Getting to Know Valerie Sajous, CEO of Sak Lakay

Founded in 2021, Sak Lakay is a Haitian-American woman-owned brand. Sak Lakay aims to put traditional Haitian beauty in the mainstream and empower the women who wear its handcrafted accessories. We sat down with Valerie Sajous, founder and CEO of Sak Lakay, in order to learn more about her and her new business. 

Q: What does the term “sak lakay” mean?

A: In French, sac means pocketbook or bag. The “Sak” derives from this. Lakay (pronounced la-kai) refers to home in Haitian Creole. To me, Sak Lakay is the meaning of home and what you have at home, most notably pocketbooks. When I say “home,” I mean where I grew up (Haiti) as well as personal homes everywhere. I have always been passionate about Haiti’s art and culture, despite political turmoil. Two years ago, I wanted to start this business, but I was afraid. But I was so passionate about handcrafted Haitian art, I needed to see it happen and finally left my comfort zone.

Q: Tell me about your experience, your passion, and why you decided to do this as a business. 

A: I do have a regular job, and I have taken on several side jobs all in order to make some extra money so I could make this work. The extra hours and side gigs took a lot of time and work, but it was worth it for me, because at Sak Lakay, my work is anything but exhausting; I don’t even feel that I’m working. I get to spend every day owning and working on something I love, so it doesn’t feel like work. 

Q: What is Sak Lakay’s core mission?

A: The main goal for us is to create a win-win situation for everyone when it comes to opening my own business. I want my own successful business while giving back to my community, and Sak Lakay is making this possible. We are building success for different warehouses in Haiti: we have been creating stable jobs. The manager at one of the warehouses in Haiti ended up getting more and more customers and having to hire more employees. We’re very excited about local Haitian people getting and keeping these types of opportunities. 

Q: Describe the people you work with/want to work with. 

A: I follow some artisans on social media, but in these initial two years, I have mostly been working on myself! For the most part, getting started on the online store has been at the forefront. Putting myself and my brand out there in events has also been important. Most of all, it’s been about getting out of my comfort zone in 2021. I’ve had the idea of Sak Lakay for two years. My family has been supportive, and I’m grateful.

Q: What challenges have you found on your journey? 

A: Everything’s been great working so far. I have been working on the mental fear of not being successful. I try hard to fight it. I have been given the tools for success, and now it’s about using those tools. It’s really the comfort zone part of it. 

Q: Is there anything else the world needs to know about Sak Lakay? 

A: Our mission is promoting Haitian culture—no if, ands, or buts about it. As we see in the media, the overall image of Haiti tends to be negative. I want Sak Lakay to help inspire people to not believe everything they see in the media. I want people everywhere to know about the positive aspects of Haiti, of which there are many: beautiful beaches, beautiful art, and a beautiful culture.

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