This week, Tourism Startups Success met Sandy in Orlando and she told us about her commitment to the Haitian community and her travel business. she answered the following.
1- You are a TV host, you do tours in Haiti, and now you are part of Sunrise team, what else do you do professionally that the public does not know about?
I would say that the public may not know that I’m a communitarian, and that all my decisions are influenced by what would benefit those connected to me, as a whole. So I spend plenty of time motivating others because when people know better and feel better about themselves, they do better. I also spend time giving others entrepreneurial-type advice because when they establish new services, we, in turn, have a community that is more efficient. If we were to be more formal, simply put, this mindset led me to become the President of our Haitian Chamber of Commerce, an influencer invited to mentor elementary students and an accountability partner at the start of one’s business. Serving the community is what I do.
2-What inspired you to start your travel Company and what are the ups and downs for you?
Working in the world of Haitian Television activated the need to know more about my identity and this wonderful island I had inherited through, my parents as my own. Although, very quickly, I realized that the Island of Haiti wasn’t visitor friendly. Coming from a 1st world country, it’s difficult to accept excuses. It’s difficult to accept that things can’t be done better because that’s just the way it is. So I thought the first way to get Haitians living abroad to visit Haiti was to lead with it’s the greatest asset— and that’s the fact that an Island is still an Island no matter it’s condition. If there’s lodging, food/entertainment, and a beach… you have the basic ingredients of Caribbean Tourism.The “Ups” include the reactions of those who realize that going back to Haiti is an option. The “downs” would be alternative agendas and natural disasters that work against progress. I believe that’s obvious.
3- How do you see your company in the next 2-5 years, what impact you want to make in the tourism industry
It’s funny, and I don’t think of my business long term. My goal is to help the diaspora return home through tourism. Hopefully, this industry won’t need me in the future because the image of Haiti has changed by then. I can only be hopeful. But if I’m required I’ll be there.
4- What is the best advice you have ever received and who is your inspiration
My goodness, I receive excellent advice almost every other day. I surround myself with like-minded individuals or those who have a lifetime of work I can study from. I can’t choose just one. My inspiration is people who began life with a blank canvas— no beliefs, traditions, biases. Those individuals are the most sensitive for humanity and view the world through unfiltered lenses. The rest of us are caught up in conflict someone else taught us to care about.
5- What would be your advice for young Haitian and the Caribbean who want to contribute more to the growth the Caribbean tourism, especially Haiti?
I would say to take advantage of technology and connect with those who live in a different world. Until you can do so in real life, engage everything foreign. Consume information outside of your norms. Your mind will subconsciously direct your path, and you’ll find yourself in a space that needs you.
Learn More About Sandy
Sandy Sophia Laborde’s love for the Haitian Community led her to leave corporate America to organize literacy programs for Haitians. The magnitude of assistance the community needed would push her to become a social entrepreneur. Even though Ms. Laborde would freelance in working with several television companies, In 2014, she officially began working with the Television Network, HAITI HD. Ms. Laborde would go on to interview many Haitian Public Figures and Celebrities. One of her most memorable interviews was with Laurant Lamothe, being the only Haitian that interviewed him for winning the Innovator Award from Latin America. “Yon Ti Moman Ak Sandy” later launched in Canada on basic cable is being shown in over 4 million homes. Today she has three shows, changing the image of Haitians internationally, one episode at a time.
Ms. Laborde has been called to elementary schools to talk to young Haitian girls who have low self-esteem and want nothing to do with their Haitian Identity. After three years of promoting Haitian culture, she decided to revisit Haiti after 25 years. In April 2015, Sandy would purchase her first ticket to Haiti not telling anyone. She fell in love with the country making acquaintances along the way, promising that she would return with friends. On December 1st, 2016, Ms. Laborde returned to Haiti with 92 Haitian-Americans. The impact of her trip was recognized by the Haitian Minister of Tourism. Following the success of the trip, she realized that bringing the diaspora back home is possible, and now sends groups of people to Haiti.
Her drive has led her to be appointed President of the Greater Haitian American Chamber of Commerce Orlando. Ms. Laborde is committed to supporting Haitian Businesses, bridging the gap with those who are Stateside or wanting to do commerce back home. Senators, Commissioners, and Vice-Mayors have all attended Ms. Laborde’s events. As of today, she’s the youngest female to lead the Chamber, and also the first Haitian-American.
Ms. Laborde’s latest project is called “Met Fanm Sou Ou.” It’s an empowerment network for Haitian Women providing conferences, networking events, and community resources that inspire individuals with the same traditional values our ancestors passed on to each of us. While she was in Haiti, she discovered an Orphanage called Mission of Grace and became attached to the youth, more specifically, the youth that is now over the age of 18 but still lives at the Orphanage because no one has adopted them. She visits them, encouraging them to work hard for a better future. Ms. Laborde comes from humble beginnings, thus the reason she has made her life all about the Haitian Community. She passionately believes that together we can change Haiti, including the quality of life for those living abroad.
You’ll find Ms. Laborde supporting events that impact the Haitian Community Nationally and abroad. She has been asked to speak at countless forums and been invited to partner with several social causes that are detrimental to the success of the community. Just recently Ms. Laborde joined the Sunrise Airways Airline Company in Launching their first direct flight from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti to Orlando, FL. As their Relations Manager, she is tasked with continuing the work she’s faithfully been doing in the Central Florida Community– ensuring that the residents are familiar with the resources that are available to them with this new route. In addition to that, strengthening the reach of those with innovative ideas for the market, helping to execute these initiatives most efficiently.
A message from Ms. Sandy S. Laborde: “If you know where I’m from, then you know exactly where I’m heading. I am the product of two immigrants from Leogane, Haiti who continued to work in the agriculture sector once they arrived in the United States. It doesn’t bother me that our beginnings were humble in a small farming town. I simply wish my family was aware of the resources and opportunities that were available to us back then. Each year, a new wave of immigrants leave Haiti looking for a better quality of life. And each year that population gives birth to children who have access to much more than their parent’s are aware of. I’d like for my work to empower and promote self-sufficiency and independence– no matter what the circumstances look like.”