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Men anpil, cha pa lou: building growth strategies in Haiti

Nest’s Director of Artisan Engagement & Fellowships, Joellen Nicholson, has just returned from Haiti with fresh notes from the fields and updates on Nest’s support for Artisan Guild members poised for growth and eager to work together on creating strategies for increased impact.

One of Joellen’s primary goals was to help implement a Nest strategic growth assessment alongside Haiti Design Co. Growth assessments, which are structured as in-depth interviews and workshop tours, involve long discussions with the businesses’ leader (in this case, Chandler Hamilton Busby), aimed at assisting artisan businesses in uncovering the primary business challenges standing in the way of increased business capacity. In other words, what needs to happen so that the artisan business is better able to competitively meet demands of the local and exporting marketplaces?

During her time in Port Au Prince, Joellen not only spoke with Chandler, the businesses’ founder and executive director, she also toured through the workshop’s various operations to acquaint herself with the men and women creating Haiti Design Co.’s very sophisticated designs spanning jewelry, apparel, beadwork, horn and bone, and leather goods – in fact, the list goes on! Since its founding in 2014, Haiti Design Co. has grown into a thriving training and production center employing over 150 people within our workshop and HDC partner branches. The workshop itself was bustling with activity, creativity, and positivity.

Haiti Design Co.’s mantra is particularly worth noting: “Men anpil, cha pa lou.” This old Haitian proverb means “many hands make the load light.”, and communicate the idea of interconnectivity between consumer, designer, and craftsperson. By working together, the cooperative believes, we each lighten one another’s load through mutually beneficial positive impact.

Chandler tell us:“It was really a pleasure to have Joellen visit us in the workshop. Having someone to systematically discuss our current operations with, dissecting each and every nuance, made it possible for me to identify those primary pain points our business needs to focus on addressing. For example, we decided together that by having better systems to organize and and analyze our financials, we should be able to make wiser hiring and production planning decisions. There is a lot of work ahead, so we feel grateful to have the support of Nest and the Winn Family Foundation to put our strategic growth plan into action.”

Following her time at Haiti Design Co., Joellen spent time with Nest Guild business, Deux Mains, part of Rebuild Globally.  She was excited to visit their workshop to learn in-depth about their production and training programs. Joellen even had a “sneak peek” look at the spring/summer 2018 collection which is now available at Deux Mains! The collection was created in partnership with local Haitian artists to hand paint exclusive art on the the repurposed inner tube and tire materials.

Following an introduction by QVC Giving Tuesday and International Women’s Day partners, Alina Villasante of Peace Love World, Joellen also had the great pleasure to meet with Zamni Beni, a nonprofit that supports disabled children and teens in Haiti, several of whom are orphaned. Joellen made a new friend in Nephtalie, a teenage girl with big dreams and artistic talents spanning design, drawing, and writing. Here is one of her lovely sketches that Joellen shared with the team.

The next steps are to regroup at Nest headquarters to build out Haiti Design Co.’s strategic growth plan. This will include onsite fellowships, webinars, and even attendance at Nest’s 2018 annual Artisan Leadership Summit. We can’t wait to keep you updated on progress and milestones along the way.