Maxime Manuel

Businesses the world over are moving online, leaving big department stores and big payroll costs behind. Two years ago, Maxime Manuel decided to lead that change in Haiti, and now – whether you’re looking for children’s shoes or a new drone – is the place to start.

There were two reasons for his decision. The first was that as a self-confessed “technology addict”, Manuel (37) knew the ins and outs of the internet and often bought online. The second was that he knew that products for sale at markets often had “flexible” prices – not always reflecting their true value.

So in October 2014, with the help of his childhood friend, Paul Wanley, his shopping portal went live, going against the prevailing orthodoxy of the e-commerce industry in one key way –  by not insisting on payment by credit card, but allowing bank transfers, checks, or cash on delivery. He knew that with the low rate of credit card use in Haiti, the business could never survive.

In fact, it’s been a huge success. Selling exclusively to Haiti, orders topped 5,000 in the first 20 months, with an impressive 14,000 “likes” on Facebook. Analytics show that new customers visiting the site have a 70 percent conversion rate, in other words 70 percent of those who place an item in their basket actually go on to buy. They already have a portfolio of 2,500 recurring clients in Haiti.

Without any old-style retail outlet, operates from two busy warehouses in the west of Port-au-Prince, employing a staff of 11.