Clermont Dossous is an entrepreneur based in Salt Lake City, Utah. As the founder of Lew Ayisyen (When You’re Haitian), he heads one of the fledgling clothing brands based on Haitian culture and heritage. A Business Administration graduate, Dossous isn’t exactly entering into the arena without swords and weapons.
Kreyolicious: How did you come to be an entrepreneur?
I have been an entrepreneur since the age of fifteen when I started selling CD’s and DJing as DJ Joune for local schools and parties in Haiti. I am always interested in coming up with ideas, creating things and doing stuff in a new way. When I came here, it was different because I was in a completely new environment so it felt like I had to start from the beginning again. I did not give up and kept grinding until I became known to play in all major clubs in the states and also out of states. What kept me going is the freedom I had to do what I love and the only thing that could stop me is myself. In university, a group of friends and I started a business selling hand-painted hats from Haiti called under the name ArtQuake. That was my first partnership, and I learned a lot in the fashion industry and how to run a business. I also helped a few other businesses such as Gamonde, a handmade jewelry line, by helping them with marketing to promote their products. I also utilize my business major to help the business grow and have learned from all our mistakes. This year, I decided I was going to use what I learned from those business and create a separate new business with a better business model than my first fashion business and still relate to Haiti’s Culture.
Above: A piece from the Le’w Ayisyen collection.
Kreyolicious: Why did you choose to give your brand that name?
I chose this name because it connects all Haitians together. Every time I would have a conversation with a Haitian friend and we are talking about Haiti, I always found myself saying, “Le’w Ayisyen”. So when I was brainstorming for names, I realize that “Le’w Ayisyen”, there something about the culture, stories that will brings us together that we cannot ever forget. I wanted a name that as soon as you say it, you feel connected culturally and I feel Le’w Ayisyen does just that.
Above: A shirt design with
Kreyolicious: Did your educational background help you at all in your venture?
My formal education has helped. Having a Business Administration background helps me run the much of the parts of business people don’t think or know about but having the informal education gained from previous entrepreneurial experiences, definitely has helped significantly more.
Kreyolicious: What’s your biggest challenge in terms of running Lew Ayisyen?
My biggest challenge now is connecting with the Haitian American community, and also to sell to people in Haiti. For now, we are only online. Something we are definitely working on is to have some points of sales in Haiti and stateside in areas with a significant Haitian population.
Kreyolicious: Do you listen to any business podcasts, or have you read any books that have helped you in your fashion entrepreneurship journey?
Yes. I have read dozens of books and I think everybody should read those books regardless if they want to own their own business or not. Some of the books I have read include: Lewis Howes—The School of Greatness, The Richest Man in Babylon, Habits of Highly Effective People, How to Win Friends and Influence People, How to Work for Yourself, The Power of Positive Thinking, The Secret, The Little Prince. I listen to The School of Greatness Podcast, as well as various other podcasts off and on. I listen to Les Brown, Jim Rohn, and Tony Robbins pretty much every day.
Kreyolicious: Where do you hope to take your brand?
I want my brand to become a worldwide known Haitian-owned brand targeting Haitians in various places in this world. I want to elevate the urban Haitian clothing industry where it’s as cool to wear a Haitian brand as it is to wear something from Urban Outfitters or H&M, but better because there is a direct connection with culture, community, change, and love.
Above: The entrepreneur deep in thought, while taking care of Le’w Ayisyen business.
Kreyolicious: Why do you think so many cultural brands like Lew Ayisyen are popping up all over the place?
I think they are popping up because they [the entrepreneurs behind them] want to make a change and not rely on other parties to make a difference. In order for things to change in Haiti, we as Haitians needs to stop expecting change to come from outside first. No, it needs to come from inside in order to affect the outside. I think it’s great to see other entrepreneurs taking this route and helping promote the culture, the country and also be an example to our people and show them that it’s possible. That is why part of our mission is focusing on developing and supporting projects in Haitian communities with part of our profits. Our first project was a partnership with Gamonde called: Loud Art Project. I find great value in investing in the happiness of kids in Haiti. I believe that we can make a great impact in our culture in also in making this beautiful country a better place. Le a rive, Lew Ayisyen wa konprann [The time has come. When You’re Haitian, You’ll Understand].
Photo Credit: @_gamonde – Trish Augusting (Loud Project Pictures, Gamonde)