By Sophie Wiseman Floyd, Founder, Haiti's Jewels
I started Haiti’s Jewels in high school when my parents were living in Ounaminthe (Northeast Haiti) in 2009/2010. While we were living there, the devastating earthquake struck and our family was consumed in a whirlwind of emergency aid. I was so overwhelmed by the scope of need and how little I could actually do to help the hundreds of thousands of injured and displaced people in Haiti.
Strangely, out of this frustration, I started designing jewelry with materials I found on the ground in our village, shells, stones, broken glass, seeds, and wire.
Throughout my senior year in high school, I kept designing and selling jewelry in hopes of saving enough money to start a company in Haiti for people in need of sustainable, dignified, high paying jobs.
When I was 18, 3 weeks after graduation, I moved to Port au Prince and spend 6 months in an internship with Papillon Enterprise (a social business employing around 150 artisans at the time). In January of 2012 I moved out to Gressier (a small fishing village west of the city) and started a jewelry-making class for a few mothers in the neighborhood. Within a month we had seven fully trained artisans ready to start work! It’s grown to 13 full-time employees and another 10-20 that we bring in for contract work when we get flooded with orders.
The artisans are paid per piece and have all the tools they need to be able to work in their home. This means that mothers are around for their children and don’t have to leave them in the care of neighbors or friends where they are more vulnerable to abuse. This also means that the artisans are able to decide when and where they work, making it into their business instead of mine.
The minimum wage in Haiti is $5 a day. We aim to pay our employees between 5-10x the minimum wage based on a 6 hour work day, although often they make far more.
Since starting this company, all of our employees have enrolled their children in the best schools in the area, opened their own local businesses (restaurants, convenience stores, etc), built strong, lasting homes for their families, and enrolled themselves in university classes. All of this is completely reliant on continued orders and growing new partnerships with sustainable retailers throughout the U.S. + Canada.
Every single order is vital to our mission of empowering Haitian artisans to create life-changing beauty.
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