Another day in paradise

Hi All!

I am overdue with an update! The end of the year has been very busy and successful for YSB Haiti!

Update: The chickens have been flying off the shelf (so to speak) at the chicken farm and everything is on track for the next batch!

YSB: YSB Haiti is very close to investing in three businesses at the close of the year! The businesses range in industries from agribusiness (castor oil), safe cleaning products, to clean energy. This is very exciting as this all promotes new jobs for Haitians, social problem solutions and a growing Haitian economy.

Work: As for me, I have been continuing my work on the castor oil business and hope to close it out by the time I leave Haiti (which unfortunately is quickly approaching). I have learned so much over these past months and I am so happy I chose YSB to intern with. As my first real professional experience, it couldn’t have been better. My only regret is not being able to stick around to see how the businesses bloom. There is such a great team here in Haiti that is working their hardest to bring the best social businesses to the investment table.

Personal life: I have recently met up with a friend from back home and we plan we enjoy the December festivities in Haiti together. She, like me, is Haitian American, has her master’s and has decided to move to Haiti to find a career. Though our families may think we are crazy for moving from a first world country to a third world country, we are personally pursuing something; whether it be applying our degrees, searching for “ourselves,” looking for “something more”/fulfilling, or yearning for a new start.

Next week marks the start of my 3 week vacation dedicated to enjoying more time with my family and hopefully go to Ile-a-Vache (please do yourself a favor and google this beautiful island)!

Haiti: Through this experience I have also learned more about Haiti, its culture, and people in general. Many times I found myself comparing the US and Haiti, wondering why some countries flourish and others don’t. Unfortunately there is no one answer and no quick fix. While living here I  have noticed all the intricacies of the Haitian economy: street children, working children, lighter skin Haitians or foreigners occupying the upper echelons of society, NGO and UN presence, two markets (independent sellers on the streets & formal retailers), a currency that is referred to in two different ways (gourdes and haitian dollars), easily paying in American dollars wherever you go, the dented and damaged cars climbing the streets, the absence of homeless people, the lack of proof of the most famous fact about Haiti, and so many more. And all of these aspects have their pros and cons and their reasons.

I am still adjusting to the interactions I have with the Haitian culture to this day. I found myself asking what would it take to change this problem, where do these problems stem from? Ignorance? Culture? Or is it that these problems that I observe are not problems to them at all. Whatever the case may be, this country is full of inspiration, culture, beauty, hospitality, and camaraderie.

 

For more of the progress YSB is making across the globe, visit http://www.yunussb.com

A bientôt!

Chickens!!

Hi All!

So you’re probably wondering what why this post is entitled chickens. Well, it turns out that one of the social businesses in which YSB has invested, a poultry farm, is having its grand opening this Saturday, October 26th, in Mirebalais. This social business is really awesome in that it is not only producing Haitian grown chicken (which is mainly imported from the Dominican Republic) and creating 16 jobs, but it is using its profits to cover operating costs for a local school, which 200 students will be attending! This business was also partly funded by USAID and will also be part of the celebration. There are two more poultry farms that will have their grand openings in the next coming weeks in Leogane and Lagonave. It’s so exciting to see our social business endeavors bearing fruit (or chickens in this case)!

I’ll be sure to post pictures after the event. Take a look at the invitation.

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Pics from the event!

3 months in…

Hi All!

I’ve reached the mid-point of my experience here in Haiti and at YSB! Time is going by pretty fast so far, but I am enjoying myself from all fronts.

Internship: I am gradually becoming more and more familiar with financial modeling and terms, using logic and calculations to validate assumptions, and how to properly communicate complex ideas.

Family: I can’t get enough of this time that I’m able to spend with my family whom I rarely get to see.

Social Life: Besides frequenting the beach several times, I’ve met plenty of family friends, been to a huge music festival, ate at delicious restaurants, and out dancing.

Here at YSB we have been very busy looking into businesses and in the next weeks I will be assisting with the management of our growing portfolio.

Until my next update!!!

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Calling all entrepreneurs in Haiti!

The New Haiti Business Forum is an informal networking forum bringing together forward-thinking business leaders to share ideas about doing business in Haiti.  An event will be held the first Wednesday of each month in Petion Ville at the Miyamoto residence.

A Haitian State of Mind

Hi All,

I came across a refreshing article in the New York Times the other day about an Italian photojournalist, Paolo Woods, who travelled to Haiti to incite more questions through his photos than provide answers. His project nor the article are about the poverty of the country, however they don’t ignore said reality. Instead, Mr. Woods shows you images “that add up to a layered portrait of a complicated place,” in addition to touching on the general failure of projects undertaken by NGOs, the ” neocolonialist mentality” of missionaries, and the audacity of Haitian businessmen.

Please take a few minutes to read it, you won’t be disappointed! (click on the quote below)

“I have enormous respect for someone who wants to be a businessman in Haiti,” Mr. Woods said. “They can do what so many others did and move to Miami and live a comfortable life. But being an entrepreneur in Haiti is not easy. You have to love your country enormously.”

