Surviving Disaster Gave This Founder a New Lease on Life. He’s Making the Most of It by Giving Back
Surviving the devastating Haiti earthquake in 2010 put matters in perspective for Dieuveny “DJ” Jean Louis. A dwell music celebration planner at the time, Louis experienced returned to his indigenous Haiti from Miami to program a gain concert. He checked into the Lodge Montana in Port-au-Prince, dropped off his luggage, and ventured out to get some lunch. When the earthquake hit, the resort collapsed, killing much more than 50 men and women.
“I seem at my lifetime as a blessing,” Louis suggests. “I am listed here currently due to the fact I was supplied a 2nd chance.”
Currently, Louis is founder and CEO of Toast Distillers, which he launched in 2015. Toast’s core products are premium and well liquors, but that is just one particular facet of the organization. The Miami-primarily based company’s philanthropic arm, Toast First Response, donates supplies to the frontlines in the wake of normal disasters. When the Covid-19 pandemic achieved the U.S. in March, Toast promptly pivoted to begin making hand sanitizers, shipping its to start with pallets by March 25.
Following receiving a flurry of inbound fascination, the firm put the sanitizer operation into significant gear. It sold to shops and to the states of Florida and South Carolina and donated to the Army, Navy, College of Miami, and Boys & Women Clubs in Miami-Dade County. In all, the company has produced and transported more than 500,000 gallons of sanitizer, about 50,000 gallons of which was donated.
Louis’s job as an entrepreneur can be traced back again to his like of music, specifically the guitar. After he immigrated to Florida from Haiti at age 10, his musical talents drew him to the Miami nightlife scene, which led to his organizing a modestly sized live performance intended to benefit Caribbean communities. Within a number of yrs, it grew to become the Starfest Audio Festival, a substantial multi-working day function highlighting hip-hop, jazz, and reggae. Louis was ready to make the activities absolutely free by attracting sponsors and used the leftover proceeds to rehabilitate hospitals, orphanages, and other services all through the Caribbean.
In the weeks foremost up to the earthquake, Starfest drew additional than 500,000 attendees throughout various spots, capped by a headlining act of Rick Ross in Haiti.
Right after the catastrophe, in which more than 200,000 people died, Louis remained in Haiti for several months to assistance with restoration endeavours. He suggests the working experience created him think long and tough about his future methods. Getting worked some of Miami’s most exceptional clubs, he had normally dreamed of launching a top quality liquor brand name. 1 day, he requested his lawyer to locate out irrespective of whether the title Toast was trademarked. To their surprise, it wasn’t. “I usually say, just about every day over ground is a superior day to toast,” Louis states. “So I understood I experienced to do it.”
Just 4 many years immediately after Louis leveraged his connections to get the company’s products into bars and dining establishments in South Seashore and over and above, Toast acquired the Miami Distilling Enterprise, maker of Pitbull’s Voli 305 vodka. When Covid hit before this yr and hand sanitizer started disappearing from cabinets throughout the place, Louis knew that getting an alcoholic beverages maker with its possess amenities set his company in a placement to aid. He transitioned Toast’s functions with help from a local business, Cosmetic Company of America, and partnered with a nearby bottling plant. The company quickly began manufacturing sanitizing gels, sprays, and lotions less than the title EZ Hand Sanitizer, which it continues to make today.
Springing into action to help communities in disaster is nothing new for Toast. After Hurricane Irma struck Florida in 2017 and Hurricane Dorian strike the Bahamas very last 12 months, the organization brought truckloads of foodstuff, water, diapers, and other important provides to the impacted locations.
“Everyone in our business understands the roots of this organization,” Louis claims. “So whenever we call on everybody, they jump on board to help with the social excellent aspect. It is element of our DNA. If we can donate and give back, we never even imagine two times about it, we go all out. And when we are essential on the frontlines, that is what we do. We present up.”