Kreyol Essence – Authentically, Unapologetically Haitian. Building an eco-luxury brand along with helping hundreds of Haitian farmers and producers achieve financial stability is what drives Yve-Car Momperousse forward and is what Haiti needs.
Kreyol Essence has transformed a long-standing Haitian tradition into a powerful business and means of income for Haitian women. The business of lwil-maskriti is not what it use to be because of this femme-fueled powerhouse. Launched in 2013, with a mission of empowerment and accessibility, Yve-Car Momperousse and partner Stéphane Jean-Baptiste who are both of Haitian heritage revamped a market for one of Haiti’s most beneficial exports – the creation of Haitian castor oil is not only good for the economy but also for Haitian agriculture.
Planting castor helps with soil erosion and deforestation (rebuilding Haiti). We recently sat down with Yve-Car to explore the ins and outs of one of the biggest beauty brands to come out of Haiti.
When you started Kreyol Essence, what was your vision?
Yve-Car: My initial vision was to ensure that a trusted tried and true product-Haitian castor oil was made accessible. I don’t remember a time when it hasn’t been a part of life. I wanted to be able to bring some recognition and respect to the riches that Haiti has to offer. My background has always been about helping to create an environment for those who are ignored, giving them a voice. As a Haitian-American female, I identify with several types of groups (low-income youth, Ivy league graduate, minorities). Pushing for social and economic justice has always been a part of me.
Kreyol Essence has become a staple for many women (and men). You obviously saw a gap in the market when you decided to create “natural and ethical” products. Can you tell us more about that?
Yve-Car: Some things are ingrained in us given how the company was started. By virtue of Haitian processes, rituals, and customs, we use natural and organic products. Pesticides are expensive in Haiti so most products are made in small batches and quantities – because resources are limited. Going back to ancient traditions and history puts Haiti at the forefront – we have always been cage free and natural (before it was even popular). Our chickens are cage free. Our food and ingredients are hand grown.
Marrying science with tradition, Yve-Car researches the reasoning and effectiveness behind some of our age-old traditions. I.E.: When elders were sick, they would go home to wellness or go back to the mountains. We have always known that the natural way of life is best.
Haitian-Owned brands are often questioned about their “Job Creation” and contributions to their home. How have you and your brand given back to Haiti?
Yve-Car: We create economic advantages, especially for women. Those who are deemed with low to moderate skills being able to monetize it. More efficient and helpful practices are put into place. Instead of using a pilon, use a grinder instead – now you’re not killing your back. We continue to try various different models – “we don’t have it all figured out”.
We are setting the foundation in saying that you can sell Haitian-made products while opening avenues for the beauty industry in Haiti. We intend to marry the growth of the company on the impact of the folks that we hire.
What were some of your biggest challenges?
Yve-Car: Whole Foods turned us down multiple times before we made it into the store. It is common for entrepreneurs to only discuss the good when it comes to entrepreneurship but we should share the bad as well. There is a lot of struggle and a lot of hustle and I want to display that side of entrepreneurship – not just the highlight reels on social media.
How has branding affected your business?
Yve-Car: I was told several times that I shouldn’t make the brand so “Haitian-centric” but my culture is a huge part of me and the brand.
What is it like being a Haitian professional in an international market?
Yve-Car: It’s great being a Haitian professional in an international market. My culture and diversity allow me to connect with all types of people. There are biases that I must address head-on as a black woman selling personal care products, but I think my previous life as Director of Diversity at Cornell helped prepare me for successfully dealing with this.
You recently made your way onto a TV shopping network and into Whole Foods – congrats! What is in the future for Kreyol Essence?
Yve-Car: Expanding the product range at Whole Foods and scaling with at least one additional retailer. Continuing to partner with other Haitian and Caribbean women to get the word out – we are currently working with Jessie Woo. Continuing to work with those in our community and continuing the cycle of investment. Our Main Goal: To create an ethical and Caribbean UniLever.