Saturday, July 23, 2011

Day 7: The Citadel

On Day 7, PE members traveled to Cap Haitien to participate in a Tourism Focus Group. After touring the Citadel, the largest fortress in the Americas, and San-Souci Palace, PE gave suggestions on how Haiti officials can capitalize on these national treasures and draw tourists to visit. As Ambassador Joseph shared with the team, Haiti is set apart from all the other Caribbean islands: "We all have sand and sea but Haiti has history and culture." Sites like the Citadel and San-Souci Palace will resonate with descendents of Black slaves in America, and even all over the world, because they are standing symbol of the indomitable fight for freedom by a people who would not be denied.

Henri Christophe, a key leader during the Haitian slave rebellion against France, built the Citadel after Haiti gained independence in 1804. PE members were awed by the imposing structure which was built by nearly 20,000 workers between 1805 and 1820. The Citadel is the largest of a number of forts built to keep the newly-independent nation safe from French attacks.

The builders filled the Citadel with hundreds of cannons, many of which still stand within and around the fortress today.

While the feared French attack never came, the Citadel has withstood numerous earthquakes, including the most recent in January 2010.

The Sans-Souci Palace, which sits at the base of the Citadel, was the royal residence of Henri Christophe (also known as King Henri I), Queen Marie-Louise and their two daughters. He built nine palaces but this was the most significant. Construction ran started in 1810 to 1813. The San-Souci Palace is now a ruin, visitors can see hints of the luxury therein: immense gardens, artificial springs, a pool, and a system of waterworks. \

Sans-Souci's construction is a testament to what Henri Christophe wanted the world to know: that Black people - free Black people - have the ability to construct buildings to rival any found anywhere else (in Europe or other parts of the Americas).

Friday, July 22, 2011

Day 6: Empowerment Day

On Day 6, PE traveled to a local church to conduct a Empowerment Day seminar. A mini-version of the previous days' sessions, Empowerment Day was for local business owners who were unable to attend the four-day workshop. Executive Director Deloris Thomas and instructors Lori Threatt and LaMeisha Taylor, taught the 100+ crowd, giving them needed encouragement and practical steps on how to build and grow their businesses.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day 5: Graduation

Today participants received certificates signifying their completion of PE's program. The participants also expressed their appreciation and thanked PE's instructors and assistants for leaving their families and jobs to share much-needed knowledge.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 4 (continued): PE Tours Local Businesses

On Day 4, PE members also had the opportunity to tour the businesses of some of its participants. Djimy, a photographer and videographer, owns DRA Production. He attended PE's workshops the last two years and was excited to share how he had implemented what he learned.

Djimy took the lessons on basic accounting and bookkeeping as well as marketing and applied them in his businesses. Djimy has seen growth he could not have imagined and is taking additional steps to build his current location and one day open new ones.

Day 4 (continued): Learning the Law that Governs Business Owners

As is the case with business owners in the United States, many Haitian entrepreneurs have opened up shop without taking the legal steps to have their business recognized by the government. On Day 4, participants learned the proper way to register their businesses and why complying with the law is important to their livelihood.

Day 4: Business Profiles, Microlending, and Coffee-Consultation via Skype!

In addition to holding business training sessions, Project Eden also compiled client assessment profiles of each attendee. Our short questionnaire seeks information on the type of business, its location, and the number of employees. We took information on the demographics of their best customers (eg: age, income, family size) and the means they use to promote their business (eg: word of mouth, internet, radio, etc.). Finally, we asked owners about their competition. Specifically, we wanted to know about their products/services, location, target market, etc.

This exercise was not only a way to gather information so PE can offer continued assistance after the conference is over, but so the owners can begin to brainstorm ways they can better serve their clients, increase their clientele, and achieve greater success over their competition.

During our afternoon session, Georgette Jean-Louis, Chief Operating Officer of Fonkoze, a Haiti-based micro-finance institution, explained Fonkoze's services and products, and gave tips on how to prepare for a loan. Since keeping accurate records builds a lender's confidence in one' ability to not only repay the loan but use the funding for the intended purpose, participants gained even greater appreciation for the bookkeeping presentation by Ms. Evans. Our attendees were engaged and asked many questions, signaling to us their desire to use every resource available to achieve business success.

Our coffee team also had a productive breakout session, this time led by our three farmers from Baradere! Given their success with co-op farming, they taught 18 local farmers on the benefits of co-op farming and how to start one. Afterward, everyone participated in a Skype call with a small U.S.-based importer of Haitian products. He provided a technical lesson on measures they could take immediately to improve their coffee quality (eg: keeping the ground clean during the harvest to avoid infecting the trees that have yet to be harvested).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 3 (continued): PE Meets Fmr. Ambassador Raymond Joseph

On Wednesday evening, Project Eden was honored to meet and dine with Mr. Raymond Joseph, the former Ambassador of Haiti to the United States. He shared with us his harrowing experiences as an opposition leader against the Duvalier regime. Mr. Joseph also stated that for Haiti to regain her prominence on the world stage, two things are needed: a) an atmosphere where people are assured the land is secure, and b) publicity in the U.S. that Haiti is not as dangerous as media reports have led people to believe. Statistics show that crime in Haiti is considerably less than popular island destinations like Jamaica.

