Several years ago, I was doing research on entrepreneurs in the US including those in the Haitian community. I was able to survey Haitian businesses in several states and participate in several business conferences. I came across many Haitian own businesses. Whenever I spoke to the owners of these businesses, I heard the same thing: business is not doing well. I kept thinking about the problem and consistently noticed the same pattern. Most Haitian businesses fail because they focus too much on the needs of a selected few and served their own needs instead of that of the greater community.
The culture of me, me, me does not work for businesses in America. Because of aggressive competition, the Haitian-American customer has grown to consistently ask themselves “what is in it for me?”. Most Haitian business owner cannot answer this question. It sounds like a broken record but I kept hearing Haitian business owners claim that they are not being supported by people in the Haitian community. This is absurd. In other words, a Haitian business owner thinks that my purpose in life is to wake up in the morning and support their business. I will use my own experience to illustrate this point.
One of the first products I launched was under the brand, Neliquick. It was a bean powder with whole beans in it that helps people in the Haitian community make bean purée, sos pwa, in 20 minutes instead of 1-2 hours. Anyone who used and could afford the product thought it was a great idea. However, the product failed miserably in the beginning. I had designed a product that suited my lifestyle. I have a family, a career, 3 active blogs, 4 websites, I travel a lot. I have no time to spend 1 hour in the kitchen during the week. The value proposition in a product like that is huge for me, me, me. What I failed to understand at the time was that such a product has very little use in the Haitian community.
Without looking at census data, our Haitian community has a large number of people working for minimum wage; many are struggling to make ends meet. The Haitian community also has a significant number of households with someone who does not hold a regular job; a grandma or auntie who does the cooking. I then started to explore the next income brackets, middle class and top earners. What I found out among middle class and top earners was that their daily menu was increasingly of made of non-traditional Haitian food. Many of them also were able to afford part-time nanny/cook.
To make matter a bit worse, when I analyzed the health benefits of why Haitians eat sos pwa, I realized that because meat was so expensive in Haiti beans was considered a great alternative. In the US meat as a source of protein is still more expensive than beans but everyone can afford to buy meat. As such the value proposition for a Haitian style product that saves time in the kitchen was a great idea but one that focused too much on Me. Had I done a more in-depth market research and put myself in the shoes of my potential customers, I would have understood their needs. Sos pwa did have other applications in other niche market but was not a hit for the Haitian community.
I cannot blame lack of support in the Haitian community because I failed to satisfy the needs of my community by focusing too much on my own needs. American customers in general which include Haitian-American customers do not care about your business. They only care about how they are going to achieve their short and long term goals. It is your job as a business owner to provide tools and products to help Haitian customers achieve their goals.
I will leave you some food for thoughts from Billionaire Richard Branson: “I have always believed that if you go into business to improve a product or a service and have a positive impact on people’s lives then success and money will follow”.
About monayiti.com. We are a brand of high quality food inspired by Haiti. Some of our products are directly sourced from Haiti. We strive to include 1 or more ingredients or recipe from Haiti in our product or concept. We are here to serve our community by helping them achieve their goals. It is our belief that a stronger community will generate healthier businesses.