Se Pa Pe’Pe’ Ladies Encourage Yon Poul Instructors


Many of you are familiar with the Se Pa Pe’Pe’ Ladies, a small business comprised of four women that we helped to launch and continue to support in Haiti.

Many of you may also be familiar with our Yon Poul (One Hen) social entrepreneurship program, in which we are working with children to teach them the principles of entrepreneurship, sustainable business and charitable giving.

On one of our recent trips to Haiti, we had the opportunity to introduce the Se Pa Pe’Pe’ Ladies to our Yon Poul instructors during a program training session. We opened up the floor to questions, in hopes that the instructors would find a conversation with Se Pa Pe’Pe’ enlightening and encouraging.

Turns out, we couldn’t be happier with the results! The four women who comprise Se Pa Pe’Pe’ were once incredibly poor, timid and without hope. Now, they are bold and confident, and lifting themselves and their families out of poverty as they continue to develop skills in sustainable business, sales and finance.

We found ourselves so encouraged by Se Pa Pe’Pe’s interaction with our Yon Poul staff that we transcribed the whole conversation to share with you all. Check it out; you’re going to want to read the whole thing.

Se Pa Pe’Pe’ Ladies are italicized: Emmanuela, Chantal, Joslyn, and Lionie

Yon Poul Instructors are bolded: Arseline, Louis, Allison, Eltane, Joslande, Geraldine, Francois, Shelnise, Elcina, Mirlen

Lionie: We started Se Pa Pe’Pe’ in 2014. We used to sell clothing and shoes. Sometimes we had a profit and sometimes we lost and we got discouraged. At the beginning we started with just 4 pairs of shoes to sell and eventually we each got 10 to sell. Sometimes we went to the market but didn’t sell anything. When we sold the clothing and shoes we kept 30% for us and put 70% into the bank. What we put into the bank became a big profit. [This year] we took the profits from the back account and divided them into 4 and we each became entrepreneurs with the money.

Chantal: Sometimes when we go to the market we sell nothing but sometimes we do. But when we don’t sell anything we don’t become discouraged.

Josyln: We started Se Pa Pe Pe Ladies on Oct 15, 2014. Once we had profits in our bank account we were allowed to take out a loan from them.

Emmanuela: When we started the business it was hard and we faced a lot of difficulties but we kept working on it. When we were doing the business sometimes a week passed without selling anything but we kept at it. But now, despite the difficulties, we still want to go further with the business. At the beginning, when we were just starting the business, we didn’t take it seriously. Now we take it seriously. Now we are looking for products that people really want to buy. We are competing with other products in the market. We do our own business but communicate with each other about how it is going. Before we started our own businesses we depended on each other – if we had lost someone the business would have failed.

Elcina: How did you start your business? How can you help us do business?

Emmanuela: The way that I do business – I tell people what I have and then people start coming to me. When you’re doing business you should be patient. Have a way to talk to customers and encourage them to come [buy your things]. When you invest money to do a business your profit should not be 100% — if you get 60-70% profit – that means it’s working. Write down everything. If you’re selling things – write down the price of the products and how many you sold. Put some money in the bank in case of emergency.

Chantal: You should ask others how to do business. Everyone has their own strategy in business. If you buy something for 1000 but people keep offering you the same price you paid – after 3 times you have to take it. Even if you don’t make a profit, at least you will break even.

Allison: If you have a loss from the business, what do you do?

Lionie: If I lose a loan, I tell people what happened and they give me advice. If I still can’t pay it back, those people who advised me will help me pay it back. 

Emmanuela: For myself as an example – I once was selling juice and lost 400 Haitian Gourde for doing that business. What I had saved, I invested again in the business. But you shouldn’t invest all of the money; you should have a savings account for emergencies.

Francois: What motivated you to do business?

Emmanuela: I have a family I need to take care of. I was in need. I had no job; I had to make a living.

Eltane: What can you tell people who have just a little money to do business?

Chantal: Business doesn’t mean you have to have a lot of money. It’s little by little. Step by step.

Joselande: What are the causes of the losses? As an example – if we start with 200 and sell nothing, what can we do? We pay for transport to the market and lose it all.

Chantal: You just go back and keep trying. Don’t go to the market on a rainy day.

Louis: When we’re doing the business and have a full time job and it’s not doing well, what can we do?

Chantal: You find out how much you can get from the business and the job and decide which one is better for you to be doing. Sometimes you can go to work and do your business in the evening.

Lionie: When I was doing business in 2014 I hired people to do the business for me when I went to my job.

Emmanuela: Some people in the world work from 6 am – 9 pm. After your work you can do the business. I’m always thinking of another business to do after my work. You have to do business during Christmas. In summer, you do summertime businesses.

Ruth: Congratulations on your work. Where did you get the name and the coaching to do the business?

Emmanuela: Se Pa Pe’Pe’ came from Jim. The first time he brought 40 pairs of shoes. Because he said the shoes were “pe’pe’ (used).” But when we sold clothing, the clothing was brand new. Even though now we are doing other businesses that are not Se Pa Pe’Pe’ we still use the name. Jim coached us [on] what we didn’t know and that helped us.

Joslande: What was the most difficult thing when you were starting the business and what did you do to solve it?

Emmanuela: The most difficult was some days when I went to the market but didn’t sell anything but still had to pay for transportation and food. Even then I didn’t get discouraged. On Saturday and Tuesday the market is very hot so we sold more things. When the market wasn’t working my strategy was that I went to people’s houses to tell them what I had to sell. Sometimes people came to our house and asked me “do you have any clothing?” When we want to decide the prices we look to see what’s [similar] in the market. 

Shelnise: What motivated you to do business?

Emmanuela: We had businesses before but we got coached by Jim and Nelson. At the beginning we didn’t know each other but now we know each other. Since we’ve been starting the business life has completed changed for us. People usually say, “when white people come to Haiti they just use Haitian people” but this is not true. We have learned so much about business and we feel very proud and happy to have done these businesses. We made a lot of profit from the business and Jim always tells us to think big so we are thinking big. I want to encourage you to keep going – there will be challenges but just keep going.

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