Written by: Jesse Abelson, Chief Executive Officer
As the end of 2017 has come and gone, we figured it would be appropriate to look back and reflect on the past year of Vetiver Solutions. It has been a busy year full of successes and failures, but we are incredibly excited about how the past year went and even more excited about where 2018 will take us. It has now been about 15 months since the “idea” of Vetiver Solutions began. What started as a desire to make the world a better place turned into an idea which has blossomed, with the help of countless individuals, into a start-up.
It was only nine months ago that we were awarded our initial funding thanks to Acara and the Acara Challenge. Over the summer we spent three months and hundreds of hours working to efficiently create a fiber from the shoots of vetiver. This had never been done before outside of a laboratory and we were attempting to complete it in some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable. Using less than $200 worth of equipment in 105-degree weather and no electricity, we were successful in creating the first ever vetiver fibers in a non-laboratory setting. While we were very nervous for our first meeting with the village, we quickly realized that we had found an incredible partner in the villagers of Moreau. The community of Moreau welcomed us with open arms, happily showing us around their village and listening intently to to our plan. One of the things that struck us as amazing was the villagers biggest concern during our initial meeting. They repeatedly asked whether the product we may end up selling would say “Made in Moreau, Haiti” and were very excited to hear that their little village that they are so proud of could make an impact on the world.
But not all was smooth sailing for us over the past year. We have had our share of failures. To begin with, most of our attempts to isolate fibers were not very successful. However, from those failures we learned what didn’t work and how to improve our process. While our process remains imperfect, we are always working on new ways to improve it with the ultimate goal of perfecting it. Another obstacle that was faced in 2017 was one that we could not have expected nor prepared for. At the beginning of July, I suddenly went into SVT while in Haiti, an irregular heart rhythm, while in Haiti. While having to be airlifted to a hospital and return home to have a procedure done was not part of the original plan, the team used this opportunity to regroup, resupply, and ultimately improve the process once he returned about 3 weeks later.
Despite the setbacks and failures endured (which is expected with any start-up), we are very happy with our progress in 2017. In addition to having a successful pilot, we were selected to present a poster at the Clinton Global Initiatives University Conference in Boston, where we received compliments on our “innovative solution”. Furthermore, we were successfully able to fundraise enough money to return to Haiti in February and we were selected to receive both the Acara Charles C. Jackson mini-grant and the Institute on the Environment mini-grant. This funding will allow us to continue to improve our process and establish a supply chain so that the vetiver yarn can be efficiently purchased and shipped in the near future! I want to end by thanking everyone for the support and help they have shown us. Whether it was help financially, help brainstorming ideas, emotional support, free advice, or anything else, we truly appreciate it and could not have done it without all of you. Thank you for an incredible 2017 and with your continued support, we are excited to make an even greater impact in 2018.
Below are some additional 2017 reflections from our three of our members, Elizabeth Alonzi, Becca Desens, and Dalton Schutte.
“2017 has been a big year for Vetiver Solutions. We went to Haiti and made the first vetiver yarn outside of a laboratory, investing over $5000 in our Moreau partners with money raised from friends, family, and endless grant applications. We attended and presented at the Clinton Global Initiative University, the World Food Prize, and the Carlson School of Management Biz Pitch Competition. While we’ve spent many hours doing everything from carding grass fibers to hammering out business bylaws, my favorite part has been all the learning. Learning how long vetiver needs to soak to soften the fibers, learning how different types of corporations can affect your operations, slowly learning how a business starts and grows, and even learning the hard why all our Haitian partners laughed when I told them to call me Beth (it means “bugs” in Creole). 2017 has been a great year of learning, and I look forward to learning even more with Vetiver Solutions in 2018.”
-Elizabeth Alonzi, Chief Science Officer
“Working on Vetiver Solutions has made me able to use my education and experiences in a completely new and challenging way. The team is highly motivated and all have unique perspectives which has allowed us to grow and tackle problems in an efficient and mindful way. We are all working towards something that matters and it’s been a great experience so far.”
-Becca Desens, Chief Marketing Officer
“2017 was a big year for Vetiver Solutions, namely it was our first year. But in that year we accomplished so much more than we expected to when we started the project. We received a fellowship, were awarded a couple grants, completed a successful pilot, and attended an international social entrepreneurship conference. With all that behind us, I’m excited for how we are positioned going into 2018 and to see the things we will achieve.”
–Dalton Schutte, Chief Financial Officer
Feel free to leave a comment below! If you’re on a mobile device, scroll down to see some of our best images of 2017!
Don’t forget to check out the rest of our website to get a better idea of how we’re working to end poverty in Haiti.