Michelle Jean is the Co-Founder of Zesa Raw and Root Project. Zesa Raw is a start-up social venture company which imports, manufacturers, and distributes fair-trade plus, organic hand-milled unrefined sugar, high altitude coffee and cocoa from small-scale and farmers in Haiti and Costa Rica. Zesa Raw has secured accounts with Nordstrom, Fairway, Williams-Sonoma, Dover Street Market, and top tier restaurants across the country.
The Root Project initiative was launched together with the World’s Best Female Chef Dominique Crenn shortly after Hurricane Matthew to address the short-term and long-term needs in Haiti particularly in the agricultural sector. The overarching goal is to support farmers by planting over 1 million coffee and cacao trees in the South of Haiti that was affected. The company objectives in conjunction with the Root Project initiative is to develop social benefits, economic agricultural empowerment, improving work conditions, promoting work for women with equal pay, coupled with technical and health assistance in Haiti as a long-term commitment. The intention is to improve the livelihood and transform subsistence agriculture to sustainable and private enterprise to small-scale farmers.
Michelle has over 12 years operating experience in the hospitality industry, she worked directly with celebrity chefs such as Alex Guarnaschelli, Tylor Florence, David Waltuck’s former Executive Chef Keith Harry and cookbook author Rosa Losan Ross, later Executive Studio Director | Business Development at Urban Zen/SWS- Donna Karan. In 2012 she was hired as a strategic partner in Haiti for a $30M micro-park for the purposes of impact investment and economic development for the IDB that lead to the vision and creation of Zesa Raw.
Michelle is first generation Haitian-American and her co-founder Peter Hansson based in Sweden; both value the need to benefit small-scale farmers eventually reaching throughout the Caribbean and Central America. Since 2002, Michelle serves as treasurer and board of directors of the Wayuu Taya Foundation founded by UN Goodwill Ambassador, which helps to improve the lives of Latin-American indigenous people while maintaining and respecting their traditions, culture and beliefs. Later she was invited to join the Haitian-Roundtable.