Friday, we went to Port au Prince to move all of our stuff out of and close down the 2nd Story Goods store at the Marriott Hotel. Unfortunately, after renting the space for 3 years, it just was not financially feasible for our company, especially with the large decrease of visitors coming to Haiti this past year. This was the first really difficult decision I’ve had to help make since being here. Though it will result in a slight decrease in our overall sales, it will automatically make us financially healthier as a company, and that is currently the most important thing for our survival. And for me, as head of marketing and sales, it will free me up from constantly trying to figure out how to increase sales there and enable me to put all of my energy into the US market for now.
We now are starting to prepare to move into our new storefront at Market Place Gonaives (the new building being built by our parent non-profit, Much Ministries). The building is getting closer and closer to being finished every day, and though it is still difficult to predict an exact opening day, we expect it to be this fall. The downstairs of the building is ready for the grocery store vendor to start their build out and move in process, but with the recent state of the country, everything has been a little delayed. We expect to be able to start moving into our new store in the next few weeks, which is very exciting! When I was here 4 years ago interning with Kathy, I actually helped them move the store for 2nd Story Goods from the foyer of their house into the garage next door, and it was one of my favorite parts of my time here. Everything was on a much smaller scale then and it’s pretty cool to think about how far the company has come since then.
Since I was in Gonaives with 2nd Story Goods for the first time exactly 4 years ago, I have been reflecting more recently, mostly on how crazy it all is and how lucky I am to be exactly where I am doing exactly what I’m doing. I don’t even think I can explain how perfect it all feels, how natural it has all been. Kathy always said that after I was here 4 years ago, she hoped I would come back but was almost positive I wouldn’t; that I would maybe get swept into a swanky corporate America job or something after college. It’s funny because when I left Gonaives 4 years ago, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, because the 3 weeks I spent here were some of the best and most formative of my life, in large part because of everything Kathy came to mean to me and taught me in that short time, and in seeing the dignity and joy with which the employees of 2nd Story were working. It was completely different than anything I had ever seen, and everything and more I had hoped it would be. And the more time that passed throughout college, the more sure I was that I had found my calling at this little company in Gonaives and that when I returned to work in Haiti after college, I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. I think about all the internships, classes, travels, and experiences that I had between that first time in Gonaives and returning here after graduation, and I’m so glad that I didn’t just drop everything and stay, even though that’s kind of what I felt like doing. By the time I got here in the fall, I had grown into exactly I was supposed to be at the time before coming back to Haiti in every single way, and the timing could not have been more perfect. It all reminds me of one of my favorite Frederick Buechner quotes: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” That is exactly what it feels like I am experiencing here.
I finally got my Haitian visa! After 4 visits to the immigration office in Port au Prince, it is officially in my hands, meaning I can legally stay in Haiti for longer than 3 months at a time. From now on, I will just have to renew it every year. It is such a relief to finally have it, and now it is official that I won’t leave again until my Lumos presentation in October.
Lately at work, I have been trying to focus my attention on acquiring new wholesale clients. I have been doing a lot of research into possible stores, churches, coffee shops, etc. who would be interested in buying our products wholesale to sell ( if you’re reading this and happen to know of any, please let me know!) Thanks to the work of the Enactus team this past semester, we have a beautiful, super professional looking wholesale packet that we are sending out to all the brick and mortars, and I am emailing the PDF out to the online stores. One of the Enactus students is even going to stores in Nashville this summer and passing out the physical copies personally! Enactus also PAID for several copies of the packet. We are so very thankful, and I already feel so much comfortable doing cold calls, knowing that we have something so professional to give them.
I am also trying to figure out how to finish up our fundraiser so I can stay here next year; we have about $12,000 and need $13,000 more, so we’re almost halfway there. The original idea that I helped come up with was to do a kickstarter style where people get something in exchange for their donations at different levels; we are going to pivot from our current strategy and try that next! In addition to the money to do needed equipment upgrades and provide my salary for the next year, the money we are currently fundraising will also provide for a marketing budget (think: better marketing= more sales= more work for our current artisans and the creation of new jobs for more people= whole families lives stabilized and changed!). Since I have pretty much been working without a budget at all for the past 9 months, I am SO excited to have this money to work with to increase sales, and plan to use a good bit of it to try to grow our retail sales. I also found out this week that our retail sales have doubled in the past year. It was so encouraging to hear that the fruit of our labor is truly making a difference and that growth is happening, even when we feel like we are so far from where we need to be.
I am currently on the lookout for a marketing mentor to give me advice and feedback on my strategic decisions as well as how to spend real money wisely (spending real life money is scary! ), so if you happen to know of anyone who may be a good fit, please let me know (big plus if they are in a similar industry/start up type company) . I’ve realized that if I were working in a bigger company, there would be people with more experience with marketing as well as specialized degrees above me who I would be learning from, and though I am so thankful for the opportunity and up for the challenge, I suddenly became IN CHARGE of marketing, less than a year out of college, with only two introductory marketing classes under my belt and no prior experience. Though other experiences in college taught me a lot about it and I do feel like it comes pretty naturally to me (not to mention that I’m a millennial who knows so much about the power of social media and there is so much free helpful info online), I have decided that it would be wise for me to find someone who has more experience than me (which obviously isn’t too hard!) to bounce ideas off of and learn from. I think the thing that really drives me here is that I believe wholeheartedly in our company and what we are selling, and I think that really comes through in all of the efforts put on by our marketing team! I don’t really know how people sell things they don’t believe in! I know there are people who are very much okay with doing jobs that they aren’t passionate about and pursuing their passions on the side, and many people who just are not privileged enough to do differently, but I feel extremely blessed that my job is my passion. Now that I have that in my very first job, I am probably spoiled and would be very difficult for me to ever be able to do a job I’m not passionate about from now on! Ha.
For now, I am so happy and present where I am that I cannot even begin to try to imagine what the future holds. And I consider myself so very fortunate to truly be doing a job where “my deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”