BelFwi was founded to create employment opportunities for the country’s unemployed and improve the health of the population
As a young girl growing up in Haiti, Katleen Jeanty could never imagine living in a more beautiful country. But the reality of living in Haiti in the late ‘80s was drastically different from how Jeanty saw her beloved island country. In 1986, there was an uprising of the people of Haiti, and president Jean-Claude Duvalier fled the country. As a result, Haiti had become economically ravaged and bereft of functional political institutions. Many families made the decision to flee the tumultuous situation—including Jeanty’s family. At just eight-years-old, Jeanty and her family moved to the United States with her family in search of a more secure life.
As Jeanty grew accustomed to life in the U.S., she never gave up hope that she would one day return to her homeland. For 25 years, Jeanty waited for the right time to come back to support her country. That time came after 2010’s devastating earthquake. While working in the Mayor’s Office for the City of Boston, Jeanty was the only Creole speaker, and she rapidly became a member of the local earthquake task force. Ultimately, though, she wanted to return home to help. So she began searching for employment opportunities in Haiti that could benefit from her years of experience in communications and public relations. She found a post as the communications and outreach manager with an international non-profit social enterprise that trains people in developing countries how to design and build earthquake-resistant houses.
It was while working at this organization that the idea of starting BelFwi was born. Jeanty was in Haiti, and found herself craving cold and refreshing cut up fruit that was served in hygienically safe conditions. The problem was, something so simple was incredibly difficult to find. Hundreds of pounds of fruit go to waste every year due to poor cultivation, transportation, storage and commercialization. But in a country filled with a beautiful and abundant natural fruit and vegetable supply, Jeanty knew there was a chance to make a difference.
“What if I could turn this into an opportunity to create employment opportunities for the country’s unemployed and improve the health of the population?” Jeanty asked herself.
With that, she started BelFwi in 2013. Meaning beautiful fruit in Haitian Creole, BelFwi would be Haiti’s first all-natural fruit and smoothie bar—a novel concept in fruit transformation in Haiti—and sell everything from juices and fruit salad platters to fruit-filled crepes.
That same year, Jeanty’s hard work had already paid off. BelFwi was recognized when she was selected as one of 10 finalists of Technoserve’s Mon Entreprise, Mon Avenir Business Plan, where she won $10,000 for her idea. Then, in February 2014, Belfwi was unanimously voted the winner of the Investor’s Tank Business Plan Competition at the Haiti Renewal Alliance Business Investment Expo. And most recently, Jeanty was recognized by the International Franchise Association’s NextGen in Franchising Competition, where she received the honor of being a 2016 Grand Prize Winner.
Today, Jeanty’s social enterprise has grown to three locations, a central processing center and is currently in the midst of launching a micro-franchise initiative to create even more employment opportunities in the impoverished Caribbean island.
Jeanty always knew the moment my family left Haiti that she would find a way to return. But never in her wildest dreams did she think she’d have the opportunity to give back to a country that she loved so much.
“A passion for helping others and a love for Haiti brought me to where I am today. Now, I want to continue creating jobs and leave my mark in life,” Jeanty told the PADF after winning the Entrepreneur of the Year Award earlier this year. “One day, I hope to create job opportunities for as many as 1,000 Haitians while developing a global brand that will help to sell a better image for my beloved home,” Jeanty said.