Entrepreneur channels traditions and spirit of Haiti into her natural products

Photos by Kiva Fellows Christina Marie and Tim Chambers

Just as the demand for organic produce has skyrocketed in recent years, so has the demand for organic beauty products. People around the world are becoming increasingly conscious of what they put in their bodies, and on their skin.

That’s great news in the eyes of many proponents of holistic, natural living, like Roberte, a Haitian naturopath who started her own skincare business out of her basement in Port-au-Prince. She named her business Belzeb, which means ‘beautiful herbs’ in Creole.

Each of Roberte’s products is rooted in traditions she grew up with, like a line of soaps, gels and lotions that include basil. In Haiti, it’s common for people to bathe with basil and use its essential oil because it’s believed to bring good luck.

Other lines feature sour orange which is used to induce relaxation, while others contain castor oil, a staple of Haitian heritage and a remedy for just about everything.

Roberte started out making massage oils and loose leaf teas to share with her family and community. It wasn’t long before demand increased, but the products people were asking for, like soaps, required further training. So Roberte went to school and became a naturopath.

Roberte opened a spa on the Caribbean island of Grenada and was creating her natural products out of the basement in her home in Haiti. But when the 2010 earthquake struck, she lost everything. Her home and basement factory were destroyed and as a result her business was shut down for 5 months. Despite the devastation, Roberte began to rebuild, and little by little got back on her feet. In 2015, she took out a Kiva loan to help grow her business, and to purchase a generator, bottles, an automatic cutter and labels.

“There’s a saying in Haiti,” Roberte said. “When you help 1 person, you help 10 others.” The loan she took out not only helped her grow her business, but also employ 3 other people. Each person she’s employed has their own family and network to support.

Roberte’s goal in starting her business wasn’t to enhance her own wealth, but rather to help others. She’s achieved this in more ways than one: in creating jobs, in the sustainable and earthly products she creates and also in educating others on how to make these products.

Roberte, naturopath and owner of Belzeb.

Roberte, naturopath and owner of Belzeb.

She promotes health and empowers women in her community and around the world. Her spirit is fearless, and her advice to other women is to “make your business your priority, and don’t let nobody stop you. Don’t let anyone say you cannot do it. Just go and do it.”

Roberte’s loan was fully funded and she’s in the repayment process. The next steps in her dream plans are to open a spa and wellness center outside of Port-au-Prince that will be free of chemicals and entirely natural.

You can find more inspiring stories like Roberte’s and loans to fund here.

About the author

Deena Tailo

Deena graduated from the University of San Francisco with a double major in Latin American Studies and Spanish and a Psychology minor in May 2015. After a short volunteer trip to Guatemala in 2013 where she worked with children in a school setting, she began to understand her passion for human rights and social justice. After a few years of crowd-funding and starting a jewelry line to help the school in Guatemala become a more efficient learning and social environment, she began to understand that there is much to learn in the world of humanitarian aid.  Her experience in Guatemala as well as her undergraduate studies led her straight to Kiva. She is eager to learn and contribute her creativity, passion and experience in marketing to this empowering organization. In her free time Deena loves reading, hiking, and exploring.