Getting there…

Today marked a significant day in my social business internship! A social business I have been working on since I joined YSB, involving job creation and castor oil, was presented (by myself and my colleagues) to be considered for investment. The turn around has been impressive and the business is poised to create hundreds of jobs. This week I will be given a new business for which I will start the due diligence process. Due diligence is particularly interesting in that you learn a social business inside and out to ensure its sustainability and social benefit. We therefore look at a business’ financial framework, business model, and impact on society.

I couldn’t be happier to contribute to the development on Haiti in the capacity I am! I am also able to get to know my country more as well. I was able to travel to one of the provinces thanks to the aforementioned business, and have met more interesting people along the way.

Tips for students interested in consulting work or becoming an analyst:

  • Make Microsoft Office (especially Excel) your best friend!
  • Be a generalist – knowing a little about everything goes a really long way
  • Become a great note taker
  • Be flexible – whether you’re in a developing country or not, your bosses will appreciate this
  • Become a great communicator – whether in writing or in person, cultivating how to communicate will save you a lot of time explaining later on

A tres bientôt!

Social Impact Through Business – what a concept!

Improving the lives of others through business is a concept I see come to fruition as I read business proposals at the YSB office. During this process I become more convinced that international development organizations should veer toward this path as opposed to giving foreign aid. It my eyes, these social entrepreneurs are killing two birds with one stone. Attacking a social problem that governments cannot wrap their hand around, i.e. waste management, and creating jobs that can lift people out of poverty.

My role as a social business consultant intern is to conduct due diligence for the businesses that petition for funding from YSB. As I learned from the FMS training, “you must trust but verify.” I verify general assumptions and figures to ensure that social impact will occur.

Haiti is constantly and consistently labeled as the “poorest country in the Western Hemisphere” in the media and that automatically leaves a picture in your mind, and subconsciously you think there would be no way you would visit that country. But let me assure you, in every poor country there are many many people that live very very well. As you are driving past the Porches, Toyota Land Cruisers, Honda CRVs on the streets of Petion Ville, you can find your malls, fancy Lebanese restaurants, chic boutiques, bakeries, book stores, banks (with ATMS), and 2-story grocery stores with brands you can find in the States.

This past weekend I went to Club Indigo, formally known as Club Med. This beautiful resort was donned with two pools, a buffet with gourmet foods, volleyball nets, jet skis and boats, and multiple buildings with room suites. Among the guests were Haitians, the French, Dominicans and Brazilian UN soldiers who work under the name of MINUSTAH (the UN’s stabilization mission in the country) .

I concede that Haiti has a long way to go in terms of development across sectors. As of late, its sectors are finally receiving investment. Since the 2010 earthquake, one of Haiti’s largest investments came in the form of telecommunications through a partnership between Natcom, a subsidiary of the Vietnamese army, and the Haitian government. Haiti is now the driving force in the mobile phone growth rate in the Caribbean. As I pass my one month mark in Haiti, I can attest that where there is a need for development in a country, there is a market for social business.

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Settling In

Time is already flying by. By this time tomorrow I will have been in Haiti for three weeks.  I am starting my second week of work, and I am gradually getting in the swing of things. It is so exciting to read and hear about the different types of business that are proposed here in Haiti. Among them are two agricultural projects that aim to improve the livelihoods of farmers. One proposes to grow castor plants in order to use the oil in natural hair care products. The other aims to grow potatoes in the country’s mountain region, process them, and provide their nutritional value to school age children for lunch.

During my down time I spend time with my family here whom I sparingly get to see otherwise. Though I proficiently understand Kreyol, speaking it is another story. Born to Haitian parents and living in America doesn’t make you an expert in culture, history, way of life or language. So as I adjust and adapt, I am soaking in my surroundings and the warm warm sun.

Off to Haiti in 1 week!!

Greetings to all. Well, I leave for Haiti in a week, and I invite you to follow me on my journey. Let me give you a brief insight into what I’m doing!

Through a partnership with my graduate school and Village Capital, I have recently completed a program called Frontier Market Scouts and now have a certificate in Social Enterprise Management and Impact Investing (go me!). What is social enterprise? Social entrepreneurship encapsulates the idea of using business to solve social problems, such as access to water. What is impact investing? Funds that support the endeavor of social enterprises. Part of the program is to apply what we’ve learned to a field assignment – that’s why I’m going to Haiti!

Why Haiti you ask? Well it turns out I’m Haitian American, I love my culture and I want to take part in making Haiti an economically stable country. I have humbly and graciously accepted an intern position with Yunus Social Business (YSB) and am beyond ecstatic.

The last time I traveled to Haiti was in 2008. By now the part of the country with which I am most familiar is most likely gone and has been replaced with new characteristics to become familiar with.  I am very curious about the progress that has been made in the country by the government and the numerous humanitarian organizations. I’m also looking forward to working with YSB and contributing to economic growth and development in my parents’ homeland.

So, in these next 6 days I will be saying my good-byes, purchasing gifts for family, and packing my one suitcase and backpack. This seems so surreal as I have been trying to get back to Haiti on an academic related trip for a year now. I love when dreams come true :)

I leave you with a picture of Wahoo Bay in Haiti.

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Photo credit: Coralie Noisette

Learn More!

http://www.vilcap.com

http://www.miis.edu/academics/short/frontier-market-scouts

http://www.yunussb.com