This mom was told her product was “too dark” to be successful. She proved them wrong.
Myriam Jean-Baptiste held a leadership position in the jet-set at Cirque du Soleil, until the pandemic propelled her from the entertainment arena to entrepreneurship.
Today, she is co-founder with her husband Stevens Charles of LS Cream Liqueur, inspired by a traditional Haitian drink known as cremas or kremas. The drink is made with ingredients such as condensed milk, spices, and clairin, a clear moonlight-like liquor derived from the sugar cane native to Haiti.
“Stevens’ late grandmother left her handwritten cream recipe and kept it in a Ziploc bag,” said Jean-Baptiste, who, like her husband, is Canadian of Haitian descent. “We felt the love.”
âEvery family has their own version of cream that is cherished and passed down from generation to generation,â added Charles. âIt’s part of our island roots and part of our heritage. “
While many Haitian households typically make creams out of thin air for holidays and special occasions, the couple struggled to find a stable version in stores. So, they embarked on a journey about a decade ago to launch their own liqueur, officially rolling out the product in 2015.
When the global pandemic struck, Jean-Baptiste made the decision to quit his job and devote himself full time to their business. Her husband had already taken the plunge.
âAlthough I have always been involved with LS Cream and started this journey with Stevens, I was able to continue in the corporate world or make it an opportunity to fully engage in the business and join forces with my husband, and with faith and a common vision, I embarked on this journey with him 100 percent.
The couple, who are almost 30 years old and have two young children, have had to downsize and change their lifestyle. âWe led a very comfortable life and had a beautiful house in the suburbs,â explains Jean-Baptiste. âWe made the decision to sell our house, move in with my mother-in-law, and invest our savings in the business.â
There was also a learning curve. While both partners had corporate backgrounds (she was previously director of business development, he was a mortgage specialist for a large bank), neither of them knew much about the alcohol industry.
Participation in a networking function organized by the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America provided insight and progress. âWe shook hands, made connections and basically asked for help while explaining to people what we were trying to do,â said Jean-Baptiste.
These efforts have helped them locate the suppliers needed to produce, bottle and distribute LS Cream. They later submitted a formula for government approval, a process that alone can take up to a year. During this time, they have dipped heavily into their savings.
It was not the only challenge. The couple met skeptics who thought they were “crazy” to give up their stable 9 to 5 concerts and encountered racial prejudice.
âAs a black-owned company with a particular culture and heritage behind the creation of the brand, it is sometimes difficult to convey the potential to distributors. We were once told that the marketing of the product was “too dark”. They persisted anyway. âWe believed in LS Cream so much that we were ready to make sacrifices to see it come to fruition,â said Jean-Baptiste.
Like millions of working mothers, she also experiences the stress of juggling multiple roles.
âStevens and I sometimes have to go to different states at the same time, but we have an amazing support system – ‘our village’ as we call it – and we try as much as possible not to be gone at the same time. so at least one of us can be there with the kids.
Their myriad sacrifices bear fruit. LS Cream is now one of the few black-owned spirits brands on the market in its category. Residents of Montreal have looked to the United States – even packing the kids and spending last summer in New York City – to meet growing demand.
They have pivoted the business model to selling online with door-to-door delivery. This has led to expansion: The product is now available in 38 states, including New York, California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, and New Jersey, as well as Washington DC, on shelves or on sites such as RESERVEBAR.COM.
Influential players in the spirits industry bring their expertise to the couple. One of the investors is Kenny Burns, a lifestyle guru and entrepreneur.
âI knew I wanted to invest in LS Cream Liqueur when I first tasted the inspired spirit of creams,â said Burns, who has helped develop brands such as CÃ®roc Vodka, DeLeÃ³n Tequila and Uncle Nearest Premium. Whiskey. âThen the added value was the dream team behind it all. Miriam and Stevens remind me of my wife and myself. Black love and affairs – who doesn’t encourage that? “
Burns made a prediction. âI think LS Cream Liqueur is the new champagne and it will redefine the category. It is a spirit that is actually delicious.
The award-winning syrup blends crÃ¨me fraÃ®che and neutral grain alcohol mixed with coconut, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. It is touted as gluten-free, low in lactose, and made with all-natural ingredients.
Meanwhile, the brand’s packaging has been refreshed to appeal to luxury-seeking consumers. The sleek black bottle features a bold logo and a design that incorporates elements of the national flag of Haiti.
Indeed, beyond the creation of an authentic product that highlights Haitian culinary traditions, the couple seeks to elevate the first Black Republic in the Western Hemisphere.
In 2020, LS Cream Liqueur and Hope for Haiti, a global humanitarian organization, joined forces to improve access to clean water for hundreds of families in southern Haiti. In addition to providing water filtration systems for the home, the campaign aimed to increase health and mortality outcomes by educating communities about sanitation, communicable disease prevention and more.
âGiving back to Haiti is very important to us,â said Charles. “On my first trip there, it opened my eyes.”
Most recently, LS Cream has also supported educational initiatives through Hope for Haiti and donated a portion of the proceeds from sales to benefit the Caribbean nation.
The Haitian people are close to his heart. âIt fits with our values ââof giving back to our community,â said Jean-Baptiste. “We want to shed a positive light on this island which has so much love, heritage and heritage.”
The couple are excited that their version of the creams is growing in popularity, to be enjoyed during the holiday season and beyond in “everyday” times. They are excited about what the future holds for the brand.
âAlthough it was not an easy decision, we had a vision and knew that sacrificing ourselves to work towards this goal was nothing compared to all we knew we could get out of it,â said Jean-Baptiste. âWe wanted to create a legacy – not only for our family, but also for everyone like us. “