The entrepreneurial spirit of the Haitian woman has always inspired me. The Madan Sara (“Madam Sara”) or “woman in the market,” who carries the local economy on her shoulders, and all the women who have earned the title potomitan—a woman who plays a central role in the family and economy of Haiti—are simply remarkable.
This book is a tribute to the Haitian women and a testament of my admiration for them—their impeccable aesthetic, talent, and contribution to the culture. It is about a journey to a Haiti that few are familiar with, but all fall in love with when they visit.
Out of so many talented and impressive women, we selected a few for this book. Each woman has a fascinating story about her experiences and her work on this beautiful Caribbean island. We were given the special opportunity to get an in-depth look at their remarkable ways of creating history and benefiting their country.
As a Haitian woman who moved with my family to Miami at the age of 13, I have been personally motivated by these women’s stories in my own enterprise. I helped run my family’s food products business and founded my own fashion label, Françoise Elizée Collections, which includes exotic handbags and accessories that have been featured in such magazines as In Style, Elle, and Glamour and sold around the world.
Learning the story of each woman in this book taught me so much about the interaction between commerce and giving back to society. It became my goal, as well as a true honor, to get back to my roots and share the accomplishments of women who developed companies that share Haitian goods with the world. Beyond the products they sell, their creativity provides training, food, and healthcare and enables Haitians to support themselves and their families.
The photography in this book is by my dear friend and talented photographer Pipe Yanguas. He connected to the Haitian spirit and captured the story of these women, their work, and their success. The combination of a “new eye” and old memories make this book special, bringing a fresh look to an unknown island.
The women featured in this book have all earned the title potomitan. Their stories and pictures exude a sense of determination, pride, and sensibility in regard to their country:
Regine Theodat, creator of MyaBèl, is an attorney by trade. She always dreamed of retiring in Haiti, but after the 2010 hurricane devastated the island, she soon realized that her place was in Haiti, helping to create more jobs and opportunities for its women.
Dr. Marie Marcelle Deschamps of Atelier 83 began treating the first cases of AIDS in Haiti. After completing her studies, she returned to Haiti with the skills to fight poverty and the scourge of AIDS. With this mission in mind, she co-founded GHESKIO, the Haitian Group for the study for Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections. The group’s clinics provide medical care for impoverished patients, many of whom are sex workers or victims of sexual violence, with the support of the United Nations Development Program.
Pascale Theard, of Pascale Theard Creations, has become a household name, not only in Haiti but also around the world. As she grew up, her family gave her an understanding of the complexities of working with leather. Her first taste of designing came at a very young age, when she would ask local shoemakers to fabricate her original sandal designs. Later in life, Pascale realized that Haiti had many talented and skillful artisans who were yet undiscovered. As a woman in Haiti, she helped renew a business that suffered as a result of the Haiti embargo. She is determined to bring positive light to the country and all its beauty.
Join us on this journey to meet the many amazing women and the country of Haiti through pictures and special stories.