I cannot believe it’s April! As of the 1st, I am officially half way through my Lumos journey! The first half has been better than I could have ever imagined, and I can’t wait to see what the second half brings. And I am so excited to stay in Haiti for at least one more year after my time with Lumos is up! I am just so very grateful!
I am now almost 2 months into serving as the marketing director for 2nd Story Goods. Stepping into this has been such a joy and a challenge at the same time. Five people now report to me, and while I do really enjoy managing projects and working with people, I do sometimes find it challenging to give orders to peers or those older than me, especially since I am so new here. But I am getting a hang of it, and also learning that all good things take time. Since this is a new position in our company, there is lots to be done in terms of organizing all of our marketing and sales processes. I am trying my best to take it one thing at a time, but it does feel like there is always so much left to do! I feel like the sky is the limit because I truly believe in this company, and it’s exciting to think that marketing and sales efforts are a vital part of us getting to the next level.
In these two months I have done many different things and as most people who work in business would say, it feels like that has largely consisted of meetings. I have had weekly meetings with those who report to me as well as the project manager of the Belmont Enactus team to check in on their projects; add in my roles as Kathy’s assistant and a member of the leadership team and the meetings multiply! I have planned out a rough picture of our marketing calendar and strategy for this year, created sales and promotions, begun to reach out to influencers, started to dream up new marketing materials and a more user-friendly shopping experience on our website, begun to create individual marketing plans for each new product, and more!
Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in accomplishing my day to day tasks, and then something happens and I am reminded that I am really here, living my true dream of working in economic development in Haiti. I think of everything that happened to get me here, and I become grateful all over again. Reminding myself of these blessings is super helpful when I get frustrated or worn out of the lifestyle here. Like the other night, when I ran out of running water because my neighbors had turned it off, my floor was immediately dirty again right after I cleaned because of all the dust, I was covered in bug bites from an unknown source, and then I asked for 2 cups of rice at the market and cooked it accordingly, only to find out they actually give you twice as much, so I accidentally cooked 4 cups without enough water instead.
Sometimes I forget to focus on the wins I have as much as I could. Last week was filled with lots of moments like the ones listed above, but probably just as many sweet victory moments. A friend offered to help me build a bed frame for my new bed (the one I was using prior was borrowed), I steadily improved in Creole, I ate the healthiest I have for a whole week since coming here, and it took me less time to clean my house than normal (getting it down!). I think it is vital to focus on these wins and the gratitude I have just for being here if I am going to be able to live here longer term.
Since July, when political unrest first started in Haiti, 2nd Story Goods has not been doing as well financially. 25% of our total sales come from retail and wholesale customers in Haiti, and the number of tourists and mission teams coming has greatly decreased since then. Since it has been a while since that happened now, and tourism has not yet picked back up, it has been hitting us harder lately. Nevertheless, it has been really cool to see how God has provided for this company throughout it all. A few weeks ago, I got to witness one of the most concrete examples. Our company bank account was down to the lowest it has ever been and we were at the point where we were not going to be able to make payroll for all of the stateside employees, and Kathy sent a screenshot of the the number to Brandon, our CFO; instead of choosing to freak out, she basically said, “I am so grateful that it is still _ many cents above zero. Hallelujah! Thank you Lord for that.” and he responded, “Amen.” 17 minutes later, a woman in the US messaged Kathy and said that her and her husband had a large donation they wanted to give 2nd Story, and were wondering if we could use it. As Kathy said, giving thanks opens heaven. We were able to make payroll that week.
And that’s just one example! People have come to the store in Gonaives randomly to shop in the times when we were most in need of cash flow. Two of those visitors, who work in Haiti themselves, left donations on top of their purchases. Someone donated thousands of dollars worth of pottery equipment and we got a grant to hire someone to help them refine their skill so that we can take that atelier to the next level; the guys in that workshop are so excited and are having so much fun learning new things. God has been faithful and kind and it has been a humbling reminder among tough financial times that the entire purpose of this operation is to aid in bringing his kingdom to earth; because of that, he keeps reminding us that he is very much present in it.
Even though it has been full of God’s faithfulness and blessings, seeing these tough financial times inspires me to think long-term solutions as the head of sales and marketing. It is my dream for this company to grow well rather than just to grow quickly, and this means making sure we have a solid foundation before we get too many sales that are beyond our capacity; this would be a crash and burn! I am getting more involved in our data entry, staying aware of happenings within our operations, giving my opinions when it comes to new product designs, and trying to notice gaps and come up with solutions throughout it all. I have loved getting to organize and systemize things and think of ways to do things better. I am thankful that as a small company, I get to focus on sales and marketing, but still take part in discussions about other areas of the company, especially since it is all interconnected.
At the end of the day, no matter how sweet or challenging, I keep trying to come back to gratitude. It is the thing I try to focus on in my daily yoga practice and meditation/prayer time, because I do notice, like Kathy said, that it opens up heaven. I can get caught up in all the things I still need for my house, worry about how I am going to eat healthy tomorrow, or stress about finances for the future, or I can make the choice to be thankful for each thing I have that makes my house more of a home (and just having a home!), for having food to eat at all, and for having money in my bank account for now. I can say thank you for that and know that it is enough for today. And I can trust that just as God has been good and faithful every day up until now, he will continue to be in the future.