Makendy's Story (Part 3)

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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 an exciting week spent working with numerous businesses and artisans. 

I don’t really know to what degree that President Obama and the organizers of this initiative can measure the positive impact and success of this program, but on my side, I can’t even find the words to express my satisfaction with the experience.

Do you know that people can have any vision and motivation or all the determination of the world to want to realize any project, yet it won’t necessarily be enough to succeed? For me, having so many great people, with so much good will and love, to coach you in so many important aspects of your professional life, is an EXTREMELY important thing. I am grateful that this program through the US State Department has actually understood the importance of the above.

Just imagine how proud I am today to represent Haiti among 250 other talented young leaders and entrepreneurs from 36 countries. I am in a great place, at a great time, and am surrounded by many amazing people. I am able to concentrate on learning and developing my skills, so that when I get back home I can share the knowledge and experience I’ve attained here.

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After enjoying a great soccer game between the University of Texas and Iowa State on Saturday at DKR Memorial Stadium, I turned my focus toward a new and very exciting week for me in my fellowship. This week I had the opportunity to work with several different businesses here in Austin, all focused on different aspects of my field -

Fortress of Inca, Leagues of Rebels, Noah Marion Quality Goods and Texas Traditions.

I am inspired by my work with Evan at Fortress of Inca shoes, especially by his desire to coach me and mentor me. We generally work on marketing, with new important keys focused on sections of my online store, the use of social networks like facebook and instagram, then branding, labeling, packaging and payment.

I worked with Musa at Leagues of Rebels, which is a shirt and accessories line for men, While working with his customers, he answered my questions. He taught me about doing business in the USA, the levels of formalities required, especially in Austin, what his schedule is like and also a lot about customer service.

Working with Noah of Noah Marion Marion Quality Goods gives me a better understanding of leather manufacturing techniques by using modern manufacturing tools. He advises me on my business, MAK NOU PA, and allows me to work with many parts using different machines in his workshop.

I also had the chance to work with Lee Miller of Texas Traditions, a very well regarded cowboy boot maker here in Austin. He taught me details of all stages of manufacturing cowboy boots, new methods, various materials and what their purposes are, and their stories. It was very exciting. He was very kind and gave me a big book on shoe manufacturing that can help me improve my knowledge in this field.

To close the week, at the International Office we attended a leadership workshop, a virtual classroom session on entrepreneurship and advice, and a coaching and mentoring session with great teachers at the University of Texas at Austin.

Overall this was a very rewarding and exciting week and I look forward with great excitement to the rest of my time here.