Thursday, December 26, 2013

An Update from Apparent Project

Written by Shelley Clay

A Butterfly is emerging- Papillon Enterprise

AP - Successful Business Incubator!

A business incubator is an organization that specializes in taking ideas or start-up companies and encouraging them until they become full-fledged businesses that are able to produce profits and stand on their own. Typically, incubators are programs sponsored by donations from large corporations or colleges. They take on several start-up companies at once and provide them with the necessary resources to run their business.

In 2009 Apparent Project supported the efforts to help four women out of poverty by helping them get started in jewelry training, paper bead rolling and more. It worked. Four women turned into 14 artisans by the end of the year. By the next year,  80 people were working.

AP was no longer under the radar in Haiti and had to formalize as a business in Haiti. This business was started by Apparent Project founder Shelley Clay and was called Papillon Enterprise.
Although Papillon became the legal production center for all things Apparent Project, and was known to most by the brand Apparent Project, it actually has been it's own separate legal and fiscal identity since 2011. Papillon's establishment allowed the artisans to keep working legally and allowed many more employees to be hired. Because Apparent Project was the distributor of almost all things made by Papillon and also the business incubator, people continued to know the production facility as Apparent Project in Haiti.

In 2013 things turned a corner. Production was booming.. and more buyers other than AP were buying things made by Papillon. Shelley was running both AP and Papillon Enterprise and quickly realized that things were becoming to much to handle by just one person AND realized the roles of both organizations needed to be defined and described.

Papillon Enterprise: A social enterprise and production facility in Haiti born out of the efforts of the Apparent Project in order to create jobs and help keep kids out of orphanages. Papillon is run and owed by Shelley Clay and has sold to other buyers such as Donna Karan, Disney, Choose Haiti, The Gap, and more.

Apparent Project is the business incubator for start up businesses that help aid in the economic situation of families in Haiti. Apparent Project also does community development, education, job skills training, medical relief, prenatal care, and also continues to market and promote Papillon goods as well as other Haitian artisan goods through it's party sales and fundraisers.

This fall with now 230 employees, Shelley Clay decided to step down as the face of Apparent Project and focus solely on running Papillon Enterprise. Everything will continue as usual in terms of the function of the two organizations and for now, our stateside operations director, Marilyn, will be the director of Apparent Project. This will allow Shelley to oversea the growth of the business without having to co manage a nonprofit in the United States. In short, one person can't do it al!!

Well done Apparent Project. The first business incubator attempt was a smashing success!
What now?
We have hopes that along with the normal support that Apparent Project contributes to the community here in Haiti, that another business would soon be born out of APs efforts to further employ and empower the Haitian poor! Everything will pretty much stay the same. We will still be selling great artisan products made by the same great artisans, and celebrating what their creativity is accomplishing. We are hoping that AP will now be able to grow and move to the next level. Some of our brainstorms for more business incubation includes: graphic design, computer training, micro business assistance, and more. We thank you for your support of providing jobs and restoring dignity to the Haitian poor!

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Birth of Apparent Project

We wanted you to learn a little more about how Apparent Project got started.  Our guest blogger today is Shelley Clay, Founder.  We are so very thankful for the vision given to her and the courage to follow through.

Our first trip to Haiti was in October of 2007. We were going to go see the orphanage that we were trying to adopt from. It was a crazy, life altering trip to say the least. 

The first step was to immunize ourselves and our two kids ( ages 4 and 1 at the time) of every known communicable disease under the sun. After spending literally hundreds of dollars on shots and medical stuff in preparation, we then spent hundreds of dollars on handouts that we would bring to the orphanage. I wish I knew then what I know now.
Expensive lessons learned.
Sometimes it's just best to show up with genuine love, friendship, care.... sometimes you don't need to show up as Santa Claus.
And regarding the medical stuff. It was as if I thought Haiti was the moon or Mars. That no one could possible survive living there without about 100 things in place before hand. I remember laying every stitch of our clothing out on the garage floor and spraying EVERYTHING with mosquito treatment. It's funny to me now. Little did I know people actually live here.. get born, give birth, grow up, get old.. just like we do in North America.
Without space helmets on for survival.
Poverty is dangerous to the body. Not Haiti.

So, we came fully armed to Haiti with shots and gifts and snacks and were greeted with an unbearable heat. I think October is actually one of the hottest months. It was searing.
We landed at the international airport in Haiti and walked down the stairs and across the tarmac to the baggage claim. Much has changed now.. but then, it was complete chaos. And it was hot. AND our ride didn't show up. I was pretty sure that there were people around every corner waiting to kill and kidnap us and so our first hours in Haiti were spent sitting out in front of the airport, in the searing heat, waiting on our ride, fearing for our lives, with about 200 Haitian men staring at us while I was nursing Zebedee. Awkward and terrifying.
Our ride eventually did show up and whisked us off to the Hotel Montana- where we stayed several times after that and which eventually became a huge grave site of buried expats from the 2010 earthquake. 

While riding to the hotel, we saw a little souvenir stand about a quarter of a mile down the road where they were selling painted metal wall art and goat skin drums. We tried to go down to buy a few things that week, but I was literally to afraid to venture out even that far. My fears were so deeply ingrained in me of what I had been told about Haiti. I am embarrassed by what I thought about the people here and the nature of this island. I am so glad that I stuck around long enough to see the truth here. 

Our week was spent being shuttled back and forth to an orphanage of about 40 kids.
The week was absolutely life changing. 40 kids in one three bedroom house with no furniture, no toys, no adequate nutrition.. all waiting at least three years to get adopted.
During that week I learned the most important lesson in my life.

