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“Why leadership is an action.” With Ben Ari & Vanessa Pierre

For me, leadership is not a title — it’s an action. You don’t have to necessarily be in the forefront of a movement to be a leader. There are plenty of effective leaders who play a role in the background and make a significant impact. Leadership is effective communication, collaboration and results. Anyone who is […]

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For me, leadership is not a title — it’s an action. You don’t have to necessarily be in the forefront of a movement to be a leader. There are plenty of effective leaders who play a role in the background and make a significant impact. Leadership is effective communication, collaboration and results. Anyone who is making any sort of positive impact in the world is a leader in my eyes.


As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vanessa Pierre.

Vanessa is the founder of Eco Renew Solutions, a waste management company that provides solutions to Haiti. Eco Renew was founded to curb Haiti’s pollution crisis by focusing on recycling through land and sea sweeps. During a trip to Haiti in 2017, Vanessa realized the absence of waste management infrastructure and from this experience, Eco Renew Solutions was born.

A former political candidate for the City of North Miami, Vanessa is civically engaged in local community politics as a Miami’s Next Leader Fellow and is a former Forbes Top 30 Under 30 nominee.

She received a bachelor’s degree from Bethune-Cookman University, a master’s degree from Nova Southern University, and doctoral degree from Morgan State University.


Thank you for joining us VanessaBefore we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

Myparents both came to America from Haiti in the 80s, so I grew up in Miami as a child of two immigrants. Before founding EcoRenew Solutions, I was a teacher. I received my bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate in education. What has really shaped me into who I am today was growing up in an immigrant household. My family made sure I stayed close to my culture by living in a Haitian-American neighborhood and speaking to me in both Creole and English. Even though I wasn’t born in Haiti, I have always felt like that was home to me. So, in November of 2017, I decided to visit for the first time in more than two decades. I was never interested in recycling or trash before that trip in 2017, but being in Haiti made me realize I needed to help, and I never looked back.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The book that resonates with me is Gucci Mane’s autobiography. This book showcases Gucci’s vulnerability and raw emotions. As a man who is perceived and expected to be tough by the media, Gucci really opened up and told his story. Reading about his rise, downfall and rehabilitation in his own words was my motivation. The book motivated me to live my life without regret and to never have excuses on what I can do and achieve. The first time I read this book, I was visiting Haiti for the first time in two decades. Being in Haiti while feeling this overpowering need to take action was the start of EcoRenew. After reading his story, I channeled my motivation and newfound sense of power in a place I felt needed it most — Haiti.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

The quote I live by is from Jonathan Winters: “Don’t wait for your ship to come in, swim out to it.” The way I interpret this is that if you want something, you have to make it happen for yourself and never wait for someone else to do it for you. We have to pivot from what we originally thought was going to happen by adapting to make things work.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?

EcoRenew Solutions is a waste management company in Haiti. We transform garbage into gold by allowing individuals to create wealth through recycling. Not only are we making the world a cleaner place, but we are creating jobs in a country with 11 million people and a 13 percent unemployment rate. In Haiti, 30 percent of GDP is dependent on money transfers. Haiti is the NGO capital of the world and still the poorest country in the hemisphere. By providing these opportunities, we are transforming life through economic opportunities and not charity.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. We just don’t get up and do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

I was standing on a mountain in Haiti, and I saw waste burning in the streets. I saw street venders throw a piece of cloth over mud, put meat and vegetables on top of it, and sell it right there. I was looking at the lack of sanitation, public health, and access in the country. This made me want to really step up and make a difference.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I can’t say any specific individual because it’s a community of people. Just by EcoRenew being in the Croix Des Bouquette neighborhood, a community of people are now employed. Being able to invest the money and create jobs to give them a means of survival has helped so many people be able to take care of their families. I truly believe creating opportunities for communities as a whole impacts everyday life in Haitian neighborhoods.

Are there three things that the community can do to help you in your great work?

Eco Renew Solutions’ slogan is “transforming garbage to gold.” All communities can help through individual tasks. Three things people can do to help is to reprogram their way of thinking about trash, get into the practice of disposing waste responsibly, and spread the word to those around you.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

For me, leadership is not a title — it’s an action. You don’t have to necessarily be in the forefront of a movement to be a leader. There are plenty of effective leaders who play a role in the background and make a significant impact. Leadership is effective communication, collaboration and results. Anyone who is making any sort of positive impact in the world is a leader in my eyes.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

There are many things I wish I was told when I first started. But the ones that stand out the most include focusing on building relationships, not being intimidated by others in the room, belonging at the table and not on the menu, dipping your feet into many different industries first, and experiencing losses as lessons.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I believe everyone should consider making a positive impact in the world. If you don’t, then how can you expect others to do so. If complaints aren’t backed up by actions, they hold no weight. I strongly believe if you find something you’re passionate about, you should push for it because we really are the change we want to see in the world.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would sit down with Karen Civil. Karen is a marketing genius whom I could converse with for hours even though I’m not in the marketing business. As a black woman making an impact in the world, she’s a strong representation that you can carve your own lane and thrive in it.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow us on Twitter at @Eco_Renew; our wesbite www.ecorenewsolutions.com ; Facebook EcoRenew Solutions and Instagram @EcoRenew_Solutions

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