First Business Trip
July 2012: Port-au-Prince, Haiti
As the plane was getting ready to land in Port-au-Prince, I found myself starring out the window to the land of Haiti thinking, “how much of this country can I impact and make a difference?” I looked deep into the mountains and wondered if I would be able to touch those areas.
This was my eighth trip, but my first since I discovered the passion to dedicate my life to bring this country out of poverty. And I am now seeing Haiti with a whole new perspective. Though some may see hopelessness and desperation, I see tremendous potential and endless possibilities in this country. The goal of this trip was to find what is currently available in Haiti and what do I have to work with. I have one more year before I graduate from University of California, Los Angeles and this is my last summer as a student. I want to take advantage of this summer to gather what I can from Haiti to start on this growing passion!
Before leaving Los Angeles, I sent out several emails to contacts in Haiti I had found online. I got one email in return, a warm welcome to meet with me in Haiti. It was from Magalie Dresse, the owner of Caribbean Crafts, a large manufacturer in Port-au-Prince. I later found out Magalie is a close friend of President Bill Clinton, works closely with the Clinton Foundation, and has met Oprah when she visited Haiti. Her husband is Joel Dresse, the Belgium consulate in Haiti. Going into this trip, I only had one meeting set up. But I had no idea that was the one meeting I needed to get this vision started.
This was my first business trip and my first business meeting. I was afraid people would disregard a 23 year old, who is still a university student.
But from the moment I started speaking with Magalie Dresse, I was filled with confidence about this vision I have to put Haiti in the hands of Haitians by creating job opportunities for the people. Magalie was unreserved in giving me the realities and hardships about working in Haiti, but I could not have been more confident that this was the right thing to do. After an hour and a half of sharing my vision and learning from Magalie, she must have seen potential in me, because she gave me all her contacts of Haiti manufacturers to get me started. I was blown away by how this one meeting was the key to it all. I was also humbled that she had taken time out of her extremely busy schedule to meet with someone who only had an idea.
In the one month I was in Haiti, I had a total of ten business meetings: Caribbean Crafts, Paula Coles HAITI, Ace Iron Craft, Cuirs Hawtan Leather factory, REBUILD Globally, Apparent Project, Child Hope, Atelier Calla, Bob Ligali, and ABN Artisan Business Network.
What a successful trip! I’m truly amazed by the creativity and innovation in a place of poverty and can’t wait to work with these visionaries with a huge heart for change!