By Chris Olsen
Yve-Car Momperousse had grown her hair out naturally, into a giant Afro. As she sat in the salon chair envisioning her new ’do, she told the stylist she wanted her hair straightened. Yve-Car had been spending the majority of her time studying government and international development at the University of Pennsylvania and hadn’t been to the salon for a while. She was ready for a transformation. After a quick glance at her head and a bit of tugging at her hair, the stylist remarked, “I’m going to need significant heat to straighten that.” Yve-Car gave her the go-ahead, trusting that the stylist knew what she was doing. But the iron was too hot, her hair was badly burned, and it ended up falling out in clumps.
It wasn’t the first time Yve-Car’s hair had been destroyed for the sake of style. She’d spent years enduring the pain of braiding, weaving and chemical straightening—as well as the breakage that always followed. It started when she was a young girl in Brooklyn and her neighbor regularly braided her hair. Yve-Car would come home afterwards, and her mom would soothe her scalp and repair her hair with “liquid gold.” It was a special serum from her family’s native Haiti called lwil maskriti, or black castor oil.
After her latest hair catastrophe, Yve-Car called her mom in New York and asked about the magic oil. She searched several natural food stores and West Indian markets in Philadelphia and couldn’t find the authentic organic oil from Haiti that she’d grown up using. She called home again and begged her mom to send some of her secret stash. “I should start a business,” Yve-Car quipped, suggesting that selling it would be one way to ensure she’d always have a supply on hand. And there were surely others who would appreciate the benefits of liquid gold as well.
As Yve-Car continued the conversation with her mother, she thought about what she’d been learning in her courses on international development. She believed working with farmers and producers and exporting the product could be an effective way to stimulate economic activity in Haiti. But as she dug deeper and began developing her business concept, a major earthquake devastated the country. Yve-Car decided to shift gears and focus her efforts on providing emergency care to those in Haiti. But her mom was concerned about what would happen once donations of funding and supplies stopped coming. “Now more than ever, our people will need jobs and a way to be self-sufficient,” her mother implored. “I need you to persevere in making this dream a reality, as the lives of many are at stake.”
Yve-Car took her mother’s words to heart and launched Kreyòl Essence in 2014. The social enterprise is committed to creating ethical beauty products formulated especially for dry hair and skin, made with all-natural ingredients from Haiti. Yve-Car’s signature product is Haitian black castor oil, long considered a wonder cure for hair regrowth. All of Kreyòl Essence’s ingredients—which also include moringa, vetiver and coconut oil—are sustainably harvested by more than 300 farmers who care deeply about the environment. And Yve-Car is particularly passionate about the women who are empowered through employment opportunities producing Kreyòl Essence products. Currently there are more than 50 women working for the company. And Yve-Car is committed to growing those numbers. She has seen firsthand how supporting women benefits not just them, but entire families and communities.
Currently, Kreyòl Essence oils are exported to the United States, Canada and Europe. Yve-Car is determined to make her mark in the beauty sector while bringing value to Haiti’s economy. She has big-name partners who believe in her work and are backing her efforts as well, including Whole Foods Market, Sephora, the Clinton Foundation and Yunus Social Business. And, of course, the people of her native Haiti keep her moving forward on her entrepreneurial journey and provide Yve-Car with inspiration every day.
To learn more about Yve-Car’s business, visit KreyòlEssence.com.
Photo: Kreyòl Essence
About the author: Chris Olsen is a radio veteran turned communications consultant, educator and author of “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose”. Through her work as a consultant partnering with startups, Chris realized her WHY—to support women-owned businesses in confidently communicating their purpose and impact, setting them up for entrepreneurial success. She created My Founder Story and Publish Her as platforms for doing so.