The entrepreneur Victor Kaim reportedly said, “An entrepreneur assumes the risk and is dedicated and committed to the success of whatever he or she undertakes.” If he were alive today (he died in the early 2000s), Marie Jean-Baptiste would probably be a safe bet for him as an investor. She’s on her sixth business. Rue107, her latest venture, begun five years ago in New York.
The line has won praises from fashion bastion Vogue, and stopped conversations during this year’s Essence Magazine’s festival this year. Clearly, ms. Jean-Baptiste, has a mind for business.
But the Port-au-Prince-born and Brooklyn-raised businesswoman didn’t always have a business mindset, but she always had foresight. When she graduated from high school, she did so with a vocational diploma in nursing, ready to battle the post-secondary world. After her application to the Fashion Institute in NYC was rejected, she continued to pursue a career in healthcare as a registered nurse. But you can’t cower from what you’re meant to do. One year away from graduating with her undergraduate nursing degree, Ms. Jean-Baptiste walked off to launch her contemporary women’s fashion line.
In the first segment of our convo, we mostly discussed Rue107, and what it’s like to be a fashion entrepreneur. This part of our discussion centers more on Haiti and Haitian-American culture.
Kreyolicious: So, you came here from Haiti when you were little. What was it like becoming Haitian-American?
Becoming Haitian-American was a completely different and scary experience for me. It’s always weird transitioning from a place you’ve called your home your whole life to now making a different country your home. Everything in Brooklyn, and New York City for that matter, is so fast-paced and it took a while adjusting too. Now, I love and appreciate the diversity this city has to offer.
Kreyolicious: Have you been to Haiti recently?
I visited Haiti this past January. There are some noticeable changes from what I remember. I saw a lot of influence from the Haitian diaspora mixed with our traditional cultural treasures. I think the hybrid of those two things is transforming Haiti in a great haven for entrepreneurship, tourism, infrastructure and overall economic growth.
Kreyolicious: Would you ever consider having a photo shoot in Haiti?
A photo shoot in Haiti would be so much fun! Having the bold colors of Haiti mixed with the bold prints from Rue.
Kreyolicious: Are you immersed in the culture now?
It’s hard to not be immersed in a culture that is a part of who I am. I always try to incorporate a little bit of that Haitian flare throughout the prints of the Rue107 clothing line.
Kreyolicious: Any Haitian artists you currently follow?
I love the classics- Sweet Micky, T-vice, Boukman, Emeline Michel, Tabou Combo. I need to get in the groove of the new school!
Kreyolicious: Girl, what’s your favorite Haitian meal?
I love taso kabrit! I order it from Le Soleil restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen–such a gem in the neighborhood. I read recently they are the oldest Haitian restaurant in the city, amazing food. I also love tchaka and soup joumou, which my mom makes for me sometimes.
Kreyolicious: Do you source Haiti based vendors for Rue107?
I am currently not sourcing with Haiti based vendors, but I would love to learn more about the process. It would be a rewarding feeling to say I was able to contribute to the growth of Haiti and that Haiti has contributed to the growth of Rue107.
Kreyolicious: Have you ever thought of starting a fashion school in Haiti, or holding fashion seminars?
This is an ongoing conversation I have with myself, my family and my peers. I am at the stage where I am recovering Haiti as an adult. After being away for nineteen years, it feels so good to connect again, and I can’t wait to see how it will all play out in my entrepreneurial journey.
If you missed PART I of the interview with Marie Jean-Baptiste, the founder of Route107, CLICK HERE!