The lesson about the poverty orphan. 

I had the opportunity to witness birth mothers stopping in to visit their children. Not one, but several. What? I thought? These kids have mothers? I later found out that ALL of these kids have mothers. They all had taken them here for a chance at a mediocre (at best) education, at least one plate of food a day and a chance to be adopted into a better life. These mothers loved their kids enough to do this for them. I sat there on the hot pavement cuddling my toddler Zebedee. I asked myself what kind of circumstances I would have to be in to give my child away. I asked myself how much that would kill me. I asked myself if perhaps there was something I could do to help.
And then I asked the orphanage director my life altering questions.
"If these mothers had enough food in their houses and enough money to pay for their kids to go to school, would they have given them up?".
The orphanage director looked at me like I was asking him one of the stupidest questions he had ever heard. "No, of course not."

Wow. Of course not. What mother, when she can meet the needs of her children, gives them away?
These were not kids whose mothers didn't want them.
And so my hundreds of dollars of vaccinations, and gifts, and plane tickets, and thousands of dollars of adoption fees were about to help me adopt a child with a mother-
who loves him. Who just couldn't feed him. Who just couldn't afford a school uniform.

And so the Apparent Project was born in our hearts. We wanted to adopt and believed in adopting kids who needed families, but we felt compelled by justice to do something for these mothers who had no hope but to give away their most prized possessions to strangers across the ocean. 

My mind and heart flip flopped in a holy way on that day and has never since stopped advocating for these families to have a chance to stay together.

To find out how Market Haiti stemmed from this, click here.

To learn more about Apparent Project, visit this site.

To shop for their products online, visit here. 


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Peek Inside of Apparent Project

“This is a visual tour of all the creativity and upcycling amazingness that goes on at the Apparent Project in Port Au Prince Haiti most days of the week. The chalkboard signs that the artisans hold up were their own words translated into English when asked, “What do you want to tell the world about what you do?” or “What difference does this work make in your life?” You can check out more about the Apparent Project at, or better yet, go see all this in person in Haiti. My camera can’t really do it justice.” ~ Corrigan Clay, Apparent Project

Leo and Richard - The Original Bead Makers

When Shelley Clay first came up with the idea to make jewelry from paper beads, they turned to Leo and Richard, two street kids who often visited the Apparent Project buildings.

“Would you guys like to try to make beads?”

“Sure.”  And they became first bead rollers.

“Can you figure out how to make bracelets?”  And they did.

These two teenagers became experts in jewelry making and trained many people.

“Professor” Leo, has a natural business savvy.  Just 18 years old,  he works for the Apparent Project and supports his family – he is one of 18 kids.

“Little” Richard and his brother were raised by their widowed mother.   He is currently going to high school and works in the Papillion Boutique after school and on Saturday.

I Am Jack

“I am Jack.  Since I was six months old, I had a really bad sickness.  When my mom went to the hospital, the doctor said to threw me away because  I wouldn’t have life because the situation was very bad.  The sickness that I had was sores on my body.  When we went to another doctor he said when I reach my teenage years I will be healed.  But now I am still alive.  I am working to help my family and myself.  My dream is to go to the United States and study computer things.” 

Jack had a difficult childhood.  Although he did grow up within his own family, his skin condition was such that he was neglected by everyone except his mother.  He was teased by his peers and ridiculed by others.  But Jack turned out to be very bright and an amazing worker.  Together with his brother, Pierre, he manages the the Apparent Project’s Papillon Boutique in  Port Au Prince.   Both Jack and Pierre use most of their wages to help with medical expenses for their mother, who is battling cancer in the Dominican Republic.

The Papillon Boutique

The Story of Makilene

Makilene’s husband, and father of four of her children, was dead.  The father of her small baby had abandoned them.  She had nothing.  She was hopeless.  She left her older children with a friend, and  walked for days trying to find a safe place to leave her baby.  Wherever she went people told her “Find Shelley.”  And so in December of 2009, starving and suffering from a serious skin condition, the mother and baby arrived at the Apparent Project, run by Shelley and Corrigan Clay.  Makilene discovered that the Apparent Project was not an orphanage but it was a place to find help, and hope.

The Apparent Project (AP) provided food, medical help, and diapers and formula for the baby.  They also hired Makilene for the day to wash clothes for a small wage.  She turned out to be a very hard worker and AP offered her a deal:  go get your other children, come back to work for us and we’ll pay for an apartment for you for a year.

9Makilene March 2011 518In January Makilene returned with her family and moved into a small cinderblock apartment.  Four days later the history making earthquake struck.   Makilene’s home stood strong and she and her family were unharmed.

Makilene became a diligent worker at the AP creating beaded jewelry.  Then she developed a dream.  She wanted to own her own home.   She worked out exactly how many bracelets and necklaces it would take to achieve her goal,  paid special attention to what products were selling the best and figured out exactly how to make them.  She worked hard and over time successfully saved much of the money she needed.  Her determination to make her dreams come true became known and people sent in donations and helped her meet her goal.  She is now the proud owner of a two room house with a small yard.

People say her countenance has changed, that where she was once hopeless she now has great self-esteem and confidence.  She also has another goal, one that many Haitians share:  sending all of her children to school. We have no doubt she’ll succeed.

Market Haiti is proud to work with the Apparent Project and other artisans in Haiti to help develop skills, provide employment, and keep families together.