You want to know about risk? Take some pointers from Sara Helena Denis Senat, the founder of Helena’s Treat, an organic line based in Haiti. She founded the company with just a few dollars and lots and lots of faith. The young mother and wife was elated to discuss her company, her zeal for natural products, and what some would term her initial entrepreneur phobia.
Kreyolicious: Tell us about yourself and more about how you came to create Helena’s Treat.
I recently graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a certificate in International Business. My new motto since I have been back in Haiti is “Adapt and overcome.” I am passionate about making natural products. In my free time, you may either find me reading or blogging, or even painting.
I am not just an entrepreneur; I am also someone who is involved in the community. For instance, I am a member of Jeunesse Verte Haitienne, a non-profit environmental organization, and the founder of Yon Ti Jès, which literally means a little gesture. The former is presided by my husband, and the latter is a Christmas project that is dear to my heart because we get to plan fun activities for orphans around a lovely meal and bring them presents. The orphanages that we have been partnering with so far are around the capital. Last year, sixty children and adolescents attended our charity event. This year, Yon Ti Jès will also go to a children’s hospital.
Kreyolicious: Was becoming an entrepreneur scary?
Yes, it was, although I always knew that someday I would open my own business and have my own products on the market; little did I know that I would launch Helena’s Treat at just twenty years old. I started Helena’s Treat with only 150 U.S. dollars. It does not sound like much, but as a college student, at the time, it was kind of a big investment because I could have used that money to buy school supplies, for instance. To tell you the truth, I remember wondering whether it would be a successful business or not. In fact, I still do, but I have become more confident over the years since Helena’s Treat is a profitable business. I know, now, that some of the essential keys to a successful business are the following: having a clear goal, the ambition to achieve it, and the right people by one’s side. Yes, one needs to surround him/herself with people who are motivated and can help him/her reach new heights.
Kreyolicious: Is there a story behind the company’s name?
When I was looking for a name, I wanted to find something that was simple, yet marketable. On one hand, Helena is my middle name—my favorite name. On the other hand, all my products are made with love: it is my treat to my clients.
Kreyolicious: What’s it like being an entrepreneur in Haiti?
Let me start off by saying that being an entrepreneur is not an easy thing in Haiti for numerous reasons. One of them being the difficulty of getting loans with low interest rates. Another disadvantage would be the fact that there is always a thing or two that I need to get from the United States of America. And the list goes on and on…
A few years ago, I remember wondering whether I would be able to find a niche for our products in Haiti or not. Now, that there are other companies that offer similar products, I know that there is, and that reassures me. Competition can be good for business because it leads to innovation!
I recently moved back to Haiti. That is why we are currently reorganizing the business. One of the reasons why I stay motivated is because Helena’s Treat helps the community by offering jobs directly to our two employees, and indirectly to the ones from whom we buy fresh herbs, salt, coconut, etc.
Kreyolicious: You have scrubs, soaps, and even a honeymoon kit. How did you decide what products to offer?
Helena’s Treat is a company that sells luxury handmade products at a decent price. I knew that selling soap would be profitable commercially because most people use it on a daily basis. Although I was skeptical at first about adding scrubs and bath salts to the list, I was definitely certain that a honeymoon kit would be a great addition. Who does not love to pamper him/herself from time to time? They make great gifts to newlyweds. Furthermore, they are excellent for lovers who are trying to spice things up.
Kreyolicious: What advice would you like to give to another woman who’d like to go the entrepreneurial route?
I would tell her to have clear goals, never take no for an answer, and to surround herself with people who are capable of keeping her motivated. Because when things get tough, she will need to have supportive people by her side. Those people are the ones who will remind her why she started in the first place.