Discover Haiti’s Entrepreneurs & Businesses:
Ernst Valery, owner of Milk & Honey Baltimore and Ernst Valery Investments Corp.
Shortly before the U.S. economic recession, Ernst Valery’s investment firm bought a decaying commercial office building in downtown Baltimore and converted it to 96-unit apartment building. When the economy contracted, Valery, originally from Port-Au-Prince, found it challenging to fill the building’s storefront with a business tenant.
In 2010, Valery and his wife opened Milk & Honey, a café and market, in the storefront.
Valery had already invested in his friend’s Milk & Honey shop in Philadelphia, so he brought the concept to his Baltimore building.
“It was at the bottom of the market,” said Valery, who moved to the U.S. at age 8. “We wanted to create a community and offer the tenants more than a gym or a community room. Milk & Honey is an amenity—a nice café and market that focuses on using local, organic vendors and artisans.” There are now four Milk and Honey cafes: three in Philadelphia and one in Baltimore. Valery plans to open the fifth in Baltimore this year. The three Philadelphia Milk & Honeys are affiliates, with investments from Valery’s firm, while Valery and his wife own and operate the Baltimore locations.
Now with a dozen employees, Milk & Honey Baltimore anchors the apartment building which is fully occupied with residents. The store sells prepared foods along with Haitian coffee and Baltimore-made Taharka Brothers ice cream, which uses chocolate, vanilla, salt and coffee grown in Haiti. “We’d like to expand and offer more items made from foods grown in Haiti. We’d like to grow ingredients in Haiti for our foods and we are also looking to connect with suppliers who use ingredients from Haiti.”
Through Milk & Honey, and his Ernst Valery Investments Corp. (EVI), Valery invests in other emerging firms as well as woman- and minority-owned businesses. “We try to stabilize other entrepreneurs,” said Valery, who sits on several local and national business and community-based boards. “We’re trying to start an accelerator to help them build their small businesses into medium-sized businesses.”
As an investor and developer, Valery researches the need and desires of people in the areas before his company starts building. “We take the community’s temperature to ask what they want to see in their neighborhood instead of prescribing, without their input, what we’ll build,” he said. “Our approach is to be a part of the community.”
The company is also building a full-service restaurant and has incorporated in Haiti. Valery said he didn’t choose to become an entrepreneur. “You’re born an entrepreneur or you’re not,” he said. “There’s more risk up front and more rewards down the road. You get exactly what you put in. Sometimes it’s easier to go with an established paycheck, but as an entrepreneur, you can’t easily be made redundant.”
He’s a proponent of business ownership because it creates a legacy. “Instead of the next generation starting over from square one, when you create a business, you have something to pass along to the next generation.”
His advice for other entrepreneurs? “Take pride in your product, take pride in yourself and be nice to everyone,” Valery said. “Networking is very important to the success of an entrepreneur. Relationships matter.”
Milk & Honey Baltimore
816 Cathedral St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
Discover Haiti’s Entrepreneurs and Businesses, a feature developed by the Embassy of Haiti, introduces readers to the many talents that Haiti offers. The Embassy will regularly highlight Haiti’s entrepreneurs and businesses. Inclusion in this feature does not imply an endorsement of the person, business or service. If you would like to nominate a Haitian entrepreneur for this feature, please submit their name and bio along with your contact information using the comment section of our website feedback form. Thank you for your continued support.