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Family uses Internet marketing for sales, relief

Biblical principles, a sense of charity, a love of art and savvy for Internet marketing have combined to form a new Nevada County business run by three family members intent on helping Haitians escape poverty.

Lisa Lehr and daughters Noelle Dodd and Natalie Dodd have formed Bon-Bagay.com, an Internet marketing company selling Haitian art. Bon bagay means “It’s a good thing” in Haitian Creole.

It started when Dodd went to Haiti in March on a mission for the Faith Evangelical Free Church of Waterville, Maine – where the family had lived before recently moving back to Nevada County.



“There were tons of people in the streets, women with baskets on their heads, no traffic laws and lots of potholes,” Noelle said about the town of Cap Haitien, where she first landed. “The houses people live in are cinder block shacks with sheets of tin on the roof, if they have a roof.”

With the political volatility of the impoverished Caribbean nation, things are hard to come by, but artists managed to scrap together just about anything to produce their works, Noelle said.




“They’ll use the lid of a 50 gallon drum and make a wall hanging out of it,” Noelle said. “The people are poor, but some of the nicest you’d ever meet. They value companionship a lot because, sometimes, that’s all they have.”

When she came back, Noelle brainstormed with her mother, who is an Internet marketer, and they came up with the idea of a Web site to sell Haitian art.

Haiti has little tourism because of its constant political upheaval and lack of amenities, Lehr said.

“The Haitians have artistic talent” and are known for it, mom Lehr said. “What we’re targeting is adults to give them a hand, not a handout, so they can get their things out in front of the rest of the world.

“With the Internet, we have this wonderful tool to show their artwork,” Lehr added.

The family members are gathering art through American contacts in Haiti, including paintings, sculptures and just about any other medium. Haitian jewelry, T-shirts and greeting cards already are available at the Web site.

The women want to pay the Haitians higher wholesale prices than they’re accustomed to earning for their works; they figure that won’t be a problem, because Haitian art already is inexpensive.

Future plans for the company include offering natural cosmetics and food items. The women also want to take some of their proceeds and create a small business loan pool for the artists.

“Maybe we can allow a Haitian to buy more paint,” Lehr said.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com, or call 477-4237.


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