Imagine running a digital brand, where you had to be attentive at all times. Imagine that you had to stay up late through the wee hours of the morning to update your royal readers on the latest happenings in Haitian music. This is pretty much the life of music and entertainment website entrepreneur and influencer Catherine Desmarattes, known in her circle as Kit Kat, and the founder of Ayiti Biyografi, one of the leading Haitian music platforms around.
Desmarattes single-handedly grew her website into one of the most popular web destinations on the digital space. She accrued more than 100,000 followers on Instagram, in addition to thousands of followers on Facebook and on Twitter, not to mention website visitors. Haitian music fans look to Ayiti Biyografi to furnish them with the musical happenings from New York, to Haiti to Atlanta and South Florida. If a Haitian music fan doesn’t attend a popular event, they know they’ll be able to view a hoard of photos on Ayiti Biyografi or better yet, get footage from Desmarattes shot and edited herself of said musical event.
She makes things look so smooth and so easy, that many of her thousands of followers may not realize the degree of work that goes into having a platform as big as her one-woman-show Ayiti Biyografi. So, here she is, giving the details on how she founded her brand, how she went about growing it, and her plans for its future.
Kreyolicious: Tell us about yourself.
Catherine Desmarattes: I was born in Manhattan, New York. Both of my parents are Haitian. I was raised in Brooklyn, New York. At a young age my parents divorced. After their divorce, my mom moved my brother and I to Haiti. In my teenage years, I joined the rap Kreyol group Rap in Family and worked as an MC at Magik Stereo and Radio Ibo. During that time, I fell in love with the entertainment world. In 2000, I moved back to New York. I attended Long Island University where I earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. I am currently a civil service worker. In all the hats that I wear, my most important hat is being a mother to my daughter Layla.
Kreyolicious: Were you into tech when you were little?
Catherine Desmarattes: I was not really into tech when I was little.
Kreyolicious: What made you launch Ayiti Biyografi?
Catherine Desmarattes: As a music lover, I often visited the websites dedicated to the Haitian music industry, and noticed that they mostly criticized artists than promoted them. I always enjoyed writing so I decided to use my love for writing as a hobby. On April 2, 2014 I launched AyitiBiyografi.com. Our mission is to “positively” promote Haitian music. Our slogan is to Keep Pushing Lakay (home).
Kreyolicious: Why that name?
Catherine Desmarattes: I wanted the platform to be about the lives of our Haitian artists.
Kreyolicious: Did you have any fears or apprehensions about launching?
Catherine Desmarattes: My biggest fear after launching the website was that I wouldn’t be accepted by the artists and other media personalities. Without their support, I know it would be difficult for me to be relevant in this industry.
Kreyolicious: When did you first realize that your brand was gaining ground?
Catherine Desmarattes: I realized AyitiBiyografi was growing when I started to receive calls from some well-respected promoter and artist in the industry. The platform became relevant when having your product features on our website and social media became a must.
I started Ayiti Biyografi alone. Almost four years later, I still not have added anyone else on board. I am passionate about my work and will not add anyone else to my team until I meet someone who shares my passion for this industry.
Kreyolicious: Some people say that entrepreneurship can be a lonely business. Do you share that belief? Why or why not?
Catherine Desmarattes: Unfortunately my social life has suffered because of Ayiti Biyografi. I now attend industry events to work. Even when I decide to take a night off, I still end of posting on social media to keep my audience in the loop. When you are your own boss, there are no days off.
Kreyolicious: Do your parents know you have a website? What do they think about it?
Catherine Desmarattes: My mom and dad are music lovers. My mom still lives in Haiti. She is a source of information for me. She is always sending me information that she gets on the radio just in case it hasn’t reached me yet. My dad, on the other hand, calls me to find out where the bands will be performing for the weekend.
Kreyolicious: A lot of work goes into maintaining a website. Do you ever feel exhausted?
Catherine Desmarattes: Running AyitiBiyografi can be overwhelming. For the past four years I’ve been the writer, editor, photographer, website builder, promoter and interviewer. You name it, I’ve done it.
Kreyolicious: And how do you prevent burnout?
Catherine Desmarattes: I prevent burn out by creating a schedule. I plan the weekend and then take things as they come. At times when I feel really stressed, I take a day to myself. That day is usually spent in bed watching television or going to the movies.
Kreyolicious: If you were to analyze the milestones you’ve reached with the Ayitibiyografi brand…which would you say have been the most impactful.
Catherine Desmarattes: So many great things have happened in the last four years. Reaching 100k “organic” followers on Instagram. People don’t follow you if they don’t think you are interesting. Being invited to some of the best industry events. Invitations equal validation Being nominated for “Website of the Year” and being recognized form something that I love to do is a great accomplishment. Building relationship with different industry insiders – I’ve gained some good friends traveling for Ayiti Biyografi. The list can go on and on…
Kreyolicious: What do you consider your biggest challenge in running Ayiti Biyografi?
Catherine Desmarattes: The biggest challenge is getting the artist to open up about new ideas. As Haitians we tend to be very reserved. That can be problematic when you want people to open up. I want Ayiti Biyografi to be the bridge between the artists and their fans. Most—if not all Haitian artists—have reservations when it comes to sharing their personal life
Kreyolicious: What would you do differently if you were starting out now?
Catherine Desmarattes: Honestly, I didn’t expect for Ayiti Biyografi become what it has become. I am extremely proud of its success. I didn’t rush things. I like the steps I took.
This concludes PART I of the interview with Ayiti Biyografi founder Catherine Desmarattes. Be on the lookout for PART II. Meanwhile check her out her work on these platforms: