ESSENCE is proud to celebrate extraordinary Black women who are breaking glass ceilings as flourishing entrepreneurs with compelling backstories. Join us as we highlight a few of the 50 women featured in our November 2017 issue and chat with them to find out more about how they got to where they are now and what advice they have for other young women looking to follow in their footsteps.
This week, we focus on Nedgine Paul Deroly of Anseye Pou Ayiti.
Q: What kind of company do you own?
A local, Haitian-led movement, Anseye Pou Ayiti is a grassroots organization focused on recruiting and equipping a new generation of Haitian teacher leaders to ensure all children receive their human right to a quality education. Our two-year fellowship model prepares civic leaders in instructional excellence and community transformation.
Q: What advice do you have for anyone dreaming of having their own business?
Identify the true essence of who you are — your identity, your roots, your ancestors — and remain as connected to that as possible, during the ups and downs of launching your dream.
Q: As an entrepreneur, what is the smartest decision you’ve ever made for yourself?
I decided to become an informed change maker. We took a slow and steady approach to launch over a four-year period. Our “listening tours” included students, parents, teachers, and community members, highlighting why those who have experienced inequity should lead the movements to disrupt the status quo. We believe in local talent and local solutions.
Q: When it came to launching your business what kind of support system did you have in place and in what ways you were helped?
To launch Anseye Pou Ayiti (APA), faith was front and center. I received invaluable support from family and friends. Opportunities like Echoing Green Fellowship and joining the Teach For All global network provided an extended family of allies, as well as tools to create a solid foundation for organizational growth and impact.
Q: Black women are America’s fastest growing group of entrepreneurs. However, we remain the most underserved, receiving less than 1 percent of all venture funding for our businesses. In what ways can our community better support one another?
Our community can support one another by standing in solidarity as mentors and sponsors. Entrepreneurial sisterhood is powerful — not only for funding, but throughout the difficult trek of launching and leading an organization. We need to have honest conversations about lessons learned, pitfalls to avoid, and helping bridge the resource gap — meaning funds, contributions, and even feedback —with the next generation in mind.