We all know that starting or running a business in Haiti is hard, but it’s not impossible. According to theoretical research by Vanessa Gowreesunkar & Hugues Séraphin, entrepreneurship is a natural part of Haiti’s environment. The study also theorized and showed that Haitian people carry a key characteristic vital to being an entrepreneur; SURVIVAL. With that said, here are some characteristics and items I think is needed to be a successful entrepreneur in Haiti
A study by Vanessa Gowreesunker and Hugues Séraphin” reveals that prolonged experiences of poverty and powerlessness in Haiti have generated learned helplessness”. The Haitian entrepreneurs of the 21st century will have to have confidence in their own self-abilities and worth. He/she will respect themselves and will not seek approval from others. These entrepreneurs will not depend solely on the government or organizations to solve all of their problems. They understand that true entrepreneurs are problem solvers and seek help only when its needed.
Haitians are by nature resilient people. However, Haitian entrepreneurs endure another level of resilience from the rest. Making a living in Haiti is already hard, but running a business is for the crazy people who have the guts to do it. Therefore, a Haitian entrepreneur will need to learn how to recover quickly and move past obstacles. You will always be putting out fires, but once they are all out, the reward is beautiful. Sometimes you have to learn how to dance in the rain!
3. Long-term Goals/Vision
Mathias Pierre, a Haitian entrepreneur who successfully launched an information technology business in Port-au-Prince once said: “Entrepreneurship in Haiti is typically a means for survival; most small Haitian enterprises lack a long-term focus and vision for growth”. Pierre is correct and we know that he is aware that it’s very difficult to think long-term when you’re focused on how you will survive tomorrow. However, long-term vision is important for any successful entrepreneur. Think about it…. Do you want a business that will feed you and your family for a few months? Or do you want an empire that will feed, employ and can be passed down to the next generation? Even if you’re not thinking about the next generation, entrepreneurs should be thinking about building a business that will last at least 10 years.
Education is key to anyone’s success. However, I don’t necessarily mean formal education like college. If you can afford to go to college, that’s great. But whether you have formal education or not, you must learn how to educate yourself on the things you need to learn. You should try to read as much as possible, attend seminars, watch videos online to learn about your industry.UNICEF online report (2016) indicated that 77% of Haiti’s population lives below the poverty line and has a very poor literacy rate. If you know an entrepreneur who cannot read, encourage them to learn. The internet is full of information that can expand and grow your business if you know how to gain knowledge. An entrepreneur must educate themselves on Haiti’s history and how it is effecting them as a business person today. As Malcolm X said, “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”
Though you can gain access to much information by reading books and the internet, your network is also key to your success. Having a strong network can help you piece the puzzle together quickly instead of doing it all on your own. In your network you should also have mentors. Mentors help educate you and save you from many mistakes through their experience, knowledge and expertise. They can’t save you from every mistake, but they can cut down on the amount of time, pain and heartache it will take to get your business right.
To be a great entrepreneur, you must allow yourself to be creative and innovative. For those already in business, be innovative when it comes to how you run your business. Don’t close your mind to the possibilities of expanding your business or creating more traffic. Be innovative and make changes to areas that can be improved.This may require some creativity so you can think outside of the box. Sometimes being creative can feel silly, but this is important if you plan to run a business. If you want to stand out, do something that no one or very few people in Haiti have done. This means you may have to be different and not follow the crowd. This can be uncomfortable at first, but as you become more comfortable, you will see that innovation and creativity will help you solve many of the problems you have. Furthermore, creativity and innovation is the essence of entrepreneurship.
7. Pride in Your Country
Going back to the study of Gowreesunkar & Séraphin (2016), the study stated: “The only time Haitians dream is when they think about the USA. Haiti does not make its people dream or have hope about a brighter future. In other words, success for the Haitians can only happen beyond the boundaries of their country”. Unfortunately, this seems like a painful perception that many people of Haiti have adopted. This leads to the “brain drain” as opposed to “brain gain” explained by Séraphin (2012). We know the government and everything about Haiti isn’t perfect. But no country is. If all the smart entrepreneurs, scholars, doctors, and lawmakers leave Haiti to go live somewhere else, who will remain to make Haiti thrive. To whose benefit is it when we applaud Haitians who build successful careers in other countries, but not their own? I recently read a post where a Nigerian said “I am so jealous of Haiti but love them at the same time. They are the first black republic in the world”. But that rant is for another article. Long story short, have pride in Haiti! It’s your land, your country. If you don’t love or respect your country, why would you expect anyone else in the world to.
Now go forth and conquer!
Ronald Cetoute, Co-founder of BEL Initiative