Kate in Haiti's Blog

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Building a business, watching it fall … and starting again. October 8, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — kateinhaiti @ 12:35 am

On my last break I went and visited a friend who lived in New York state, who was about to move with her husband and 5 week old baby girl to a house they had never been to, in a State they had never lived in before, in a town they had never visited, to start a small business of their own, making garden furniture; which they had never made before. I thought about her this week, when I visited a group of ladies in the mountains who also had their own small business.

These ladies have been making jams and marmalades together since 2004. Although it didn’t used to be very profitable, thanks to a training course supported by another organisation in 2008, in rceent years they had seen a good turnover – making enough money to build themselves a small building to use as a ‘factory’, employ 15 ladies, and ensure all of them had enough money to send their children to school and keep their families fed. The jams and marmalades were popular, not just in the local markets but at supermarkets in Port-au-Prince also.  They used fruit they had grown locally, and things were on the up; years of investing in their small business was paying dividends.

Then the earthquake happened. In the photo you can see what happened to their building; completely destroyed. Their equipment was mostly damaged beyond repair. You can see in the second photo the effect it had on their pots and pans. They are still using these battered pots and pans to make thier jams and marmaldes (which I can confirm really are very good). They have started again, in the yard of someones house, but the production scale is small because they have lost their equipment. We are helping them with a grant of $2000, which won’t rebuild their workspace but will help them buy the machines to allow them to mass produce their goods. Once they can do this, the supermarkets in Port-au-Prince will take their stock again, and they can start on the path to rebuilding what they have lost.

I think about my friend Jill, starting out in her small business; the risk she is taking, and the effort her family will put into building it up. I imagine her taking years, seeing it grow, getting it to a stage where her risk paid off and her family are comfortable…. and then suddenly, to lose it all.  Would she have the energy and the courage to start again? To pick up what is left and start from the beginning for a second time? Perhaps she would. It must take incredible energy and motivation. I admire these ladies for their determination, and look forward to seeing their jams and marmalades on the shelves.  (and perhaps also doing a little more sampling of the goods ….. just ensuring we are supporting products of quality, you understand ….)


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