Claire Cindy Lalanne and McEvans Francois are cousins, and they also happen to run Kreyol Kraft, a New York-based firm that sells and promotes Haitian arts and crafts. Read on to find out what goes behind their venture.
Kreyolicious: Was it the love for Haiti that made you start Kreyol Kraft?
MCEVANS FRANCOIS: First and foremost, we would like to thank you for your interest in our story. Kreyol Kraft, is an art start-up that creates and sells original paintings and logos. The pieces from our collection are abstract works that are influenced by our Haitian-American background and New York life experiences. We have also kicked off an art-on-demand service that supplies custom paintings to our clients. We started Kreyol Kraft to share our general perception, love of the Caribbean, the immigrant experience—and our flavor of the big apple with the world.
Kreyolicious: So, Claire S. Cindy is behind Kreyol Kraft. What goes behind keeping up a venture like Kreyol Kraft?
CINDY LALANNE: McEvans Francois is the manager and Kreyol Kraft’s art broker and CEO. [We] have added members to their growing team to help promote and build the brand and also push the art-on-demand effort. This team behind Kreyol Kraft keeps this venture growing and running strong.
Kreyolicious: So far, what has entrepreneurship taught you?
MCEVANS FRANCOIS: Entrepreneurship has been a rewarding but challenging experience. We are in the infancy stages of building up our brand and exposure, so every new client, fan, collaborator, and supporter is well-earned.
CINDY LALANNE: As a team, we pitch and share new ideas for art, growth, networking, and our general vision. We have learned that each member is a crucial link to our chain and a team effort brings great value in everything that we do. This joint approach to entrepreneurship keeps us firing on all cylinders as we grow as entrepreneurs.
Kreyolicious: I read on your website that you studied architecture. How cool.
CINDY LALANNE: While growing up in Haiti, [I] was drawn to books and art to get past the frequent and sudden power outages. Since watching TV was never something that I could do consistently I was pushed to use [my] imagination a lot. Often times, after school I would go to my mother’s job—GOC Universite—and I would watch the architecture and engineering students walk around with blueprints and models and became enamored. I was captivated by the idea that somebody could create a building that was just a drawing on a piece of paper. I aspired to become one of those students and to this day I apply some of the skills I learned from them in my paintings.
Above: Kreyol Kraft co-founder Cindy Lalanne.
Kreyolicious: Your artwork is really impressive. Do you just sit there and create? Or—
CINDY LALANNE: Thank you for your kind words and feedback. The ideas come from [us] both. They all start off as sketches of ideas drafted from current events, or our perceptions of our outside world. We also get inspired by movements of our time. A recent piece that has benefited from such an idea is “Still I Rise”. This piece was based on our sentiment from the Black Lives Matter movement. An example of our perception—touched by abstract expressionism—is “United Caribbean states of the Diaspora”. This piece is an image of the continent of Africa with the Caribbean nations drawn within Africa.
Kreyolicious: It’s been said that entrepreneurship is for people with tough skin. How do you deal with the challenges that come with running Kreyolkraft?
CINDY LALANNE: We strongly agree that tenacity and resilience is required to own and run your own business. Usually entrepreneurs are selling their own products and ideas so there is an attachment to what you are providing the consumer. When people don’t see the same value in your work, or products it can be discouraging.
MCEVANS FRANCOIS: As it relates to our paintings, and logo work, we take each ‘Art on demand’ request (custom request), as a challenge. Cindy specializes in abstract work, so we enjoy the process of sketching and presenting to our client until we reach their satisfaction before painting the piece as a final product.
Above: McEvans Francois, art broker and co-founder of Kreyol Kraft
Kreyolicious: What would you say to someone who wants to do something along the same line as Kreyol Kraft?
MCEVANS FRANCOIS: We would encourage anyone that has a dream along the same lines to pursue their venture with 200% commitment. Taking this step requires a strong leap of faith and a solid support system. We would encourage others to kick off their business within their “friend and family market” to collect free and constructive feedback while also leveraging the marketing of word of mouth. We would also emphasize one of the golden rules of sales and business, “Tell everyone what you do”. This tactic can enable you to establish connections that can possibly change your business forever. Lastly, since we believe in collaborating with anyone that can be a match, so Kreyol Kraft would be interested in meeting and planning with them as well.