Be curious, ask questions.
Work Harder than everyone else.
Stay away from drugs, even alcoholic beverages.
Is the American Dream still alive? If you speak to many of the immigrants we spoke to, who came to this country with nothing but grit, resilience, and a dream, they will tell you that it certainly is still alive.
As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Unik Ernest.
Though he’s known for business deals that have made headlines across different business areas, including technology, marketing, hospitality, and more, at his core, Unik Ernest is first and foremost an immigrant who came to America to share his culture and to build a successful life for himself. And in recent months, he’s been working on a project that has been focused on unifying and sharing the African American immigrant community. As a native to Haiti, Ernest moved to Miami and then on to New York in the early ‘90’s, where he launched a career in hospitality that would catapult him into the spotlight and later be named one of the top 20 event producers in the city. With connections to brands, celebrities, events, and culture, the rising entrepreneur quickly became recognized as a lifestyle maven and cultural architect. After 20+ years of building on his experience in community and hospitality, Ernest is now developing a new and innovative way to bring people together. The entrepreneur looks to connect African content creators through a brand-new YouTube meets Netflix content platform where African descendants can connect and create together. The platform will consist of short-form content that was conceptualized, executed and produced by African descent creators.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born and raised in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince. I went to school in Petit Seminaire, it is a catholic, all boys school. I got kicked out and went to Roger Anglade. My all family was considered “middle class” and was able to provide a very enlightening childhood full with lots of sports activities (Volleyball , Soccer, and Ping Pong). My passion was music and often sneak out of the house to go watch live performances while my 2 other brothers were home sleeping.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?
I came here in the United States at the beginning in the 90s and the political climate at the time may have been the trigger…
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
My Mom sent me and my younger sibling Johnny to resume our studies and we ended overstay or student visa. The experience was full of unexpected surprises.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
Definitely my wonderful mother Mommy Maude. She came to Miami to help us settle and get our legal papers right. One of the greatest stories is when my Mom drove a U-Haul from Miami to New York by herself with all our furniture after me and my older brother Lionel Conille had just moved to Manhattan to launch our career in the hospitality industry.
So how are things going today?
Looking back, things are blessed and only getting better.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
During my days running some of Manhattan most successful and legendary venues, I quickly recognized that my influence and social network could be directed towards my passion for my native country and people. This sparked the launch of EDEYO, a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate the children of Haiti so they will become the future of Haiti.
You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you suggest to improve the system?
3) Family Separation
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
1) Be curious, ask questions.
2) Work Harder than everyone else.
3) Self discipline.
4) Stay away from drugs, even alcoholic beverages.
5) Be patient.
One of the stories that marks my humble beginning in the nightlife and entertainment industry in Manhattan is how me and my brother were being banned from entering certain establishments and how a certain venue owner was making fun of my accent and it gave me more determination to make my mark in the big apple, so we did!
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
1) The racial divide conversation.
2) The American youth engagement to social issues.
3) Prison reform urgency.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Chris Gardner. I have watched the 2006 film The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith playing Gardner and Jayden Smith playing his son Chris Jr. So this gives me a reason to want to pick his brain.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
My Linkedln page Unik Ernest or Instagram @iamunikernest page
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!