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Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Young Social Entrepreneurs May Want To Check Here For Impact Opportunities

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

This is the first of a series of reports from Haiti.

This is the second in a series of articles from Haiti.

Jude V.P. Tranquille, age 29, and living in Port-au-Prince visited Washington, DC for RYLA North America Conference, a meeting for members of Rotaract, a youth group associated with Rotary International. While there, he made a connection that would not only change his life but that has the potential to help infinitely more.

Tranquille met Jan Holz, a young man who splits time between the U.S. and Germany, something that is relatively easy when you work for Lufthansa. Tranquille expressed his desire to create some sustainable progress in Haiti, having been frustrated by the futility of much of the earthquake relief that focused on handouts that needed to be repeated in order to work. When he gave people food following the quake, he noted, they were hungry the very next day.

Jude Tranquille. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Jude Tranquille. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Holz got the picture and quickly they came up with the idea of hosting an entrepreneurship camp for young entrepreneurs. Jann solicited support from Lufthansa and HelpAlliance a nonprofit created by Lufthansa employees. Tanquille brought Devoted Servants, his own nonprofit. Together, they recruited help from the Rotary Club of Wall Street and the Rotary Club de Delmas-Aeroporte, among other supporters and sponsors.

In the summer of 2014, they held their first two-week camp for 28 young entrepreneurs. For 2015, they found 34 entrepreneurs, many of whom had heard about the camp from people who attended the first one. The second camp ran for three weeks rather than two and attracted a crop of somewhat more serious entrepreneurs, many of whom already had small businesses they were working to launch.

During my visit, I caught up with three of the founders of Novac, an ambitious group of young people planning to conquer the world, starting with backbacks. The three are Smiff Lormier, Peterson Figaro and Napoleon Rodolpho.

Peterson Figaro, Smiff Lormier and Napoleon Rodolpho. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Peterson Figaro, Smiff Lormier and Napoleon Rodolpho. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

They credited the camp with helping them to find key partners, including an embroiderer to sew their logo onto the backpacks and a workshop with dozens of sewing machines where they can produce their orders renting the shop by the day, radically reducing their capital requirements.

Prior to the camp, the three had done a round of fundraising, selling shares in their nascent business founded in March. After describing their round in basic terms and doing some quick calculations they reported that they had raised $2,000. They’ve already produced hundreds of backpacks and are negotiating an order to produce special backpacks for drones that could yield a gross profit of $5,000. In Haiti, their business is starting to get real.

Another pair of entrepreneurs that participated in the conference, was Diego Desulme and Jenny JeanJacque, founders of A-Tech (and newly engaged to be married). A-Tech is a social enterprise, focusing on helping young Haitians explore the opportunities available in the 21st Century by increasing computer literacy.

The A-Tech strategy is to publish booklets that provide training on how to use computers, so students can affordably prepare for their limited time in front of computers, which few can afford. Even in schools, access to computers is limited.

The books include some advertising that covered the printing costs. The books were then sold to other young entrepreneurs in bundles all around Haiti and were then resold to students eager to learn how to use computers.

The first year program was so successful that Lufthansa not only signed up to support the second year, but funded the production of a documentary film of the second year camp. The film was screened by the Rotary Club of Wall Street for visiting Rotarians and dignitaries from around the world last week at the Rotary UN Day and was apparently a hit with the audience.

Rotarians from around the world were involved in the Entrepreneurship Camp. Dominique Bazin, a Rotary Assistant Governor, provided local support in Port-au-Prince. Jack Guy Lafontant, President-elect for the Rotary Club de Petion-ville was also engaged. Susanne Gellert worked on the project on behalf of the Rotary Club of Wall Street.

Young social entrepreneurs may wish to check out the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards or RYLA, where they may make international connections that may help them find exciting opportunities for impact.

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