The remittance industry is huge business in the Haitian Diaspora. According to one study cited by the Council of Hemispheric Affairs, people of Haitian descent living abroad contributed up to 52% to Haiti’s Gross National Income. Yet another report complied by the The Center for Latin American Monetary Studies, reported that in 2012 alone Haitians living in Haiti received a whopping $1.9 billion from relatives residing abroad. Clearly, it’s a big market. While the studies does not indicate whether food transfers are a part of those figures, they tend to make up a significant part of remittances from the United States. In comes a Haiti food transfer and remittance company called Jaco Transfer.
Haiti remittance and food transfer company Jaco Transfer and its founders are making it their business to get a share of this lucrative pie. Although a relatively a new player in the game, but the company and its 22-year old CEO Loic Jasmin have played the game so well, that they are slowly eating up territory once monopolized by big giants like C.A.M. Transfer and Unitransfer.
Jaco Transfer’s client base is mostly Haitian-Americans and Haitian immigrants who recently reconnected with Haiti post-Haiti earthquake. They’re tech savvy, and love to take advantage of Jaco Transfer’s sales publicized in their email newsletters. They are more likely to have heard of the company on social media than any other source. Whereas older competitors tend to rely on their reputations and names to get customers, Jaco Transfer is making use of social media, search engine marketing, email marketing to get the word out on the company’s services. The company does not yet have brick and mortar locations, and for now, only offers online ordering. Since it’s been spared administrative expenses that would come from being in a physical building and having multiple offices, it passes on its administrative savings to customers. Jaco Transfer’s prices on Haitian food staples like rice, oil, and beans are relatively lower than its competitors.
Follow this three-part article with CEO and co-founder Loic Jasmin to learn more about this young firm.
Kreyolicious: How did you get interested in entrepreneurship?.
Jaco Transfer: My degrees are in architecture but I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. I think I was drawn to entrepreneurship because it allows so many things at once…a space to express your creativity…an unconventional lifestyle, an opportunity to change your community, your country and even the world! It’s hard to say no to that.
Kreyolicious: What made you start Jaco Transfer?
When I was 18, I started a company that did online grocery deliveries in Montreal where I went to study architecture. The concept was to digitize the aisle layout of existing grocery stores to give them an online presence within weeks. On a holiday trip back home, I pitched the concept of the website to a few grocery stores> in Port-au-Prince and they loved it! Once we started analyzing the trends though, we realized most orders were going to come from abroad, not from Haiti itself. At that point in time, I was completely clueless as to how big the remittance market was in Haiti, so I had to do some research. I soon realized there was an immense market for a company like Jaco to grow in. We did the math and realized that with our new model, we could offer the same products as our competitors at prices that were significantly lower! That’s how Jaco was born.
Kreyolicious: What inspired the name of your business?
Jaco Transfer: To launch Jaco, I partnered with my friends Stefan and Tariq Coles. Together, we created the Jasmin Coles Holdings LLC and the name for the company came pretty naturally from there. I think we were lucky in that regard! JA for Jasmin, CO for Coles. The bird [the word Jaco is Creole for parrot] was a perfect match and is well-known by Haitians. It was a wrap within minutes!
Kreyolicious: Were you a bit intimidated considering that you were up against some huge companies?
Jaco Transfer: Definitely! People warned me frequently that my competitors were “sharks” and that the remittance industry was “too complicated”. They told me there was a reason why the market was dominated by a handful of players. I think I was told every story of every startup that failed at doing what Jaco does today. I’m really happy we didn’t listen!
Kreyolicious: Did you seek out any mentors during any of the stages of launching and running Jaco Transfer?
Jaco Transfer: My father has been a great mentor and counselor throughout the process and was most important in the beginning when I wasn’t sure if the numbers I was reading were even real! These articles said Haitians abroad sent billions back to Haiti every year. I couldn’t believe it! He’s a banker, so he’s familiar with the remittance industry and was able to confirm. He really pushed me to launch Jaco and has been of great help ever since.
This concludes PART I of the interview with Mr. Jasmin of the Haiti food transfer and remittance firm Jaco Transfer. Be sure to watch out for PART II and PART III of the interview with him. Meanwhile, don’t keep your those relatives in Haiti waiting for that diri, pwa and somon!
CLICK HERE to visit Haiti food transfer and remittance company Jaco Transfer’s website to see what you can order for them from Jaco Transfer! Don’t have any relatives in Haiti to send off a remittance? Well, find an organization that you can donate to! And tell your peeps who still have a connection to Haiti about Jaco Transfer! Use kreyolicious as your promocode and you will get 10% off your order. Hurry!