EGI takes ideas & informal businesses and turns them into formal operations that can receive investment
We find the most promising Haitian entrepreneurs, train them and connect them to top investors and businesspeople who serve as mentors. Together with the entrepreneurs and mentors we create formal small businesses and find 1st level funding.
We were founded in 2005 in the aftermath of the 2004 crisis and work with entrepreneurs in the greater Port-au-Prince area.
I think that if more people had the opportunity to participate in something like this it would make a difference in Haiti James St Fort, EGI class 2011
Sandal manufacturing enterprise.
Offers OpenSource software solutions for small and medium enterprises
Expanding current internet cafe to teach computer skills to high school students
Expansion of existing chicken production enterprise to include egg and feed production. This enterprise is a formal partnership between an EGI entrepreneur and one of the most prominent members of the Haitian private sector.
We’re setting up an investment fund to provide seed financing for selected businesses. Invest in this fund and help our entrepreneurs to create sustainable growth in Haiti.
Interested in sharing your time and skills with Haitian entrepreneurs? Reach out to us about mentoring a business or teaching a work shop.
By: Robby Meara, University of Notre Dame MBA 2015
I had no idea what to expect from Haiti. Based on what I read about the country through various American and Western media outlets, I expected the country to be in a state of extreme poverty (and indeed, barely functioning). I knew EGI, specifically, to be a great organization with an extremely important mission, but at least a part of me wondered what a group of six MBAs could achieve over the course of a week. Classmates who had previously spent time with EGI in Port-au-Prince stressed that we should put any notion of Haiti out of our minds and approach the situation with a blank slate. They also told us that Haitians were an incredibly smart, entrepreneurial, and proud group of people, and that as such, we should approach our task (to help EGI participants get their pitches “investor ready”) as we would any other consulting function. With some skepticism, but quite a bit of optimism, I began my MBA immersion experience.
What I experienced in Haiti was astounding and surpassed any and all expectations that I may have held previously. Contrary to what is often promoted in Western news outlets, Haiti is not a completely dysfunctional country. Sure, it has its fair share of problems, but what I saw is consistent with most other developing countries experiencing growing pains (e.g., Ecuador, Jamaica, Egypt, Russia, and Turkey, all of which I’ve visited in my lifetime). What’s more, there are a great deal of Haitians (both born and adopted) that are heavily invested in improving Haiti and fully taking advantage of the country’s natural beauty, the intelligence and ingenuity of its populace, and the country’s rich culture and heritage.
To loosely quote Mark Twain “[t]he reports of [Haiti’s] death have been greatly exaggerated.” My interaction with Haitian entrepreneurs (and products of the EGI curriculum) left me very impressed. They had excellent business ideas, a keen sense of how they could make money, and a drive to succeed. I went into the immersion course thinking there would be serious, irreparable flaws in most business plans, but instead found (thanks to solid coursework from EGI) that their biggest issues related to familiarity with local financial institutions, skepticism around taking on debt from formal lenders, and lack of access to financing to meet the scale of their proposed investments. That is not to say that EGI entrepreneurs would not benefit from additional courses in accounting, financing, and marketing, for instance, but what I saw from my interactions demonstrated that EGI participants are quick learners willing to take in new information and immediately put it into action.
Rather, the biggest issues related to broader social issues. To wit, I sensed that many entrepreneurs did not believe that they could access loans from formal institutions at relatively favorable rates, but instead went with higher rate (and more dangerous) sources of informal funding. Likewise, at times I was told that many EGI participants sometimes have a hard time accepting that EGI personnel were there to be there strongest advocates in helping secure financing and making connections to get their businesses off the ground. In many ways these are more difficult tasks because they entail more gradual changes to long-held beliefs and perceptions, but they are indicative of a maturity and sophistication that I did not expect in the business plans I read.
On my way to the airport while leaving, Patrick Brun asked two of my classmates and me if we would ever want to return to Haiti and if we would consider investing in Haiti in the future. My immersion course in Haiti with EGI was an incredible experience, and it left me with a better understanding of myself, as well as a drive and desire to continue working with EGI to help their entrepreneurs achieve their full potential. Yes, I will and I have to make it back to Haiti (in the near future), and yes, I believe that Haiti has a bright future (one which I would very much like to be a part of).