2018 YLAI Fellow Jeanida Azor is the Co-Founder and President of the Association Femmes d’Impact, an organization that provides social assistance to young mothers in Haiti. Jeanida delivers professional development and leadership training to prepare young pregnant women and single mothers for future careers. In an interview with the YLAI Network team, Jeanida shared how she grew a successful business while helping her community.
How did you come up with the original idea for the Association Femmes d’Impact?
Association Femmes d’Impact (AFDI) was created after brainstorming with women in my community to discuss the challenges that women face in the most isolated areas of Haiti. We noticed there are large amounts of teen pregnancies preventing girls from going to school after giving birth. These young women become dependent either on a parent or on a man and often suffer abuse. Their only hope is to leave Haiti.
I came up with the idea of creating an organization to help young single mothers build a better life. We offer them a training program which includes sexual health and financial education, instruction on leadership and entrepreneurship as well as personal development. We help them create a small business so they can build a better future for themselves and for their children.
In addition to supporting these young women, I also wanted to make a positive impact in my hometown since not every girl has the chance to go to a great school and get a proper education like me. This organization is a way for me to give back to young girls in need. I believe that when a girl is properly educated, it’s for a family, it’s for a community, and it’s for all of the world. Now, Sherley Philistin, the co-founder and vice-president of AFDI, and I work with eight volunteers to make it happen.
How did you get started?
I got started by making a huge campaign in my community to motivate women and men who want change in our hometown. During the launch we discussed the issues, brainstormed what we could do to help, and received excellent advice from community members. My satisfaction was gigantic because now not only women but also some men are committed to making a change. This organization was actually what a lot of people were waiting for.
Did other people encourage or discourage you?
I have received a lot of encouragement as well as constructive criticism; some people really embrace the ideas and give a lot of support. However, some people also discourage me and say it is not going to work. When you are passionate about something, commitment, focus, and the Universe will help you meet your goals.
What YLAI Network tools have you found to be the most helpful as you continue to grow your business?
The most important tools I have gained are ways to empower my team so that everyone is aware of their role in the company. I have also become more of a team player and increased my communication and networking skills. I learned a lot about setting goals and measuring the impact of the work we do. During the YLAI Fellows Program, I learned a lot of best practices to help me grow my organization, especially during my fellowship at Women’s Business Center of Utah. I had the chance to work with nice people who are doing the same work as me.
Editor’s note: The YLAI Network has tools that help entrepreneurs like Jeanida grow their businesses; click here to explore the course “Management Strategies” and here for the course “Creating and Maintaining Social Enterprises.”
What was the biggest obstacle you encountered while growing your business and how did you overcome it?
One of the biggest obstacles was finding volunteers to work with us. We are a young organization that does not yet have funding, so it is very difficult because we can’t pay anyone yet. In spite of this challenge we have a wonderful team of committed and dedicated volunteers, and for this I am very grateful. The YLAI Network includes wonderful tools such as the Volunteerism toolkit, which offers information on how to grow volunteer work in communities.
Another helpful resource is the online course, “Community Organizing for Action,” which details how to motivate volunteers to engage in their communities.
Do you have a favorite part of your job?
It is very exciting for me to plan the trainings and to interact with the young mothers because they consider me an example. I also really enjoy the counseling sessions I have with them.
Where do you hope to see your business in 10 years?
I hope that I will see my organization as sustainable as it helps and educates women all around Haiti and beyond. Also, I would like to work with the same team.
How did you initially fund your project? Did you have trouble getting financial backing?
It was all about bootstrapping. The co-founder/Vice-President and I put our own money together to make this happen. Fundraising is not really part of our culture in Haiti. Later on we asked for support from some private companies, which is not always easy to attain.
To learn more about fundraising, check out the online course “Fundraising Concepts.”
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs who are just beginning to develop their businesses?
My advice to young entrepreneurs: Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. Be resilient. The world needs entrepreneurs and changemakers like you. Also, always have a positive mindset so you can see problems or obstacles as opportunities to create, to innovate, and to make impactful changes in the world.
Thank you, Jeanida, for sharing your story!