In January, Haiti observed the 10th anniversary of the devastating 2010 earthquake.
The Haitian government put the earthquake death toll at over 300,000, along with hundreds of thousands of survivors who were displaced. Now, 10 years later, Haiti remains a country in peril.
Today, over 6 million Haitians live below the poverty line of less than US$2.41 per day. Over 58 percent of all households in Haiti are food insecure. Around 30 percent of children under 5 years old are stunted. Anemia is rampant, afflicting two-thirds of children under 5, 75 percent of children under 2, and 60 percent of pregnant women. With over 21 percent of the population aged 15 to 24, Haiti has an unemployment rate over 70 percent and loses over US$56 million in GDP annually to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Many international aid organizations remain out of touch with the on-the-ground realities affecting the very population they aim to serve in Haiti. Providing temporary aid, they fall short of investing in sustainable and scalable enterprises focused on the bottom of the pyramid (BoP), a population barely making $1 to $3 per day.
With 90 percent of the jobs in Haiti being in self-employment, the social impact of a steady paycheck is crucial to the economic stability of the country. Small businesses can play a critical role in rural, low-income communities and cities as job creators. While temporary relief aid lifts poverty levels, when aid dries up with no sustainable programs left, poverty and hunger descend across populations most in need.
Since December 2018, one nonprofit in Haiti has remained focused on a scalable micro-franchise business model addressing poverty while creating jobs for the poor. The Social Ventures Foundation (SVF) social micro-franchise, V’ice Haiti, located in Port-au-Prince, focuses on employing the poor to deliver sustainable vitamin and protein supplementation products to poor customers at an affordable price. Its innovative micro-franchise business model focuses on market and job creation, facilitating local manufacturing, and distribution of two nutritional products.
Self-employment, not employment, constitute 90 percent of the jobs for the poor. Many top-down international development projects reward the “have’s” instead of the “have nots.” V’ice Haiti’s bottom-up model enhances the wages of the very poor, rewarding them with equity in the enterprise they help build.
V’ice Haiti’s innovative made-in-Haiti three-wheel recumbent “V’ike” allows V’ice products to be sold on the streets, and for supplies and ice to be delivered to micro-franchisees selling from made-in-Haiti V’ice Boxes (insulated with Styrofoam recycled from Port-au-Prince streets).
Enhanced wages and equity is at the core of SVF’s mission to sustainably lift the livelihoods of the poor. Instead of poverty reduction, SVF’s model focuses on market creation at the bottom of the pyramid, providing smaller-scale, incremental sales opportunities at the last mile enabled by local manufacturing and use of local resources — key to a market creation strategy. This ultimately minimizes costs while maximizing outcomes.
Following extensive market research, V’ice accomplished its proof of concept and opened its first hub and office in Port -au-Prince. To date, it has provided 15,000 Haitians with vitamin and protein supplementation by two micro-franchisees whose daily earnings were previously $1 to $3 and increased to $3 to $5. This was accomplished after only one year during which the country witnessed the worst social unrest of the last 40 years. The Foundation is now focused on rolling out initial commercialization in Port-au-Prince, which will eventually create up to 90 jobs and provide vitamin supplementation for 5,000 Haitians daily.
Partnering with local businesses and utilizing local resources and manufacturing is key to cementing long-term success. V’ice Haiti sources clean water from dloHaiti, Haitian corn flakes from Caribbean Food Manufacturing, refined, enhanced vitaminized flavored toppings from Griffith Foods International, and manufactures its V’ikes and V’ice Boxes with PitBull Kustoms.
Creating a long-term sustainable business with a tangible social impact that addresses the needs of the poor can be achieved with a micro-franchising business model. The model delivers sustainable sources of income, creates self-employment opportunities for the poor in various market segments, and shares equity.
Implementing a micro-franchise business model allows social enterprises to scale and use the blueprint in other developing nations. A bottom-up approach allows social enterprises to boost local employment by creating markets while achieving additional essential development goals.
With plans to roll out V’ice Haiti nationwide and reach up to 70 percent of Haiti’s urban population, future scaling plans call for distribution in 23 coastal, non-mountainous, urbanized areas utilizing a hub-and-spoke system that creates more than 50 V’ice hubs with up to 80 micro-franchisees each to provide daily vitaminization for over 275,000 Haitians.
Business models that offer valuable resources for micro-franchisee training and deployment can have a positive impact on hundreds of thousands of residents in each hub. V’ice Haiti hopes to ultimately reach 61 percent of Haiti’s urban population, creating 600 sustainable jobs for the poor.
Following a successful initial scaling, V’ice social franchise model can be replicated in other developing nations to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Image credit: Social Ventures Foundation
Marc Blumenthal is the Executive Director of Social Ventures Foundation (SV), the mission of which is to identify, promote, and develop sustainable and socially minded businesses like V'ice Haiti which are focused on developing products and services that lift the livelihoods of the world's poorest communities.