Thursday – Entrepreneurs in Action

Eva writes:

Ermelia’s kerosene stand launched yesterday! Today Rick, my translator, and I walked the mile or so from the church to where her stand is set up in a small market by the airport to check on her. When we showed up, her daughter was out at the stand, so we went to her house. We helped her carry some kerosene and other things out to her stand and then got to see her in action. She was so happy to see us and so proud of her stand. Soon a lot of people gathered around the stand to see why there were “blancs” here at this kerosene stand. They talked back and forth in Creole for a while and all laughed. I had no idea what they were saying, but it was obvious that they were talking about me because of the way that Ermelia looked at me and was hugging me.

The past few days I haven’t really known what Ermelia has thought about me. She has been pretty independent and not too excited or interested in much of the business advice that I have been giving her. It has been easy to feel like she doesn’t want me around, and honestly I have been a little discouraged. Today after her friends laughed about me we asked the translator what she was saying. In explaining who I was to all of her friends she told them that I am her godmother. They couldn’t stop laughing at the idea of a 21-year-old blonde girl being the godmother of a 60-something Haitian kerosene vendor. The translator explained a little about why she called me her godmother. Even if she doesn’t listen to any of my business advice or “accomplish” anything, it mattered to her that I showed up. Even though I don’t speak Creole and have a hard time communicating what I want to say even with the translator, I was able to be with her as she launched her business. I got to see her daily life and go shopping with her in the market. A kerosene stand may not be the most lucrative business, but the joy that it brings her to be able to work and provide for herself is incredible.

Jonas writes:

Today was a big day for Jeff Jean, for it was his second day working his smoothie stand.

Last night he made $430 Haitian dollars, which is roughly $33 US dollars. This blew me away because it was not only his first night with the stand, but he also set up very late last night after church, after 7pm. If he continues at this rate, he will be able to pay off his loan quicker than expected. The days prior to his launch, we gathered supplies and searched for the best prices. I left him yesterday, praying that he had gained the knowledge and the ideas to set up his booth effectively since I wasn’t able be there for the initial launch. When I talked to him this morning, he claimed that it was successful.

Today I helped Jeff figure out his budget, and had the privilege of seeing him in action, validating his success the prior night. This morning, right when Jeff showed up, his eyes were brighter and his smile wider than I’ve seen yet. It was amazing talking with him and seeing the excitement in his eyes. We parted ways around 1pm, and planned to have him set up his stand after he was finished with church. Later that night around 8:45pm, Professor Ifland, Cole, Eva, Kristen and I went to visit his business.

We left our compound as it was starting to rain again. The night was dark and I was just hoping that Jeff was still out serving smoothies. He could have easily taken the night off since not many people were out because of the rain. We hopped on some taxis and headed over. Riding in the dark and the rain in the mud was a blast! As we got closer to Jeff’s smoothie stand, I could see the rechargeable lights illuminating Jeff’s stand, and the two blenders underneath the roof drawing many customers. We walked up to a huge crowd and I instantly felt so happy for Jeff. He looked completely in his element, and it seemed as if he had been working the stand for years because it was running so smoothly. He had one friend with a money purse, one friend grabbing ingredients, and he was serving and making the smoothies. The smoothies had a native fruit called breadfruit as well as banana, cheese, condensed milk, and other items. I was surprised about how tasty it was. I spent some time taking pictures and affirming Jeff on his incredible success, and then we rode the taxis back. Today was one of the best days on this trip hands down. I cherished seeing Jeff’s idea, and his business come to life J.

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