For one to start any business, one needs to have a degree of awareness about trends. A few years ago, Carl Bazelais noted that there wasn’t a central place he could logon if he wanted to read visitor feedback about restaurants in Haiti. This gap in the market prompted Bazelais to create Bonspoon, an online portal that features restaurant listings and reviews. The entrepreneur has since added nightclubs, bakeries, and event listings.
Carl Bazelais, the founder of Bonspoon, a website that highlights Haiti’s restaurant scene.
Kreyolicious: The last time you gave an interview to Kreyolicious, Bonspoon Media—your company—had more or less just started. What has it been like since then, running your company?
Thank you, Kat, for your time and this interview. Well, let me just say that I have a better appreciation for the words, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” I have to also say that with the help of my good friend and associate, Jeff Rinvilien, I was able to keep the ball rolling at times. He has been a blessing to the company.
We have been busy tweaking things here and there, formulating new ideas, new ways and approaches that really capture the idea behind Bonspoon.com, the website and the company Bonspoon Media, and making them a bit more superficial then before. Moreover, one of the focus of our company is to help paint a better or an attractive view of Haiti through media.
Bazelais (left) poses with two Bonspoon supporters at Taste of Haiti
Kreyolicious: Would you have done anything differently in terms of your launch?
I believe that we had a successful launch, but would I have done things differently? Yes. I could have recruited a larger team, done a few more interviews to get the buzz out, hire a PR person—a few other things. And after all, it was a growing and learning process for us as a company.
Kreyolicious: And from what you can see, how is Haiti’s tourism game looking right about now?
As we all can see, there is an absolute change in the tourism sector. In my own words, I say that it is booming, we can prove that with facts. Statistics have shown us that the number of diasporas and foreigners visiting Haiti has been on a positive slope and has been climbing since 2012.
However, not yet at its full potential, I’d say. A lot has been done, and believe that there is still a lot of work to be done.
Kreyolicious: What should entrepreneurs, especially those who were born outside of Haiti or grew up in the USA, Canada, or the like keep in mind if they are contemplating on starting a business in Haiti?
Honestly, I would say to do all the research you need. And not just through the web, plan a trip to physically see and identify your market. It is always better to know the kind of beast you’re going against first before you face it. The element of surprise won’t work.
Kreyolicious: Bonspoon Media has a strong base online. What role does social media play in the overall success of your brand?
Oh, yes. Social media plays a huge role in business when it comes to branding, Twitter and Facebook mainly because they are giants. However, they can also be a two-headed sword if not used accordingly. Make sure to follow the rules or etiquette of social media, because it can hurt your brand.
The homepage for Bonspoon….
Kreyolicious: What’s the best dining experience you’ve had in Haiti? And which restaurants would you recommend?
You know what, I love and support the little guys because of how practical they are. I could recommend a few, but to answer your question the best meal I have had, or should I say “best dining experience” I’ve had was at Assiette Creole. I love the ambiance and had a pleasant experience.
Kreyolicious: Say you were the headline speaker at a conference about investing in Haiti, what would you say to your audience?
Wow. Interesting question. The only thing that comes to mind is that they have the opportunity to partnership with not just Haiti but its people. Your success will depend on your willingness to learn and understand their culture, their needs and wants. To be steadfast in your work, and not forget that your output is equivalent to your input.
Bazelais is all smiles at A Taste of Haiti, a tradeshow that promotes Haitian cuisine.
Kreyolicious: What are some things that helped you along the way since you decided to become an entrepreneur?
My passion for Haiti. I know and believe that we all have a responsibility to do for our country. I want more for my country and my people. Really, that’s just it, Kat. You know, John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” That alone keeps me motivated because inside of me lives Haiti. Therefore, everything I do evolves around it.
Kreyolicious: Where do you see Bonspoon Media in a few years—say 5 to seven—from now?
In this business, you can’t stay stagnant. And if you do then you will pay the consequence. In one year, we’ve launched a new region of our website to accommodate Haitian Restaurant and Bakery businesses in the United States — that alone to me displays growth. So in 5 to 7 years, as things will be different, I see Bonspoon Media brand still growing.
[All photos are provided by subject. ]