We came across a serial entrepreneur who has demonstrated extensive dedication to Haiti after only falling in love with the country 2 years ago. Below, you’ll have a chance to learn more about her outstanding accomplishments thus far and her commitment to the Haitian community. Let us introduce you to…
Sandy Sophia Laborde
President of The Greater Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce, Television Host & Producer at Haiti HD Network, Coordinates Diaspora Group Tours to Haiti ,Women Empowerment Network, Met Fanm Sou Ou, Owner of Concierge Clothing Boutique, Petionville Haiti
Sandy Sophia Laborde’s love for the Haitian Community led her to leave corporate America to organize literacy programs for Haitians in the beginning. The magnitude of assistance the community needed would push her to become a social entrepreneur. In 2014, she began working with the Television Network, HAITI HD. Sandy would go on to interview many Haitian Public Figures. One of her favorite interviews is with Laurant Lamothe. “Yon Ti Moman Ak Sandy” later launched in Canada. Today she has 3 shows, changing the image of Haitians internationally.
She gets called to elementary schools to talk to young Haitian girls who have low self-esteem. After 3 years of promoting Haitian culture, Sandy decided to revisit Haiti after 25 years. In April 2015, Sandy purchased a ticket to Haiti not telling anyone. She fell in love with the country making acquaintances along the way, promising that she would return with friends. On December 1st, 2016, Sandy returned to Haiti with 92 Haitian Americans. The magnitude of her trip was honored by the Haitian Minister of Tourism. Sandy now sends groups to Haiti each month.
Her drive has led her to be appointed President of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce. Sandy travels to Haiti building relationships, bringing those individuals to Orlando to network. Senators, Commissioners, and Vice-Mayors have all attended Sandy’s events. She’s the youngest female to lead the Chamber at only 30 years of age.
Sandy’s latest project is called “Met Fanm Sou Ou.” She links Haitian women lacking resources with accomplished Haitian women. While she was in Haiti she discovered an Orphanage called Mission of Grace and became attached to the youth that are now over the age of 18 but still live at the Orphanage because no one has adopted them. She visits them, encouraging them to work hard for a better future. We don’t know how she does it but Sandy has made her life all about the Haitian Community. What’s captivating is how much she believes that together we can change Haiti, including the lives of those living abroad.
Sandy recently indulged in her first passion of writing to share with us “My Past is too Loud”. It is a guide that gives you insight on how you can silence the noise of your past so that you can elevate to your next level.
What motivated you to start your business?
What made me begin creating content for television was my wanting to see Kreyol people as they are in reality. We’ve evolved as a people. We’re colorful, vibrant, and captivating. I wanted a true representation of our culture when watching Haitian people, especially on my show.
I started doing group tours to Haiti because I feel that at least two generations have missed out. It took me 25 years to return to Haiti and once I did I made a promise to myself that I would do all that I could to prevent that from happening again. Following that, I thought why not make it easier and more comfortable for the Diaspora to travel back to Haiti? The reaction of my first group of 92 people was priceless. I get excited about each trip.
2017 is definitely the year of the woman. It’s not easy to keep pushing forward but when we find the strength to, it seems like magic happens. I started a women empowerment network called “Met Fanm Sou Ou.” Those words embody the motivation that my mother gave me to keep pushing. Through this movement I’m praying that we’ll inspire each other to do the same.
I currently have a Concierge Clothing Boutique in the works and will be launching it soon. This retail phenomenon will service Petionville, Haiti and surrounding areas.
As a Haitian woman in business, what are the challenges you faced as a business owner and how did you overcome them?
1. Fighting Social Stigma
Society has it’s own perspective on what our role should be but as a women in business you soon realize that you defy this. You’re judged for not being domesticated; because you love to work long hours, skip the kitchen, travel for business, work in a male dominated system, or exude confidence that is at times considered arrogance. The key is being yourself because everything else is just false smoke.
