Anyone who really wants to do something can achieve it.
By Sarah Brutus @sarahprworldwide
Where were you born?
My name is Michelet Mike Nestor. I was born in Port Au Prince, Haiti, in a poor slum called Soleno. I came to the United States in 1999.
What did you do in Haiti before coming to the United States?
In Haiti I was a police officer. I served in the force for four years, from 1995 to 1999. I also went to law school in Haiti.
How was your transition from Haiti to the United States?
I was the first person in my family who had the opportunity to come to the United States. I was able to get a job, where I worked for a few months. It was a very tough job. We made landscape covers. During that time, I took classes at Lindsay Technical School. From there I started taking courses at Broward College. I also took courses at Nova Southeastern University and Florida Atlantic University. I then decided to go to law school in New Orleans, and Loyola University. I stayed there for two years and was able to get my Masters in Law, as well as a certificate in Common Law and International Law.
What was it like to go to law school in New Orleans while having a family?
It was tough. My wife and I were both attending law school at the same time. We had three children. Many times I would have to watch the children while studying at the same time. Fortunately, we made it.
What impact were you able to make in the community while in New Orleans?
While in New Orleans I began to work with the Haitian community there. There is a high level of illiteracy, and many of them did not know how to fill out applications for work. So I created a multi-services company to help them apply for jobs. We realized that there was a need.
What did you do after graduating from law school?
After we finished with law school, we decided to move to Haiti. This was in 2010, right after the earthquake. When we arrived, things were very tough. So we began to work and set up offices.
How did your company, SECO, get started?
After being in Haiti for a while, we decided to move back to New Orleans. We helped more and more people find jobs in the local hotels and casinos. We built relationships with these local companies. We started this company with my wife’s tax refund – about five thousand dollars. So it became a staffing agency. After a while I learned the business well and added a cleaning company to it. Now the company has a few thousand employees. We have also just opened another branch of the company in Haiti. We have about 16 branch offices in different places, including Mississippi, New York, Lake Charles and New Orleans.
Tell us about your interest in politics.
After years of leaving Haiti and coming back, I saw that the lives of the people had not changed over the years. I had been helping with my foundation over the years, but it was not enough. So I started doing some research and visited the 10 departments of Haiti and other cities, and saw the way the people were suffering. I decided to run for office. Unfortunately, I was attacked during the election. Still, I believe it was a great experience. I also don’t think that someone has to be president to help people in the country. I will do the best I can to help the Haitian community by creating jobs both here in the United States and in Haiti.
What has been your biggest challenge as a business person?
When your minority company becomes a multi-million dollar company, many issues will arise. Financially, you need to be able to able to meet the demands of the large contracts when the company does not have credit.
What advice would you give someone looking to start a company?
I believe if someone wants to start a business, you need to start it slow and small. From there you can grow little by little. We had to face the challenge of our company growing too fast.
Did you expect the company to be as successful as it is today?
Yes, I expected the company to be successful. I just didn’t expect it to grow as fast as it did. That was the surprise.
What are your hopes for the Haitian community here and in Haiti?
I believe that in 10 more years, the Haitian community will be stronger. I believe that this generation of Haitians will be better off because their parents are very professional and successful. I believe that the older generation of leaders in the community need to embrace this new generation. I stress that this generation should get involved in politics and community efforts.
Leaders in Haiti need to open doors for the Haitian Diaspora to return to Haiti and create jobs, invest and start businesses in Haiti.
Where do you see you see yourself and your company in the next 10 years?
We are working very hard for our company to be a publicly traded company within the next 10 years. To be a Fortune 500 company. I see myself as a public servant who is here to serve my people.