Entrepreneur Spotlight: Haiti Tourism Inc Founder and CEO Davidson Toussaint
Each week the NAAHP highlights entrepreneurs who are making changes in their communities as well as the small business world. Davidson Toussaint is leading the charge in Haitian tourism. He is an Entrepreneur, Tourism Consultant, Communication & Marketing Specialist.
10 Questions for Davidson Toussaint
Dominique Elkind, NAAHP: Tell us a bit about your personal background.
Davidson Toussaint: I’m a Haitian Entrepreneur, Tourism Marketing Specialist and Author. For the past 7 years, I have served as the founder and CEO of Haiti Tourism Inc, a leading Tourism organization in Florida and in Haiti that promotes an innovative and sustainable tourism industry in the Caribbean region. As a speaker, I speak on Tourism Innovation, Tourism Startups, e-tourism and Smart cities initiatives related to tourism development in the Caribbean. I have received several awards for my work with in the Tourism industry including; The Voice Achiever award in the Netherlands, The Black Street Awards in New York, The Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce 20 Under 40 YOPRO 2013 African-American Achievers and the Lifetime Membership award from the Haitian American Youth Media Association in South Florida. Some of the work I have done has been featured in Huffington Post, NBC Miami, CNN travel, BBC Travel, Le Nouvelliste (Les Affaires), Le Nationale, Caribbean Journal. Additionally, I have been invited to speak at TEDx Japan, Haiti Tech Summit, Hyro Youth Summit, Buy Haitian Restore Haiti Conference, I am currently the Partnership director at Hult Prize Foundation, chapter Haiti, and the founding member of Tourism Innovation Summit, an enterprise that places great emphasis on driving innovation and more economic opportunity to Haiti and the rest of the Caribbean region through smart city initiatives and tourism innovation.
NAAHP: How did your background and expertise prepare you for your current role?
DT: Tourism is only one of my passions, I also love working with young people mostly in the start-ups area, it’s been more than 5 years I’m actively involved in a campaign started by my friend Daniel Jean Louis the author of From Aid To Trade, who I consider as a mentor, the campaign encourages young Haitian people to start their own businesses, and encourage NGOs to buy locally to support these businesses. I believe from my experiences as a young CEO, to working with different organizations, businesses and most importantly learning from them and acquire the wisdom necessary to become a better version of myself every day, all this obviously prepare me for my current role, and many to come in the future.
NAAHP: What is your vision for Haiti Tourism and how did you come up with the concept?
DT: Haiti Tourism Inc. vision is to be the leading organization promoting an innovative and sustainable tourism in Haiti and the rest of the region, though Summits, tourism startups accelerator programs and ultimately smart city initiative and activities related to tourism development. I have to admit the concept evolved with time, we started as a simple tour operator, with the main focus of showing the world another positive side of Haiti. I was honestly tired of seeing everybody else talking about Haiti without giving Haitians the opportunity to do the same, Haiti Tourism Inc. quickly became a platform million of Haitian around the world use to express their pride for their country. With the development of Technology in the tourism sector, we believe we could become even more than that and this is the direction we are taking now as a company.
NAAHP: What’s the story behind the name of your latest book, BrandUP Your Way To Potential Customers?
DT: Haha, this is the first book I publish even though I have written two other unpublished books previously, I basically decided to publish this one because a lot of people keep asking me about my brand, how I was able to position myself, how I got my first customer etc. I have spoken and worked on various branding projects and subject including personal branding for the past three years, I thought it was time for me to put all that I have learned into written and allow more people to connect with my works. Branding is very important for me, I often say it: I love good branding either it is business or personal brand, So I believe it was one of many ways I could use to educate people on branding, especially those I’m connected with.
NAAHP: You are involved in many impressive pursuits! Which projects do you enjoy most?
DT: I often hear people say that, and I believe it is a fact. However, what people don’t really know everything I’m involved with is connected somehow to what I call my overall goal which is my purpose. I have learned that purpose is not static, but it is dynamic, it is not an end goal. But it is not something I can reveal in this interview, as I’m still in the process to discover much more about it. However, what I enjoy the most is investing in the next generation of Haitian leaders; That’s why I end up being involved with organization such as Parole et Action, an organization focus on providing quality education to the less fortunate in Haiti, Haiti Tech Summit the largest tech summit in the Caribbean and most recently Hult Prize (Haiti Chapter), the largest on Campus startups Competition in the world. I’m also very passionate about the Haitian tourism industry, but that will take another paragraph to explain it all.
NAAHP: What is the biggest challenge of your work?
DT: Every goal achieved comes with a new challenge, I believe the challenge is part of the process of growing stronger in any industry you are. As I’m in the tourism industry, I think my greatest challenge remains the business environment in Haiti. It is not something that depends on me, even though I’m very involved in bringing awareness on these issues and propose a practical solution to the private sector and the government via conferences and meeting with elected officials and state representative, but I believe there are more to be done. Another big challenge is to determine what channel, which person you can trust to work with without your ideas being stolen. This happened to me before and since there’s nothing really to protect in an environment like Haiti, I constantly developing new ways to protect my ideas and identify some trusty people I can really work with.
NAAHP: How do you prioritize your time and what you focus on?
DT: I dedicate a lot of time learning new things, and new skills, I also spend a lot of time thinking about solutions for different issues within my industries (Tourism) and the Haiti Business environment. Like many in my position, I don’t like to waste time on things that serve me no purpose, This is one of a few things I cherish the most. I focus on building and better myself everyday because I understand it is a reflection of everything I do, I think the better I become, the better manager I can be, and the better business I do. It is not an easy process nor it has an ending goal, but I believe I’m becoming a better version of myself every day, and I hope it continues to reflect in the works that I am doing to better my community.
NAAHP: What is your strategy for creating a strong brand identity?
DT: I don’t have a strategy per say, I only try to stay consistent with being myself. I don’t think our brand should be strategized what so ever because our brand is who we are, it is like your identity. If someone has to strategize his/her brand, I will only suggest that he stay natural. I believe I can naturally reflect the voice of my brand through social interaction and outreach and I can easily create emotive appeal. Our brand is not about positioning ourselves, it is how people see and experience us, and these go beyond visual identity and marketing messages. I believe in lifting up people and leave them with a better feeling about themselves, not just my brand. If we can call this a strategy, this is one people can use to create a strong brand identity.
NAAHP: What advice can you give to entrepreneurs and those starting their own business?
DT: Starting a business is great, and the feeling of satisfaction you have is nothing you can really explain, It comes up with many perks like being featured in magazines, local news, speaking engagements, etc. And most young entrepreneurs confuse the celebrity life vs the real work they have to do in order to grow their business. I made the mistake when I created my first business, and I don’t wish for another young people to make the same mistake.
Don’t just create a business because of the opportunity to be famous, or for the sake of having your own business, create a business to solve real problems, and most importantly it should be something that you really passionate about. It is not easy, you will have many sleepless days, but at the end, if you stay consistent, and keep learning you will soon see a positive result.
NAAHP: What are your entrepreneurial journey highlights thus far?
DT: My journey as an entrepreneur has been so far very interesting, I know that feeling of wanting more, facing fear and failure. When I first started I believe it was all about making money, being successful, but I quickly a vast majority of entrepreneurs will not get rich as quick. I have learned that starting a business is more about the social capital and learning experience you get along the journey. Success is great, but it is not an excuse to stop being who you are. Running your business might not turn out the way you want to, but it does not mean that it can not turn out to something even better. Have a little faith, keep working hard, and most importantly stay consistent.