Makendy's Story (Part 2)

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For the next month, we will have the pleasure of hosting a shoemaker from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti at our offices in Austin. Makendy Smith earned a fellowship through the Young Leaders of America Initiative (YLAI) - a program launched by President Obama - which aims to build linkages between young leaders and entrepreneurs across the western hemisphere. Makendy has agreed to share his experiences here on our blog while he's here with us. If you'd like to learn more about his business, you can check out his Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/smithmakendysandales/.

Today's post is about his first week in Texas and how he's been spending his time.

Our original plan was to travel from Haiti to the United States on October 4, so that we could participate in the opening meetings for our program. Unfortunately, mother nature had other plans. Hurricane Mathew was heading toward Haiti and so YLAI and the State Department worked to get us out of the country sooner. 4 of us were able to leave Haiti on October 2 and we made it in time for the opening festivities. Unfortunately, 3 others in our group didn’t make it out in time and ended up arriving a few days late. Better late than never. 

The opening of the program was held in Dallas, and I really enjoyed being there. It was genial, informative and interesting at the same time. We got to meet a lot of great personalities and excellent Fellows from 36 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. After the opening ceremonies, it was time to go to our hub city, Austin, Texas, to meet all the leaders and entrepreneurs that we’d be working with over the next month.

During the trip from Dallas to Austin, I had the chance to get to know the leaders of our program - Ms. Gretchen Annette, Krystle, Kristen Haney and other members of staff YLAI. Upon arrival in Austin, we were taken to our home for the next month, the University Towers, near the University of Texas campus. They guided us through a tour of the city, which included visiting the university campus. We also took a shopping trip and and got to enjoy a homestay fiesta, and a networking dinner to present us our fellowship placement hosts.

I had the opportunity to meet my placement host - a genial man, very affable and very outgoing - Evan Streusand, CEO of Fortress Of Inca, with whom I would be working during all my fellowship. After talking with him for a few minutes he quickly understood my emotion, and we spoke about the program, my experiences, his company and of my fellowship.

The following day was my first day of work with Mr. Evan at Fortress Of Inca. He was just as excited to join me in this international experience. Very engaging and passionate, and knowing that my English is not so good, he was committed to helping me make my way here.

First we prepared a work plan, namely my expectations and the points on which we will work, and then he showed me around his business and the important people in this area of the city.

On my second day we worked on the creation of an online store for my business, MAK NOU PA CREATION, and then in the afternoon, he took me to see his friend Noah Marion, and his company Marion Quality Goods. Noah works with leather and leather accessories, and creates beautiful items that he sells in his shop and online. I worked with him and his assistant Lainey for the rest of the day. They taught me about the different materials and tools I needed to integrate into my business that can help me improve my production. I helped cut out the leather and stamped the brand through their machine, (called a Clicker).

This weekend I will take some classes with the other fellows from my program, and Saturday we will attend an American football game at the university.