2. Finding Investors.
Funding is definitely a challenge. Being feminine works for you but at times can be used against you. You have to be a champion negotiator, top salesman. You’re constantly selling yourself, so you have to stay on your toes to ensure that you bring home the deal.
3. Building my tribe.
I was raised in a small town so I was taught to trust, be friendly, and support my neighbor. Business doesn’t necessarily work that way. You’re lucky if you find individuals who vibrate on the same level as you, genuinely care about your success, and will keep it real with you on the entire journey. People are a must. Mentors, advisers, a team, you need them all. However, we live in a world of instant gratification, so it takes a little longer to build a quality network.
4. Being able to manage health, family, and business.
Ugghhh where do I begin? I’m a work-a-holic and I love it. I’m inspired by life every time I turn around and it leads me to work until what I saw becomes my reality. For that very reason I sometimes neglect friends, family, and myself. I’ll be honest my circle has gotten much smaller. It takes a particular person to understand that you’re blossoming to your next level. At the same time, levels aren’t anything if you don’t have anyone to celebrate with. I’m working on it. I’m trying to establish balance amongst it all.
5. Dealing with Fear and Setbacks
As much as you go high, you have to understand that falling is apart of the process. I’m not good at accepting failure. But God blessed me by giving me some of my biggest battles coming right of the gate. My journey began with setback after setback. I had to become mentally strong because I was determined that those lessons wouldn’t be the end of me, or the end of my story. Now I look at problems as a measuring tool. The larger the problem the greater the success that’s about to come. There are times where I would sit and mentally get myself together. We have to learn to do that in the world of business, if not, our circumstances will control us in the end.
What would you say to another woman who’s thinking about embracing entrepreneurship and is hesitant about it.
I would tell her to “know your why” before you make that jump. You have to establish your WHY before you get started, it needs to be at the center of all you do. Along the way people will come to shake you, circumstances will rise to break you, you’ll even have opportunities that look appealing but they’ll only deter you. My “why” has brought me back to being centered time and time again. It’s your identity, your compass, your moral guide, I know that it sounds cliche but establishing your why in the beginning will ensure that you arrive at the destination God intended for you.
What should we look forward to from your business? How does your business relates to the Haiti or Haitian community? If so how does it impact the community or your market group?
Self-Pride. Unfortunately I grew up in a time where I couldn’t be proud of my heritage. I celebrated it among my people but once I went outside of it I made sure there was no trace of it to be found. Things have changed and I have the opportunity to share my culture through my work. With my work you can expect an illustration of self-pride in the Haitian culture. I want my work to make you smile when you think of who you are. I’m here to support anyone who wants to thrive.
Share one or more highlights of your career as an entrepreneur.
Okay don’t judge me. I’ve interviewed countless Haitian Celebrities and Public Figures but my favorite interview was with Laurent Lamothe, Haiti’s former Prime Minister. I interviewed him at the Miami JW Marquis along with several other media personnel. I was the only Haitian journalist there, so the experience was so sweet. Another highlight is when I was asked to speak to a group of Haitian girls at an elementary school because they had low self-esteem. That moment was profound for me. And of course bringing 92 people on a group tour to Haiti! LOL! I went to Haiti after 25 years and I made a promise to friends and staff that I would come back with a group so that we can share the beauty of Haiti. With much help, I fulfilled that promise within a year. That was proof to me that we can make a change in Haiti. We simply have to commit and focus.
In your opinion, why is it important for the Haitian community to support Haitian owned businesses ?
Businesses in the private sector have a lot to do with a communities social development. We can’t wait for the government to fix everything. When we support our businesses that in turn grows and provides employment for our families. Businesses fulfill charitable works in a community. They build private schools, construct recreational facilities, support our athletic and artistic entities. Supporting our businesses gives them the power to empower. Every business initiative I create is attached to a social cause. When we support Haitian businesses we began to become the change that we want to see.