Entrepreneurship Helping Haiti


Ryan Williams could not have predicted that his freshman biology class would give such a purpose to his life. Or, for that matter, the presentation he attended in the summer of 2010 by Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes. It just seemed like an interesting way to spend a Wednesday night. 

In the summer of 2010, Ryan was planning a business venture. 

He wanted to start his own Sno-Cone shaved ice business over the summer in his home town of Hinsdale, Ill., and thought it would be a great idea to take some of the profits and donate them to a good cause. It had not occurred to him that that cause would be Haiti, where an earthquake had months earlier caused widespread devastation.

As he listened to Mr. Mycoskie describe the “philanthropic capitalism” business model of TOMS Shoes, he recalled the day his biology professor spoke to the class about the Notre Dame Haiti Program. The professor told the class that the Program’s sole mission was the eradication of Lymphatic Filaritis in Haiti. LF, otherwise known as Elephantitis, is a mosquito-borne disease causing grotesque and irreversible disfigurement. More than 30% of the Haitian population is infected with the horrible disease. After making some great strides, the program experienced a terrible set back when the earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, and was in the process of trying to recover. 

It was at that moment that Ryan knew he had found the cause he was looking for. He approached the NDHP’s program director, Sarah Craig, and pitched his idea. He told her that he would donate a portion of the profits of every sale to the NDHP. He said that a display by the Sno-Cone stand would serve two purposes. First, it would tell customers that they were not just buying a tasty treat, but they were helping the Haitian people as well. Second, and more importantly, it would raise awareness for the NDHP and its mission.

Thanks to Ryan more people in Hinsdale, Ill. now know about Lymphatic Filaritis and the great work the NDHP is doing to eradicate it. More importantly, Ryan’s business raised $4,000 for the NDHP, which it will use to further its goal of freeing Haiti from the ravages of LF.