CHES: Improving Lives and the Communities in Haiti Through Entrepreneurship
Rebecca Obounou MBA ’17 lived much of her life in rural Haiti, where her parents are from, where she saw poverty and need in the community she lived in. Her mother founded a social venture, an affordable clinic where she treated and helped hundreds of people in their community lead healthier lives. Obounou’s mother was also able to generate a much needed stream of revenue for their families and create employment opportunity.
Seeing the value that her mother created with this venture convinced Obounou that Haiti needed more jobs and businesses and less charity. This is where CHES was born. CHES is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate, to fund and to mentor entrepreneurs in rural Haiti. The organization’s vision is to see people living in dignity and free of poverty through business.
Obounou returned to Massachusetts, where she had originally grown up, to attend business school where she earned a degree in management. She was determined to return to Haiti to start her own business. Upon graduation, she was dissuaded by family and friends to start a business in Haiti as a young woman. Still determined to share the best practice knowledge that she acquired in business school, she decided to create a nonprofit organization focused on sharing business principles with existing enterprises and rising entrepreneurs in rural parts of Haiti.
With her mother as one of the founding members, Obounou launched CHES in 2008.
The Issue and the Solution
- Five million Haitians live on less than $2 a day. (CIA WFB)
- 77 percent of Haiti’s poorest reside in the rural areas. (FONKOZE)
- 40 percent of Haitians are unemployed. (CIA WFB)
- 60 percent of Haitians are under employed. (Theodora WFB)
- 80 percent of Haiti’s available commercial credit is accessible to 10 percent of the population. (FONKOZE)
CHES is the answer. Since its start, over 100 small business-owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in rural Haiti have undergone CHES’ stand-alone business education program. Over 50 percent of those trained have been women. The organization has followed a number of those trained 6-12 months post trainings. They found that 88 percent of content they taught are being exercised in their daily operations and ALL reported increased profitability by way of increased revenue and cost savings.
In 2013, CHES provided a seed loan to a women-owned business, a food depot that sold 100 percent natural Haitian-grown produce. This start-up created three livable wage paying jobs.
The Babson Story
Obounou chose to come to Babson after her first several years of making mistakes and learning. The key things she realized about working in Haiti is that it takes of time, a different skill set than she had and different ways of thinking. She knew that she had it within her to persevere for a place she loved and that gave her so much and she knew that Babson could help her with acquiring the skills she needed and to hone her thinking. She started in the evening MBA program in fall 2013. She worked, attended classes, and continued to run CHES over these last four years.
According to Obounou, “CHES has grown up since I joined Babson. We are a respected organization in the Haitian community in Boston and in Haiti. Haiti gave me a culture, a set of values and history that I love and of which I am proud. Serving in CHES gave me greater character and true fulfillment. I truly love the team members who have been instrumental to our progress and the people that we serve. I’m passionate about serving our entrepreneurs well. My MBA experience at Babson has equipped me to take us from where we were in 2013 to where we are today and where we are going!”
CHES is currently undergoing a major strategic shift in how it delivers its services. At the beginning of this year, the organization decided to increase its presence in Haiti and hire an operations director. This will allow CHES to serve more people.
On May 19, 2017, CHES is hosting a culinary event with Haitian Chef Stephan Durand in Roxbury, MA. Not only will this event celebrate CHES’ work, Haiti’s cuisine, art, and music, it will celebrate Haitian businesses. Start-ups such as gourmet chocolate maker Les Chocolaterie Askanya and Whole Foods organic Haitian castor oil based beauty product supplier Kreyòl Essence will be featured. The newly formed organization for local Haitian American organizations, Haitian American Business Expo, will also be featured.
This summer, CHES will be working with a Hurricane Matthew affected community. The organization will provide entrepreneurship and management training and will help these community member launch a poultry farm program in Bois Laborde, Southern Haiti.
Obounou is also a member of the inaugural Business and Social Innovation Intensity Track at Babson.
To learn more about CHES and their upcoming events, visit their latest newsletter.