How Mr. Alex Saint Surin Turned His 5-Year-Old Dream into an Empire

Photo of Alex Saint Surin for Haiti Open Magazine's Spring 2016 Top 10 Haitian Business Leaders edition, photo by Mackinley Spex Madhere
Photo of Alex Saint Surin for Haiti Open Magazine's Spring 2016 Top 10 Haitian Business Leaders edition, photo by Mackinley Spex Madhere

Miserably Fired from his First Radio Job, he Now Owns Six Radio Stations

By Sarah Brutus + Photo by Spex

Alex Saint Surin, where are you from?

I was born in Jeremie, Haiti.

Where did you go to school and what was your major?

 I went to the University of Maine, where I studied communications. After that I returned to Haiti.

Did you always know you wanted to be a journalist?

Yes, from day one. I always wanted to go into journalism. I remember when I was 4 or 5 years old, I was so passionate about radio that I asked my mom, “How come there are so many bands inside this small radio receiver?” I also remember watching my brothers playing soccer, and they would always invite me to come and play, but instead I would go to the top of the balcony and pretend to be a sports announcer and go back and forth during the game. I’ve always loved it.

Tell us about your first job as a journalist.

I worked for Radio Metropole. At that time, there were only 4-5 major radio stations in Haiti. I remember I was at the radio station and they hadn’t done payroll in two months. One day I was waiting for the accountant to come, and when they finally came they noticed me waiting and had me come into the office. He went in his drawer and took out twenty dollars in Haitian money. Because the money was so dirty, he handed it to me with his fingertips. Before I could say thank you, he rushed me out and told me to get out of his office. I remember that day I went home and cried and cried. I kept it and never spent it. I have it somewhere. The twenty bucks changed my life and point of view. I knew I had to do something positive. I turned that negative into a positive. From then on, whenever I was in trouble or had a problem, I would tell myself, “You know what, you’re going to succeed you’re going to be okay.” That twenty dollars served as my diploma.

“My first radio station was terrible…. Every time I would turn the microphone on I had to time it because there was a donkey nearby making noise.”

What was your experience starting your first radio station?

My first radio station was terrible. It was a lease from another company. My first station was  radio and TV station called L’arc En Ciel, which translates into “rainbow”. When I first started I had the transmitter, but I didn’t have the studio for about 3 months. I used to go to this sort of waste-management area with my transmitter. You can imagine the horrible smells. But that  s where I operated for 2-3 months, because I couldn’t afford the studio. Every time I would turn the microphone on I had to time it, because there was a donkey nearby making noise. In the end I finally got some money to get the studio. On my first day in the studio, I called my wife to tell her I was not coming home. She asked me why. In fact, I didn’t have enough money to put gas in my car. The first day, I remember I took a piece of cardboard and I put it in the studio and I fell asleep. I woke the next morning and took a cup and washed up in the bathroom. It was terrible.

Later I moved to the U.S. and started Radio Carnival with Dr. Moise. I later went on and created Radio Mega 1700 AM. I have been operating it for the last 13 years.

What stations do you have today?

I have six stations in Haiti. One each in Cap Haitien, Gonaives, Jeremie, Les Cayes, Port Au Prince and Port de Paix. The show focuses on Haitians living abroad.

What advice would you give someone who is starting out?

There are lots of distractions. Be very professional. It’s a plus. If you want to make money and stay around, try to be as professional as possible. Tell the truth as much as possible. Try to keep your integrity. Have discipline. Always try to learn something new every day. 

“Be passionate about what you do. There are times when you will be disappointed about the situation, but keep focused.”