Have you logged on to Manman Pemba lately? You should! It’s one of the world’s biggest directories of Haiti businesses, and one of the most well-known. Manman Pemba givers business owners in Haiti the opportunity to advertise their businesses in one central location, while giving consumers a useful, mammoth site with information and ratings metrics on restaurants, hotels, and other venues all over Haiti.
As an astute observer can imagine, a site like Manman Pemba (ManManPemba) took considerable time and energy to built. And it’s taken a lot of manpower, diligence, and strategy to keep it going. Martin Bertrand Martin, the entrepreneur behind it, came from behind the computer to give ManManPemba visitors, users, and readers a glimpse of the workings of his site.
Kreyolicious: How did you get the idea?
Betrand Martin: ManManPemba is a legacy from a pre-earthquake venture called MobInfo and Le3900.com. In 2009 I launched a service called Le 3900 that was a unique product at that time! I identified mapping and geo-localization as an interesting market. My team geolocalized 7000 businesses and put them on our website using the Google Map background – back then the Port-au-Prince map was almost empty. I also had a 24/7 call center where people would call or text 3900 on their Digicel, with questions about local businesses phone numbers.
The beginnings of Le3900.com were promising. A story I like to share about this is that the very Tuesday of the  quake, in the morning I was in the Digicel building with their Head of Product making big plans for Le 3900. In the afternoon, I had a phone call with an employee from Google in California about the opportunity of selling our location data to them. They told me there were not interested in purchasing data for Haiti, but eventually, the week after the quake, we signed a contract and gave them all our data so that they could update the Google Maps of Port-au-Prince to help people working on the field. The impact of the quake was way too much for a young start up like mine to recover. I had to let all my team go, and close the business.
One year after the quake, I wanted to start my own business again, and launch more of a cool city guide, rather than a full business directory. I decided to use some of the data collected before, and to add the review part to it – where people can share experience about local businesses, add the event agenda that we update every day, and add a blog too with some original content about Port-au-Prince. That’s how ManManPemba.com started in 2011. As you can see, the idea was matured over the years.
Kreyolicious: What made you pursue entrepreneurship?
Bertrand Martin: The love of independence and freedom. You got to deal with a weight of responsibility, risks and sacrifices that come with it. But overall, being able to do what you want, what you love and when you want is key! I am surrounded by inspiring entrepreneurs and business minded people, who have Haiti in their heart. You can’t be an entrepreneur here in Haiti if you don’t love Haiti. I also love meeting and discussing with all those business owners, Haitian creators, and discover new places.
Kreyolicious: Why the name Manman Pemba?
Bertrand Martin: When I decided to re-launch my business one year after the quake, I was looking for a catchy, out-of-the ordinary Creole name for the project. My wife once used that word in a discussion and it was like an enlightenment! Not only [did] I like the poetic vibe of it, but the meanings of the word ManMan Pemba are great too. The ManMan Pemba is the big drum, the “manman tambou” that sets the rhythm. One of my favorite definition of the origin of this word is the story of the cannon of Christophe in La Citadelle. I was told – yo di’m [smiles] that he had this big canon called ManMan Pemba that he fired at the sky during thunder[storms]. But mainly, the name ManMan Pemba sums up well what we want to be: a strong reference that people can trust and follow with confidence.
This concludes PART I of the interview with the founder of Haiti business directory site Manman Pemba! Look out for Part II.
Meanwhile, CLICK HERE to visit the Manman Pemba website!