Dumarsais M. Siméus
Dumarsais (Dumas) M. Siméus was born in Pont Sondé in the Artibonite Valley of Haiti and is the oldest of 12 children. He attended high school in Haiti.
Siméus received his Engineering degree from Howard University after attending Florida A&M in Tallahassee and Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He later attended the University of Chicago where he obtained his MBA, graduating with honors.
His career included working for several American corporations in various management positions, including the President of TLC Beatrice Foods International, then a $2 billion company with operations in 25 countries.
Later, Siméus did a leverage buyout and founded Siméus Foods International, then the largest blackowned food processing company in the United States.
In 2000, Siméus founded Organization Sové Lavi, a charity which runs a medical clinic and clean water projects in Pont Sondé where he was born. Sové Lavi also works with the local schools and sponsors educational scholarships for several children.
In 2005, Siméus ran for President of Haiti. He was denied a place on the ballot because of his dual American and Haitian citizenship.
Siméus has sponsored visas for all of his brothers and sisters to come to the U.S. In total, he has sponsored over 40 family members and friends to the U.S. who are all working, paying taxes, and sending money back home to other relatives.
Siméus is called often to give motivational speeches and share his experience with professional organizations, college and high school students.
He has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other national and international publications.
He serves on various boards and commissions including the Advisory Board of the University of North Texas in Dallas, the Inter-America Foundation, National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians (Vice–Chairman) and Townsend Capital.
Siméus has received many awards, including Entrepreneur of the Year from Ernst & Young LLP, and the 2003 Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.
He was a finalist for Texan of the Year Award as well as the Horatio Alger award. He has also been honored on numerous occasions for his humanitarian work in Haiti.
What led you to pursue your career?
My inspiration to become a businessman and later an entrepreneur came primarily from my mother whom I watched as a “Madam Sarah” strategizing, buying and selling her goods, even when nursing a baby and spending the nights in the open markets away from home.
How were you able to get started?
I had always wanted to come to the United States to study. This was in the early 60s. But, I had no clue how to get here. Fortunately, I ran into two mentors – Haitian Agronomist Féquière Lazarre and an American engineer, Leonard Brooks, with whom I shared by dreams. They hired me to work at ODVA (Organisation et Dévelopement de la Vallée de l’Artibonite). Concurrently, they helped me apply for admission to Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. Following my admission to the University, they were successful at convincing my dad to invest in my college education by selling a piece of land.
When did you realize that you were making real progress with your career?
When I was given management positions with P&L responsibility. This was in the late 70s.
What have been some of your professional highlights?
- Being promoted to run a U.S. business in France as Managing Director with full P&L responsibility.
- Being promoted later to President of Beatrice Foods/Latin America, based in Caracas,
- Venezuela with responsibility for operations in 15 Latin American countries.
- Being promoted to the President and COO of TLC Beatrice Foods International, a $2 billion global company with operations in 25 countries.
What have been some of the challenges you’ve had to face?
Overcoming the preconceived notions others had about me as a black Haitian-American and my abilities to run big businesses.
Do you personally know of other Haitians in your field?
I know several Haitians who have high level executive positions. However, although there may be some, I do not personally know any Haitian-American who has run or is running a global $2 billion corporation. If none currently exists, I believe it is only a matter of time since this new generation of Haitian-Americans includes a number of well educated, high potential achievers.
Do you feel as though you’ve helped break barriers?
The presidency of Barack Obama is the best and ultimate testimony that blacks have broken many barriers at all levels and will continue to do so in the future. However, in the 70s and 80s, there were hardly any black executives within U.S. corporations in decision?making positions. For that reason, I am told that I broke a few barriers during those decades.
What do you feel is next for your career?
I am semi-retired. I want to spend the rest of my life focusing on sharing my business experience and life’s journey with others including business professionals, high school and college students. I also want to continue to help, especially in my village of Pont Sondé, Haiti by providing access to education, health care and clean water.
What would be your advice to young people who want their careers and lives to have an impact?
First, get a good education. Find something you are passionate about and pursue it. Always try to deliver excellent performance, i.e., more than 100% in everything you do. Seek the advice of others, i.e., have a mentor. Develop early a culture of helping others, especially those who are less fortunate that you are.
What do you think can be done for Haiti to develop financial assistance without having to be reliant upon others in times of crisis?
Let me repeat what I have said many times: Educate our people so that we can have a work force ready for the investors who want to come to Haiti. To state it simply: Job creation, job creation, job creation is what is going to make Haiti regain its full independence and sovereignty.
Do you believe a campaign highlighting the positives of Haiti would be worth exploring to take away the stigma of it being impoverished?
Yes, if we focus first on educating our people, creating a climate to attract investments. For example, we need to reform our justice system to make it fair and transparent; we need to improve our infrastructure such as providing electricity on a 24-hour basis, and continue to improve our roads and transportation system.
If we do at least these things, the PR campaign will be very positive and bring many rewards. Specifically, it will enhance the image of Haiti and attract investors to create jobs.
Would you recommend NAHP?
Definitely, because it provides a networking forum where Haitian-Americans can learn from each other and share life and professional experiences.