Thursday, September 29, 2011

Meet Glaudine, Junior and Winchelot, Sustain Haiti's 2011 Business Plan Competition winners!

The money that I raise through "1,000 Miles for Haiti" will go toward the winners of Sustain Haiti's 2012 Business Plan Competition. To give illustrate just how awesome these entrepreneurs and their ideas are, and how much of an impact your donation can make, allow me to introduce the Top 3 winners of this year's BPC: Glaudine, Junior and Winchelot. Out of nearly 200 entrants, 10 finalists were selected to present their plans to our judges, an independent panel of successful Haitian businessmen, in front of a live audience. These were the entrepreneurs the judges felt showed the most drive and ambition, attention to detail and financial viability. 

First prize ($1000 USD): Glaudine Auguste 

Me, Glaudine and Junior, our 1st- and 2nd-place winners.
Glaudine lives in a rural mountain community called Diplesis and has plans to launch a goat-raising business. She has some experience raising goats already and will be able to have a large operation thanks to Sustain Haiti's prize money. Goats are very popular in Haiti and the demand for goat meat is very strong. When our panel of judges asked her why people would want to pay for her goats instead of buying cheaper salami or spam, she turned to the audience and asked, "Do you think the next time you need to have a big celebration that you will simply open a can of meat? No, you want something better. You will want my goats." Her answer was met with enthusiastic applause among the audience observing the final round of the business plan competition.  Diplesis is a good area for raising goats because it is rural enough to be able to have a large herd of goats but it is close enough to markets that can supply goats to the larger Leogane area. Glaudine also explained specific plans she had in place to prevent theft of her goats and to ensure that they remain in good health. While Glaudine is relatively young, she clearly has a strong entrepreneurial spirit and the common sense that should bring her business success.

Second prize ($600): Junior Senecharles

An avid gardener, Junior capitalized on his talents to put together an outstanding plan for growing and distributing fresh vegetables to Leogane food merchants. Local markets carry vegetables that are typically shipped from the Dominican Republic or further, and many varieties are not widely available. Junior’s friends with restaurant and grocery operations expressed interest in better-quality, locally-grown produce, and Junior designed an enterprise to meet those needs. He plans to use the prize money to purchase the seeds, agricultural inputs, and transportation he will need to grow and distribute the food around Leogane. A well-liked community member, he plans to use his many local contacts to initially market and expand his business. Though initial inputs will be expensive, Junior has drawn up a proposition that promises considerable long-term profitability.

According to the judges, a panel of accomplished Haitian businessmen, Junior’s venture rose above the pack because of its innovation, attention to local needs, and potential for profitable success. They felt that this young father of three also has the attitude, drive, and people skills necessary to become an impactful business leader in Leogane. 
Third prize ($400): Winchelot Morisset 

The audience reacts to a comment during the live panel.
In addition to participating in Sustain Haiti's business classes, Winchelot also participated in our English classes every morning at 5:30 AM. Furthermore, he's still in high school. His business plan was to sell cell phone minutes and to recharge batteries. In the local market that is big business. Everyone pays cell phone by the minute by buying minutes from local vendors. Furthermore, Leogane does not have much reliable power, so most people seek out battery recharge stations like the one Winchelot will be setting up. Cell phones are everywhere in Haiti, so there is a very strong and growing demand for the kinds of services that Winchelot will be offering.
What made Winchelot stand out among well over 100 other business plans? The panel who selected him did not know him, so it wasn't his diligent English studies that gave him the prize. Winchelot's plan was clear and carefully thought out. His passion and drive to make his business succeed was clear in his plan. Such vision is extremely rare among the broader population but is especially rare in a teenager still in high school. We look forward to seeing what places his entrepreneurial spirit will take him in the future. 

(Thanks to Dustin Homer, Zach Christensen and Melissa Arenas for their contributions to this post.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I made the front page news! Henderson Daily Dispatch article

'1,000 Miles for Haiti': Cyclist brings attention to plight of victims of 2010 earthquake
09.13.11 - 09:44 pm
Eric Meldrum signals a right turn with his left arm as he approaches US 1 while traveling on North Lee Avenue in Middleburg Tuesday afternoon. Meldrum is bicycling “1000 Miles for Haiti” from Fredricksburg, Va. to Miami. (Daily Dispatch/ASHLEY STEVEN AYSCUE)
Eric Meldrum watches for traffic before turning onto US 1 from North Lee Avenue in Middleburg Tuesday afternoon. Meldrum was on his third day of bicycling from Fredricksburg, Va. to Miami in “1000 Miles for Haiti” to raise money for Sustain Haiti. (Daily Dispatch/ASHLEY STEVEN AYSCUE)
Eric Meldrum and his bike cast a shadow on the pavement as he travels along North Lee Avenue in Middleburg Tuesday afternoon. Meldrum is bicycling “1000 Miles for Haiti” from Fredricksburg, Va. to Miami. (Daily Dispatch/ASHLEY STEVEN AYSCUE) Eric Meldrum pulls up beside a car while traveling along North Lee Avenue in Middleburg Tuesday afternoon. Meldrum is bicycling “1000 Miles for Haiti” from Fredricksburg, Va. to Miami to raise money for Sustain Haiti. (Daily Dispatch/ASHLEY STEVEN AYSCUE)
Eric Meldrum is bicycling 1,000 miles for Haiti, hoping the trip will draw attention and financial support to work that is going on to help rebuild the country.

