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Helping Haiti's Businesses Grow with Access to Finance
Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Photo:  Jean Casimir Charleston, owner of La Différence Usine à Glace. Jean Casimir Charleston, owner of La Difference Usine à Glace.
Jean Casimir Charleston, 42, is part of the new generation of young Haitian entrepreneurs with a clear vision for the future of his businesses.  He grew up and still lives in the small dusty town of Fond Parisien but, as a boy, he always had big dreams.  As for most new micro- and small-sized enterprises (SME), he began operations in 2009 using his personal savings and funds borrowed from a few friends.  His business, La Différence Usine à Glace, with 27 employees, produces large blocks of ice for a wide-ranging market that quickly grew well beyond the capital city of Port-au-Prince to as far away as Saint Marc.  Every day, early in the morning, his fleet of ten trucks leaves the ice-making facility to deliver 1,500 blocks of ice to dozens of clients in central and western Haiti.                                       

As the owner of a startup, Mr. Charleston was anxious about applying for a business loan from a financial institution and taking on large debts.  His self-reliant, driven approach worked even better than he expected. Aided by a plentiful supply of water from a deep well on his property, he quickly established a profitable enterprise.  Located in Croix-des-Bouquets just outside of Port-au-Prince, Mr. Charleston started out small by supplying local businesses.  He invested heavily in infrastructure for the ice plant, purchasing a massive 750-kilowatt generator to provide electricity during the frequent extended blackouts.  He gradually built up his production capacity and purchased additional delivery trucks to respond to the growing demand for block ice.

As his confidence grew, Mr. Charleston followed the advice of a friend and reached out to the Société Financière Haïtienne de Développement (SOFIHDES), a Haitian development finance corporation specialized in lending to small- and medium-sized enterprises.  In January 2014, he obtained a first loan of USD 100,000, which he used to purchase a backup generator, helping him maintain a steady production level.

A year later, Mr. Charleston returned to SOFIHDES for a second loan of USD 50,000 to advance his latest venture, the construction of a 1,100 square meter water purification plant to produce and package drinking water.  Construction is progressing well with water purification equipment planned for the ground floor and offices for the second floor.  He expects to begin selling his water products by January 2016, tapping into a rapidly expanding market.  La Différence Usine à Glace is planning to hire nine new employees. With drinking water offering better margins than block ice, Mr. Charleston is optimistic that his efforts will bear fruit and be a stepping stone to greater opportunities.

"From the beginning, the SOFIHDES staff has been extremely supportive and really wanted to see my business succeed."
- Jean Casimir Charleston, owner of  La Différence Usine  à  Glace


  Rebati Fund

SOFIHDES is a Haitian financial institution participating in the Rebati Fund, a USD 17 million second tier housing and SME finance facility. The Fund is funded by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), USAID, as well as the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, and managed by DIG. In 2013, OPIC provided SOFIHDES with a loan commitment of USD 8 million.    


For more information on the Rebati Fund, please contact:

Tara Panek Bringle
Director of Global Program Management
Development Innovations Group
301.664.9644 F: 301.664.9645
tpanek@developinnovations.com

Marianne Carliez
Director of Global Program Management
Development Innovations Group
301.664.9644 F: 301.664.9645
mcarliez@developinnovations.com

Bryan Winston
Country Director - Haiti
Development Innovations Group
(509) 2813-1951
bwinston@developinnovations.com
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