name Délice in 2.5, 5, 10, 25 and even 100-pound bags at supermarkets and wholesalers in Port-au-Prince. Recently, their rice was sent to a lab in Canada for testing and they are now able to add a nutrition label to their bags.

Maryse and Charles credit the LEAD program for helping them run a more professional business. "The training on accounting and finance that LEAD offered us has allowed us to formalize our business,” says Maryse. “Now we have an operating manual that covers all our procedures; we use financial software; we generate timely reports that help us make good decisions. Now Moulin Nan Noté is a modern business.”

The business makes a big impact on local farmers. Before this enterprise restarted the mill, rice producer Lillianne Alexis walked very far, carrying her rice on donkeys or by motorcycle to mill it and resell it. Her rice lost value when it was broken instead of milled. Now, she says, “the machines at Nan Noté are excellent!” The proximity of the mill is also a plus for farmers as they don’t have to spend their money on transportation.

Maryse and Charles are not done dreaming. After modernizing their operations, they hope to join the export market. Parboiled rice, which is beloved in Haiti, is characterized by a strong odor. Further, its processing is often done using firewood, which is a strain on local forests. Moulin Nan Noté will benefit from another USAID program called LEVE, which will help the company purchase an electric steamer and dryer. This will help farmers standardize the color and quality of the rice and reduce the odor. Moulin Nan Noté will export this rice throughout the Caribbean as well as to North America.

And after that? Maryse and Charles are passionate entrepreneurs who have set their sights on expanding into rice flour production and brown rice. LEAD is proud of the achievements of these two future leaders in the Haitian rice industry and looks forward to their continued success.

About LEAD
USAID’s Leveraging Effective Application of Direct Investments (LEAD) project aims to attract investments in Haitian SMEs and increase the development impact of remittances. LEAD operates in the three development corridors: Cap-Haïtien, Saint-Marc, and Port-au-Prince. The project is implemented by the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF).