Nico's Next Track: Help a Young Entrepreneur Grow

$120 $1,880
Raised Remaining


Esperanza grad and former gang leader, Nico, now owns an iconic bar loved by locals and tourists alike in the neighborhood that once feared him. But as his lease ends his landlord has put a condition: no more noise after 10pm, a big problem for a reggeaton bar that makes most of its money after midnight. That's where you come in. Helped by volunteers he is making a new business plan requiring $2000, which he will repay so that Esperanza can recycle the funds to invest in the next Nico.

What is the issue, problem, or challenge?

A recent NYT article: "In the early daysMr. Mercado was 16 and the head of the Hot Boys gang....Mr. Mercado eventually shaped up and [opened] La Vecindad in 2009, which has since become so popular with live music that it warranted an expansion into the courtyard. There are no more stray bullets." La Vecindad is effectively the first true business to materialize from Esperanza's efforts in Casco Viejo. At night, it turns into a busy Reggaeton club, which is where Nico has a problem.

How will this project solve this problem?

This is where we all come in. Esperanza stands by its graduates when they hit snags: identifying the problems and utilizing our membership network to support their continued success. With $2000 and a talented group of Esperanza volunteers to help, Nico will transform La Vecindad into a more food-oriented venue open all day rather than depending on late night weekend concerts. He has committed to repay the capital, which Esperanza will recycle for future graduates' businesses.

Potential Long Term Impact

At a macro level, Esperanza's cost of $1700 per participant is far less than the cost of one year of incarceration: even before taking into consideration the economic contribution of those successfully placed in jobs. Young men who move from society's margin into its mainstream make it stronger not only by removing their threat, but also by their example to their children, peers and public. At a community level, reformed young men form a rich part of the human heritage of our historic district.

Funding Information

This project has been retired and is no longer accepting donations.



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Every microproject is intended to use the donations it receives in accordance with its stated description; however, it is important to provide project leaders with the flexibility to maximize the potential benefit from the donations they receive. This means that your donation may be used as a part of the main project that supports this microproject, specifically From Street Gang to Service Industry in Panama. In this event, the project leader is required to post an update to the microproject detailing the results and reasons behind this change.

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Retired Project

This project is no longer accepting donations.

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From Street Gang to Service Industry in Panama
Few give them a chance, but young men from Casco Viejo Panama's street gangs are out to prove they can move away from violence and into the professional world. Esperanza ("Hope") gives these young men eight weeks of emotional development, life skills, professional training and job placement that will allow them to re-integrate into mainstream society. project reportread updates from the field

Project Leader

Keyes Hardin

Panama City, Panama

Where is this project located?

Map of Nico's Next Track: Help a Young Entrepreneur Grow