Uzale Remay founded APLADEM, Meyer’s Planters Association for Development, 25 years ago in a region near Jacmel, two hours south of Port-au-Prince. She is the first woman to take the title Digicel Entrepreneur of the Year.
In a country that requires true grit, perseverance, and know-how to operate a business, Digicel began to recognize exceptional entrepreneurs five years ago.
Remay is described by Dennis O’Brien, chairman of the Digicel Group and chairman of the judges, as a leader, an entrepreneur and a woman with vision for her community. “What is really rare is someone who looks at a business and sees its potential to change an entire community – that is something truly laudable,” said O’Brien.
When Remay saw the amount of fruits and vegetables wasted in her community of Meyer, she set out to do something about it.
She contacted the Ministry of Agriculture who responded by providing initial training for local women in fruit processing and product manufacturing. This allowed the fledgling enterprise of food transformation to get started on a business footing.
Modest funds came from organizations such as the Pan American Development Foundation, the Inter-American Development Bank and Women in Democracy.
Over the years, increasing numbers of women in local networks began producing jelly, peanut butter, coffee, cocoa, cassava and crémas. In August 2013, a modern new cassava processing plant with Oxfam as a partner became part of the business.
Now, the business supports more than 1500 families and has become a role model for similar organizations around the country.
This year, the coveted Entrepreneur of the Year award selected eighty-five regional finalists from Haiti’s north, center, south, and west, in the first stage of the competition.
Twenty-five finalists in the fields of agriculture and environment; education, tourism and culture; emerging; industry; and services, battled through to the national finals, from which the overall winner was chosen. Remay also won honors in her division, Agriculture and Environment. Only 21 percent are women.
Richet Junior Jacques from Gonaives, founder of Le Transporteur, whose reliable modern bus service revolutionized rural transport, won the prize in the emerging entrepreneur category.
The award in the Industry sector went to Jonas Guillaume, founder of detergent manufacturer Digo Industries SA; in Services to Jn-Rony Vincent of IT company, BITS SA; and in Education, Tourism and Culture to education entrepreneur, Jean Rico Felix, of the Wonderful Institute.
A special Social Entrepreneurship award was presented this year to Remise Belizaire, founder of LOCAL, which promotes self-help and entrepreneurship networks in marginalized rural communities – working mainly with women and acting both as a social support and a business incubator.
The awards ceremony took place Dec. 16, in Haiti.
Digicel Chairman Maarten Boute said, “That is a remarkable tribute to the deep well of enterprise we have been privileged to discover and tap here in Haiti.”
Over these last five years, 350 entrepreneurs have acknowledged for their contributions.