Tech queen Sandra Pierre is the entrepreneur behind the website Haitian Businesses/Haitian-Businesses.com. In less than two years, she’s amassed over 35,000 followers on Instagram alone, and has about 5,000 combined followers on Twitter and Facebook.
While her entire tech movement is built around promoting and connecting businesses, it isn’t all corporate with her. She doesn’t neglect the cultural aspects of her roots and never ceases to share the creative aspects of the businesses she promotes. Whether attending a Haitian cultural event, or hobnobbing with Haitian entrepreneurs at social and business events, the founder of Haitian-Businesses never loses sight of the social aspect of her business.
Kreyolicious: Tell us about yourself, and how you came to be interested in tech.
I am a native of Cap-Haitien, Haiti. I accompanied my family in 1996 to the United States at a young age. Upon my arrival in the States, I felt the need to stay connected with her homeland…Haiti. However, I immediately shifted my focus on my education. Though faced with challenges of an unfamiliar environment and new culture, I continued with the pursuit of my dreams by completing high school and later studied Business Administration at Lynn University. My daily motivation are embedded in the sacrifices by hardworking parents who worked tirelessly for me to have a better future. The motivation didn’t come without the strength which I found in God and those whom I cherish. During high school, I obtained a job with one of the country’s leading electronics retailer. After many years as an employee there, it became second nature to me to spark an interest in the forever evolving world of technology.
Above: The entrepreneur at an event sponsored by the many Haitian businesses she supports daily.
Kreyolicious: How did you come up with the concept for Haitian-Businesses?
As I moved on in life, the need to serve my community was burning up in me. The deep connection I felt with Haiti’s culture and its people led me to what I am doing today. I felt a strong obligation to remain attached to the Haitian culture–even more so while leaving outside of the country. As a professional, I spent many years serving in local government. I grew tired of hearing the comment, “The Haitian community does not support our own businesses”. In late 2013, after noticing a lack of connectivity between Haitian-owned businesses professionals in the Haitian community, I started a movement to promote Haitian-owned businesses in March 2014. The connection made with businesses and potential clients through my page has proven that if we stay connected and expose each other, the myth that we do not support each other’s businesses will be laid to rest. I feel like I am still in the beginning stages of this monumental movement. I nonetheless believe in [it due to] the positivity I’ve seen so far. Today Haitian-Businesses.com is extensively popular in the Haitian Community as a bridge to connect, to promote and to support Haitian businesses. The work has just began for me, and I am ready to continue the effort to benefit the Haitian community around the world.
Above: With Jerry Tardieu, the Haitian entrepreneur behind Royal Oasis, one of Haiti’s five-star hotels.
Kreyolicious: Do you run across some challenges in operating your website?
When tackling something new like I am with Haitian Businesses, LLC, obstacles are likely to happen. It is much more than operating a website. The website is one of the platforms used to showcase the movement. As I face obstacles—such as stepping out and doing something that has never been done before by an individual…through the process, it becomes a learning experience for me. I accept the challenges and face them with an open [mind] because they help me grow—not only as a person—but as a business woman as well.
Kreyolicious: When did you realize that the Haitian Businesses brand was catching on?
Six months into the movement a major hotel in Port-au-Prince Haiti emailed me for help and I was in shock. The hotel owner reached out personally since he needed a shipping company to transport a few large items from the Atlanta to Haiti. I was able to refer him to a shipping company for assistance. Since then, I’ve been running a referral program with the businesses listed on the Haitian Businesses Directory. I constantly receive requests [from] potential clients or other business owners looking for another service. [These are the] moments that mark me. It was when I realized my work was having a positive impact on the community.
Above: Sandra of Haitian Businesses, LLC honored with a plaque for her work by Joanne Milfort Board member of the Haitian American Chamber of Florida and Miami Consul Guy Francois Jr.
Kreyolicious: What would you say to someone who wants to start a website that targets the Haitian-American community?
We have a large majority of our community who still does not show an interest in technology. As for me who’s in the business marketing field, getting involved and consistently expanding my knowledge is quite beneficial. There are two things that I would definitely suggest for anyone with interest of setting up a movement, organization or website in support of the Haitian community. My first suggestion would be to stay in touch with the community in order to be familiar with their needs. Secondly, to remain well-informed, knowledgeable of the content needed to be resourceful to the community.
Kreyolicious: What gives you the biggest satisfaction as the owner of Haitian Businesses?
I am absolutely thrilled to have feedback from those who have used my services or who those who simply appreciate the message behind the movement. I often receive testimonial notes via email or private messages which are a great source of motivation. To me, it’s tangible proof of the work being done and an inspiration to keep moving forward. It is also satisfying to know when we as a community stands together to support each other or specifically their business, we help support a dream. When we support a Haitian owned business we strengthen our community, our people and ultimately our beloved Haiti Cherie.
Kreyolicious: What’s next for your brand?
My main goal since I initiated this movement has been to connect, promote and support Haitian businesses. In the past two years, I have hosted networking events, created social media campaigns, promotional ads and referral programs. All of these are done to give the businesses more exposure. I’m eager to continuously use my platform and my voice to assist my community. I am currently working on a few projects that will extend the mission of Haitian businesses throughout the community. Each day, I anticipate [making] a difference in my community and being a positive voice for my people.
[Photo Credit: Main photo, Roe Michel; All others furnished by the subject.]