He started at Fredericksburg, Va., three days ago with the goal to reach Miami by October. He said the distance is really closer to 1,200 miles but “1,000 Miles for Haiti” makes a better slogan.

He pedaled through the Henderson area Tuesday.

Meldrum, a native of Colorado, graduated from Brigham Young University in Utah last year. Since then, he has worked as a contractor for nonprofit organizations in Arlington, Va.

He recently spent two and one-half weeks in Leogane, Haiti, helping potential small-business owners develop business plans. His visit was sponsored by Sustain Haiti, an organization formed by a group of social entrepreneurs and development specialists in response to the January 2010 earthquake that struck the country.

When Sustain Haiti asked community leaders in Haiti what they needed, one answer they heard over and over: The people want to work to support themselves, either to find a job or start a business.

Responding to that need, Sustain Haiti started projects to provide agricultural assistance, teach English as a second language, provide clean water and — Meldrum’s specialty — promote the development of small businesses in Haiti. The projects are designed to help Haitians develop self-reliance and create sustainable development that will continue long after humanitarian assistance tapers off.

The earthquake, which killed more than 200,000 people and left 1.3 million homeless, also left the country’s already weak economy in dismal straits. The creation of small businesses is a necessary part of an overall economic recovery.

To address this need, Sustain Haiti sponsored a business plan competition. Meldrum advised several dozen potential business owners as they developed their plans. Altogether, more than 100 would-be entrepreneurs submitted plans. Meldrum said some of these were simple but common-sense ideas, things like opening a restaurant, developing a peanut distribution system or supporting family gardening. Cash prizes were awarded for the best plans to provide start-up capital.

To raise funds for the next round of competitions, supporters of Sustain Haiti are using a variety of strategies, such things as a 5-kilometer run or methods of persuading corporate donors to make an investment.

Meldrum has his own strategy. He hopes his “1,000 Miles for Haiti” bicycle trip will attract support for the project.

So, between now and early October, he will pedal 60 to 65 miles a day to help jump start the economy of Haiti.

His website is: For information about the sponsoring organization, go to:

Contact the writer at

© 2011

An introduction to Southern hospitality...

The rains came down, and the floods came up, and the start of an epic journey got delayed. But no worries. I had planned to start riding last Friday, September 9th, from Arlington, VA, but the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee and the resulting flooding had me a little nervous. Instead, I started my ride in Fredericksburg on Saturday, so as not to have to readjust my entire route schedule. And what an incredible journey it's been so far. 
 On Saturday, I rode about 55 miles from Fredericksburg to Richmond, meeting interesting people - Mike, the gas station attendant/endurance horse trainer, Billy the convenience store owner/emu farmer, and Bubba the roadside peach seller, among others - along the way. Once I got to Richmond, I was treated to some real Southern hospitality by Daniel Vaughan. We went downtown to Monument Drive, then to Buz & Ned's, Richmond's award-winning barbecue joint, then came back and watched the BYU-Texas football game (tough loss, Cougs). After the game, we made a run for shakes and Krispy Kremes. Sunday, I attended church in Richmond, where I just so happened to run into a dear friend, Shalayne Davis, who just started law school at U of R. It was really a great day. Richmond - I'm a fan.

Monday, I rode another 55 miles on another beautiful blue-sky day from Richmond to a little town called Blackstone, where I stayed with a gentleman named Gail, whom I met via Gail is a career Navy guy who teaches a shooting class to troops getting ready to deploy. He's also a pilot who owns his own plane, a gunsmith who's made his own guns, and an avid hunter and traveler. This guy has almost as many stories to tell as the Dos Equis "Most Interesting Man in the World". We had a great time just swapping stories and watching National Geographic.

Yesterday, I had quite the epic ride - 75 miles on nothing but smooth country roads from Blackstone to Henderson, North Carolina. I did, however, discover one obstacle to riding along back roads through the country. Country folk typically have one or two rather large dogs, and dogs like to chase cyclists. When I'm riding hard, I can outpace a dog no problem, but at the easy steady pace I try to maintain, the dogs are right there nipping at my heels. After a furious half-mile chase, the dogs turn around, but the sprint is exhausting. That happened three times on the roads yesterday. However, the canine problem was minor on such a great riding day. I eventually made it to Henderson, where I stayed with the Whittacre family - Dan and Joanna, and their six awesome kids. What a great family.

This morning I woke up, ready to head down to Durham to meet up with my former college roommate Doug and his wife Charisse, when I came across an unexpected surprise - I made the front page of the Henderson Daily Dispatch! Sister Clark, the branch president's wife, sent a note HDD telling them about my ride, and reporter David Irvine called me up yesterday to conduct an interview. As I got close to town, photographer Ashley Ayscue and his dad came and followed me for a short distance - the dad driving, Ashley hanging out the window snapping photos. I didn't expect it to be front page-worthy, but when I saw the paper this morning, there I was, reppin' the Colorado pride and too-short Spandex shorts. Check it out when you get a chance!
So, in conclusion, this ride has been everything hoped for and more thus far. Thanks to you all for your support!