Haitian American Jimmy Toussaint has always been surrounded by the will to strive. His resume boasts an attractive list of accomplishments including the Colline Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to raising funds for projects and initiatives in Haiti, which he founded in 2009. Now in his junior year at Columbia University, Toussaint is adding another first to his laundry list of undertakings; managing partner of Hilltop Terrace.
Hilltop Terrace located in the posh neighborhood of Vivy Michelle, Haiti, is modeled after the traditional structure of grand Haitian hotels, which were typically converted mansions.
“We have the architecture of a mansion and the service of a five-star hotel,” Toussaint said.
AC: Tell me a little about Hilltop Terrace.
Hilltop Terrace is a boutique hotel located in the gated community of Vivy Mitchell. We wanted to provide a luxury lodging experience to business travelers, mission groups and tourists. The hotel will feature 11 rooms and a rooftop bar; with the majority of the rooms being large suites.
AC: You’ve invested in housing properties in Haiti. What compelled you to invest?
My family had a lot of land in Haiti; however much attention wasn’t given to these assets. After the earthquake there was a demand for both long and short-term housing in Haiti. We had properties in the right neighborhoods; so we were motivated to act and take advantage of the changes happening in the country.
AC: What are some obstacles you’ve come across while pursuing this business venture?
When you’re trying to do anything in Haiti you need patience and faith. Even though the government adopted the slogan “Haiti is open for business,” it’s very difficult to start one in the country; which seems counter-intuitive since the country is in desperate need of entrepreneurs.
There’s a lot of focus on the big projects in Haiti but that’s not what makes a strong economy. It only makes the gap between the rich and the poor greater. What Haiti needs are thriving small and mid-size businesses. That is what sustains the middle class.
AC: What do you want onlookers to understand about what you are doing for your country?
I’m doing something extremely important for Haiti. As a Haitian American, instead of taking advantage of all the opportunities here in the states, I decided to take on the risk of starting something in Haiti. If I’m successful, I’ll share everything I’ve learned with other Haitian Americans and use my resources to act as a bridge to bring Haitian Americans and Haitian Canadians to Haiti.
I hope to reverse the brain drain in Haiti by connecting the best and the brightest in the Haitian Diaspora to job opportunities, housing and security in Haiti.
AC: What other projects are you currently working on?
I’m in talks with a few Haitian alumni of Ivy League universities in regards to starting an organization that connects the best and brightest of the Diaspora to job opportunities and housing in Haiti. Lack of human capital is a big problem in the country.
This is why those who offer low wage employments are currently the only ones attracted to the country’s investment opportunities. We have so many capable people in the Diaspora, which Haiti can benefit from if only they were present in the country.
AC: What advice would you give to those trying to get where you are?
Don’t try to get to where I am. Do better than me.
” Directed by Alex Horner”
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