Surprise surprise! I am still in America. While I must admit I have enjoyed getting to eat all my favorite foods and see all of my favorite people, I am missing Haiti very much. I came to America for the holidays because I have not been able to obtain my Haitian visa yet, so I needed to be out of the country before my three month mark. My original plan was to already be back in Haiti by now, but some unexpected opportunities for 2nd Story Goods in America came up that we feel we cannot pass up, so I am staying here and working from home for a few more weeks.
Since being back, I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Dinani, the director of Lumos, and briefly process my experience in Haiti so far. That made me realize that this time in America is such a gift for this very reason: processing what I’ve learned so far so that I can go back to Haiti with clearer vision.
In Haiti, I can often avoid the day-to-day details of the American political and social climate; it is easy to get caught up in the every day of my life in Haiti, and I often have to pay more attention to what’s happening in Haiti because that is what is most directly affecting my life there. Being amidst the American climate is humbling in many ways. Sometimes in Haiti, I notice some ethnocentrism rising up in me when we start talking about the differences in the Haitian and American way of doing things. I think this is very natural when adjusting to a new culture, and something to actively notice and work through. I find myself thinking things like, “In America, we do it this way because that is obviously the better way.” What I’m constantly learning is it is not necessarily the better way, just a different way. I’m also learning to admit when I feel my white savior complex taking over; admitting it humbles me back to the reality that while we do things certain ways in America, those things don’t even necessarily work that well in our own country, and most definitely won’t work in an entirely new culture like in Haiti.
I have been asked to give input into some strategic decisions we are currently making at 2nd Story Goods. It is such an amazing opportunity for me as a 23 year old new grad to get to take part in these conversations, and I do not take it for granted. Because of that, I am seeking counsel from those older and wiser than me. I reconnected with my old entrepreneurship professor, and am looking forward to being able to bounce more ideas off of him moving forward. I have been meeting with my old advisor from Enactus, Dr. Gonas, who has so much experience working with social enterprises, as well as connections with others who will be able to offer guidance with 2nd Story Goods. I got to meet with a representative from Able, a successful apparel social enterprise that is based in Nashville. I got to tour their beautiful facility and ask questions about how their company runs. I even got to discuss possible future partnership opportunities between our company and theirs.
Since I was in Nashville during the first week of the spring semester, I had the opportunity to meet with the new project manager of the Belmont Enactus: 2nd Story Goods project, Clancy, several times. We got to really hash out what we’d like Enactus to accomplish for 2nd Story Goods this semester and how they will go about it; it reminded me how, in this age of technology, face-to-face meetings when possible still hold so much power. I also got to meet the whole Belmont Enactus: 2nd Story Goods team. They did an awesome job doing research for marketing last semester and over time, we have all gotten a clearer vision of what our partnership should look like. Over Christmas break, they all filled out a survey that we gave them with questions about their passions, experience, relevant course work, and any ideas they have for 2nd Story Goods after working with us for a few months. Their responses blew me away, so needless to say, I was so happy to get to meet with them in person. These students are incredible and I am so excited to get to continue to work with them this semester; I am hopeful about what this partnership will bring for both sides.
Because our main market for 2nd Story Goods is the U.S., this unexpected time in America has been so helpful, especially as I help make decisions as we restructure the company through the format the book Traction has laid out for us. I have been having frequent meetings over FaceTime with our other employees in America to discuss these strategic plans. I have also talked to Kathy almost every day in order to stay up to date. Since we have a few employees working with us remotely from America, it has been interesting to get to experience what that’s like for myself. I definitely miss getting to see all my Haitian co-workers every day, and will be so happy to be reunited with them soon.
On February 1st, I will be attending the first annual Social Impact Investing Seminar at Belmont led by Dr. Gonas. While on sabbatical last semester, he did research on the subject of social impact investing, and made many valuable connections across the country. This is an incredible opportunity for 2nd Story Goods not only for the integral information we will learn about potential financing options, but also for networking with other people working in a similar space as our own.
As providence would have it, this event is taking place the day before Much Ministries/2nd Story Goods board meeting in Atlanta. My worlds will collide as Kathy will come to Nashville for the seminar and then I will go with her to the board meeting. I will then go with Kathy and Beaver to south Georgia where our 2SG warehouse is located. Bringing Kathy to Nashville to connect her with specific people there, getting to meet the board, and seeing where our operations take place stateside are all things we’ve been talking about making happen in the next year. I’m excited that all of these wishes are coming true!