Odile Drice David: The Allure of Accomplishment

tuesday20151201cIf you had asked her 12-year-old self what it was like to be the only daughter in a family of eight siblings, Odile Drice David probably would have rolled her eyes and launched into a well-practiced tirade, but today she openly admits it’s a blessing. The Haitian entrepreneur is the first to say that, without the help of her family – especially her brothers – she would not have achieved what she has today. And while family support has played a critical role in Drice David’s success story, her perseverance, hard work and uncanny ability to multi-task big projects cannot be underestimated.

“I think when someone has faith in what she wants her life to be, she’s already half way there! Believe, focus, and give yourself the means to accomplish what you want to do and you’ll make it happen.”

As a young teen lingering in front of storefronts on the walk home from school, Drice David would excitedly dream of the day when she would own her own clothing store. “I remember looking at all the nice outfits that we couldn’t afford. I took pleasure in telling myself when I grow up I’ll have my own shop.”

Although Drice David’s family came from modest means and couldn’t buy her the clothes she so desired in those windows, they did invest in something much more important.

“Things were not always easy, but I was lucky to have parents who believed that a good education was tuesday20151201a_headshotthe best gift that they could give my brothers and me. They did not have bank account but were proud to consider their children as their investment. Every step I have climbed in my career is because of my educational background and employers who recognized my capacity.”

Drice David attended university to study social communication before taking a position with DigiCel, a mobile phone service provider, where she reached middle management overseeing customer care. Following Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake in 2010, she joined the Red Cross to run their newly established call center and is still with the NGO today as a senior manager monitoring and evaluating projects implemented by the humanitarian relief organization and its local partners.

Working for the Red Cross has been a great experience for Drice David: she loves her job and the difference she is making in her community, but she hasn’t forgotten her teenage dreams. In what may seem like a crazy move for a fully-employed, mother-of-two young children on a career path the envy of many, about two years ago the multi-tasker opened Allure, a men and women’s clothing store in the heart of Pétion-Ville.

The decision had been building for some time. During university, Drice David sold women’s clothes and purses for her mother on a small scale, informally and irregularly as many women do in Haiti. While working at her first job, she decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps and start her own side business, reselling items her brother was sending from France where he lives.

tuesday20151201_store“After almost seven years, I was tired of carrying around all the merchandise with me every day. The more my stock increased, the more difficult it was to manage. The only plausible solution was to open a physical store,” she explains.

She pulled together her savings and, supplemented by an investment from her husband, rented a shopfront, partnering with her brother in Paris who orders and ships the merchandise to Haiti. Everyone rolled up their sleeves to lend a hand, a situation which continues today.

“I was working full-time so my brother who was home visiting from France spent two weeks of his vacation organizing the launch. Another brother set up the store, fixed the lights, and installed the shelves, and my mother looked after the children which she still does today. My little brother who’s studying orthopedics is my stock keeper, IT guy, and accountant when needed. If it were not for my brothers, mother, and husband, I would not have been able to launch my business and manage it today without quitting my job.”

“I think when someone has faith in what she wants her life to be, she’s already half way there! Believe, focus, and give yourself the means to accomplish what you want to do and you’ll make it happen.”

Drive David has three employees who run the shop and, while she is not present except for a few hours in the early morning, after work and on weekends, she is deeply involved.

“I monitor my employees’ performance with jointly agreed objectives and always try to be available to coach them as much as I can. In addition to managing the staff, a great deal of my time is spent on organizing new stock in the store, selecting new merchandise and making sure the clients keep coming back by analyzing what’s selling, diversifying what we offer, and regularly bringing in new styles. We encourage customer feedback, especially on social networks as I can’t afford advertising right now.”

It’s been a tough few years. While working at the Red Cross and managing her shop, she completed a BA in business administration and a post grad certificate in project management and evaluation and had two children in a country that is still rebuilding itself. But the tenacious young entrepreneur relishes the sense of accomplishment.

“In general, it’s not easy for anyone to start a personal business. It requires a lot. But for women especially in countries like Haiti … it is harder. Besides the usual working hours, there’s lot that comes under our responsibility as a mother or wife. But I’m proud of my perseverance and focus on running multiple projects. I’m always fighting to accomplish my dreams, to work more to reinforce my business, and to do my best at work while taking care of my family.”

Tips from Odile Drice David
  • Even if you can afford to be self-funded business, consider to take a small loan at least in the beginning. It’s good to have a safety net and somehow it helps the owner to focus a little more and manage operations more carefully if someone is watching.
  • When planning to start a business, keep in mind the continuous investment it will need. It’s important to invest in the right tools, software and human resources at the beginning of the business to ensure its sustainability.
  • If you are renting space, get to know the business space market. Sometimes the newer building while more expensive may be a better deal in the longer run as the older ones will require renovations and repairs at the tenant’s expense.

6 thoughts on “Odile Drice David: The Allure of Accomplishment

  1. I work with Odile and I could add so much more about her traits of character: dedicated, committed, joyful, professional, structured, confident, risk-taker, perseverant, respectful, socially engaged, humble, ……. What a beautiful person!

    I have enjoyed working with Odile for the past three years and she definitely is a role model and an inspiration for other women.

    Congratulations to the publisher for the wonderful article and success to Odile in he business and your multiple projects Odile!

  2. Congratulations Odile , Keep it up the good job. You are this model wich many young people would like and should have.

  3. I think this what what we all need. A person who is coming from a modest family and show us what having a dream and be ready to fight for it means.
    Congratulations Odile. Keep going. You are a model for each of us

  4. I Have always had respect for Odile since we attended same high school. She has always been a hard worker, a woman of character. It’s no surprise that she is harvesting success right now. You’re a true model for many young ones in Haitian.
    Hats-off!

    Serge. S. Augustin

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