Sitting in the storage room of Libreri Mapou Creole & French is an unused cart many Haitians would recognize instantly.
It was built a few years ago for Haitian Heritage Month and served as Little Haiti Cultural Complex Manager Abraham Metellus’ inspiration for its Fresko Lakay initiative, one of eight nonprofit semifinalists vying for $5,000 as part of PhilanthropyMiami’s 2018 Shark Tank.
The initiative, he said, serves both a way of empowering local entrepreneurs and bringing more Haitian culture to the community.
“The same way Hialeah has churros,” said Metellus, “one thing that is unique to us in Haiti is the fresco cart.”
A popular drink to combat the heat, fresco is shaved ice with grenadine syrup, occasionally topped with peanuts. Lakay is Creole for home. The carts are typically made of wood.
Metellus said that there are no carts currently operating in Little Haiti, although there is a truck that sells the treat that can typically be found on Northwest 62nd Street and North Miami Avenue.
Metellus said the people in Little Haiti are hard-working, but rising rent prices have kept business growth. The Little Haiti Cultural Complex, which is funded by the city of Miami, has various programs to help Little Haiti residents financially, including money management classes.
With the $5,000, Metellus said five carts can be built. Those operating the carts would need to register as a business with city officials and attend small business lessons. The carts would work on a lease-to-ownership system.
The eight semifinalists were chosen by PhilanthropyMiami. Voting for the final four is open at the event’s website.
The final four will each then be assigned a mentor to help them prepare their pitches, according to Abbey Chase, whose firm, Chase Marketing Group, is representing PhilanthropyMiami.
During Shark Tank, inspired by the hit TV show of the same name, the finalists will give four-minute speeches in front of a panel. The theme of this year’s PhilanthropyMiami is “Fearless: Thriving in A World of Changing Expectations.”
Chase said the panelists will be looking at which contestant best represents this year’s theme.
“The importance of PhilanthropyMiami is to inspire non-profits in our community to be creative and bold,” Chase said.
Metellus said that he would like to see Fresko Lakay come to fruition regardless of whether they win. He plans on partnering with other businesses in Little Haiti and working with local artists to paint the carts in vivid colors that showcase Haitian culture.
“I still want to push and move forward with this initiative because I believe it’s going to help and support the local entrepreneurs and businesses in Little Haiti,” he said.
The other semifinalists are South Florida People of Color, ArtSouth, Comic Cure, Maven Leadership Collective, Before It’s Too Late, South Florida Center for Percussive Arts and Code Explorers.
Semifinal voting closes at 5 p.m. on Jan. 31. The Shark Tank finals are on March 1. Vote online here.