Award-winning entrepreneurs use local art to help Haiti

 | October 13,2011 02:54 pm IST

Art could be a way out of poverty for earthquake-stricken Haitian communities thanks to an award-winning business venture hatched by two students from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. 


Matt Brightman and Martin Weiss are the founders of Moral Fibers, a business that uses Haitian artists work to design t-shirts which are then sold via the company’s website.

Moral Fibers pays an initial licensing fee for the art, and artists get 15 per cent from every sale. In addition, 10 per cent of profits are donated to a nominated charity in the artist’s home town. 


Each design is strictly limited to 250 pieces and if an entire line of t-shirts sells out, the artist stands to make more than three times the national average salary. 


The business recently won the first prize in the “For Profit” category of the Dobson Cup, a prestigious entrepreneurship competition hosted by the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill. The prize provided Brightman and Weiss with the $15,000 start-up costs they needed to invest in the business. 


The idea came about after Brightman visited Haiti in the wake of the January 2010 earthquake. He says: 

“The tragedy in Haiti has left so many homeless and unemployed. However, I was really struck by the resilience of the people there, particularly the talented artists who were simply short of opportunities. With Moral Fibers we have put two and two together to create a situation that benefits everyone and, so far, we’ve seen great results. For example, the first artist we worked with was able to move from a makeshift shelter on the hillside to a city flat on his new income.” 


Due to the initial success of the venture, Matt and Martin are exploring plans to expand. “We want to take Moral Fibers global, take on more artists from other developing countries and expand our product line. We’re also hoping for some venture capital in order to move production to Haiti and create a truly ethical workplace.”