Ambassador Joseph also explained that Haiti was once a tourism destination whose only rival was Cuba. As the world prepares for political changes in Cuba to re-open the doors to tha country, Haiti must similarly be prepared and positioned for explosive rebirth. Project Eden is committed to assisting her!

At dinner, Ambassador Joseph also met our coffee farmers from Baradere. We were all impressed by their perseverance and dedication to join us: they traveled eight hours by car, crossing a river, to attend our conference. We are honored by the time and considerable effort they took to join us!

Day 3 (continued): Impacting the Coffee Sector

In addition to holding our business training conference, Project Eden is impacting the coffee sector by assisting local farmers in growing and processing high-quality, specialty coffee. Years ago, Haiti's impeccable climate made it a world-leader in coffee production. In fact, Haitian coffee accounted for more than 50% of the world's coffee. Trade embargoes by the U.S., instituted for political reasons, caused coffee farmers to abandon production and instead, grow other crops.

But Project Eden believes the revitalization of the coffee sector is crucial to Haiti's economic rebirth. On Day 3, we hosted three founding farmers from the CDB cooperative in Baradere, Haiti.

In today's session, PE facilitator Laurie Smith gave them greater insight into the international market by sharing the high demand for specialty coffee and providing strategies for how their cooperative can increase quality and production.

PE facilitator, Demitrus Evans, led a session on marketing and how to attract the foreign market.

Day 3: Sales and Pricing

On Day 3, Project Eden facilitator LaMeisha Taylor taught a lively morning session on sales techniques and strategies. Using her extensive background as a sales professional, Taylor introduced the concept of the "30 second commercial" and led participants through an interactive exercise in which they practiced introducing themselves, their business, and their product/service in 30 seconds. Taylor explained the importance of building repoire with clients and understanding "relationship buying." In a country where many business owners provide the same or similar products and services, implementing these tips will help set our PE participants apart from their competition.

In the afternoon, facilitator Laurie Threatt taught on pricing and how to widen profit margins. Many participants shared frustration that in order to make the sale, they had to lower their prices to match those of their competitors. In response, Threatt counseled them to consider how they could cut their costs so that even if they have lowered their prices, they have lowered costs so that they can still make a profit. This small piece of advice was pivotal in showing attendees that the concept of profit involves examining every area of one's business.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Day 2: (continued): Coffee Tour

Also on Day 2, PE members Laurie Smith, Demitrus Evans, and LaDawn Burnett traveled to Jacmel, a town in the mountains, to learn more about the coffee industry. Project Eden has chosen the coffee sector as one if its main industries for impact because re-establishing Haiti's place in the industry is key to economic revitalization.

Day 2: Building a Good Foundation

On Day 2, PE's business conferenced opened and our participants arrive excited to get down to business. But first things being first, PE lays the foundation for "great success" in the marketplace: Vision

Pastor Ray Thomas, a seasoned businessman, taught participants the importance of having God's vision for your life and business. Pastor Ray encouraged participants to pursue God's purpose for their lives and know that He will provide every resource and advantage for them. Knowing that your success is already assured by God enables you to step forward with confidence.

Next, PE helps attendees began to master a concept that is challenging for busines owners everywhere: good stewardship.

"Record-keeping" is foreign concept in Haiti. Many business owners only focus on the amount of cash they have on hand and therefore are unable to adequately track their success. PE facilator Betty Evans, a licensed CPA from Chicago, taught our attendees the basics of accounting and shed light on the practical benefits of keeping adequate and up-to-date records. Although initially skeptical, participants began to see how keeping track of what "going in-and-out" will position them to make better decisions regarding their finances. Participants also caught on to the concept fairly quickly. As one observer remarked, "They are understanding this faster than we thought because they've never been taught that this is hard."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Day 1: Project Eden Returns to Haiti!

Project Eden has returned to Port-au-Prince, Haiti! On Monday, July 18 - Thursday, July 21, Project Eden will host its 3rd Annual Business Development Conference at Le Plaza Hotel in downtown Port-au-Prince. The marketplace is our platform and we believe that by training local business owners in basic business concepts, we are helping the people of Haiti grow business entities, strenghten market sectors, and create more jobs.

During this year's four-day conference, our participants will come from all walks of business life, from all parts of Haiti. They are vendors, cyber cafe owners, coffee growers, chicken farmers, and construction workers. Yet, what they all have in common is a desire to learn strategies on how to make their businesses run more efficiently and produce more revenue. And we at Project Eden are more than happy to help them!

This year's PE agenda includes workshops on: Bookkeeping, Sales, Pricing and Microlending. We will also hold sector-specific breakout sessions for our coffee growers and chicken farmers.

We are excited to be in Haiti once again. Please check back each day for updates!