First of all apologies for the cliche title of this blogpost but I was stuck for something that captured the spirit of the following message best and this come closest.
Anyway, let me get to the point.
Having being involved in projects in Haiti and through this work having spoken to a lot of people either living in Haiti or working there I have been given the topic of what the best ways to improve Haiti’s situation are a lot of thought. One of the things I noticed is that Haitians seem to be very enterprising. The amount of micro-businesses, street vendors and jack-of-all-trades are simply overwhelming. Everybody seems to be either selling or buying something. Being a strong advocate of the free-market philosophy I loved this and it got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be great if we can take this entrepreneurial spirit, throw some solid business ideas in the mix, ad mentoring by experienced business people, hot-desking space , and some micro-lending and build a new generation of Haitian entrepreneurs.
So here’s my idea:
I would like to find a vacant office buildings in one of the main cities and set up an business incubation programme.
- Applicants will have to go through a “vetting” process similar to Seedcamp, Dragons Den etc. They will be vetted on the strength of their business idea and personal skills/qualities NOT on how well they can fill out forms.
- Successful applicants will be offered a place on the 3-month business incubation programme.
- Each participant (or group of participants) will be assigned a business mentor.
- The primary goal of the incubator will be two-fold. We will teach participants the “business of business”, how to turn an idea into a business-plan, how to develop that plan into an business, how to fund, market and make that business profitable and more. We will teach basic business administration as well as cap tables. The participant will bring the idea and we will give them all the tools to turn this into a success.
- The incubator will have an in-house micro-lending service offering small business loans to the participants.
- The center will have ALL facilities neccessary. Not just a shared reception, meeting rooms and hot-desking facilities but also good canteen facilities (real coffee), in-house postal service, courier drop-off & collection, storage facilities etc.
- IT services will be second to none.
- There will be in-house legal, accounting and investment services with weekly clinics.
- 24-hour security & access.
- Daily or weekly “Open Coffee Club” type meetings in a shared room in the center. This is an essential part of the center. You meet, you discuss and you share. No hiding away in your office and not talking to anyone.
An incubator like this will bring in expertise from all over Haiti and abroad. Mentors will share their knowledge, experience and network in person or via web-casts & video-conferencing. There are currently several training programs throughout Haiti teaching vocational skills, agriculture etc. While these are all essential to the future of Haiti is is equally important to teach Haitians the necessary business skills to monetise their business. Especially for export oriented business this is essential whether it is for exporting products or service to the world market. There is an especially great potential in the technology industry where Haiti could be a great location to develop off-shore software services and the likes. But it could also be to teach the skills needed to trade in commodities. The resulting growth in Haitian owned business will create revenue that (largely) stays in Haiti as well as increased employment. It will also make it more attractive for the Haitian diaspora to return.
So how can this become a reality? There are two things essential to make this a success; we need people with good ideas who want to start their own business and we need experienced business people and professionals willing to share their expertise with the knowledge that it will create a better Haiti for everyone. Nest we need a location. Nothing fancy but 500-700 sq meters office space would be great. The fit-out doesn’t have to be anything fancy and I am sure we can find suitable office furniture somewhere. I’m also sure I can get the necessary IT equipments (desktops, printers, servers etc) donated by one of the likes of Dell, HP, IBM or others. I would look at MultiLink or one of the other ISP’s to help us out with broadband as they will surely see that we will be creating a whole group of customers for them.
The physical aspects of this are not the hardest. What is required mostly is “buy-in” from the Haitian government and business community. But also of the Haitian people. I can’t do this alone.
So let’s do this people! Let’s turn this into a reality!
If you are interested, can contribute or know someone who I should talk to, CONTACT ME!
P.S. yes I am aware that by putting this in the public domain that someone might take the idea and do it without my involvement but more than doing this myself I just want to see it done!