Cony Acevedo and Kelli Stam at Cafetin Verde
Clinica Verde was designed with a small cafe connected to the clinic, as a place where patients could relax and buy healthy food while offering a small business opportunity for a member of the local community. Cony de Fatima Acevedo Corrales stepped forward to take on the business. However, we quickly realized Cony could benefit from small business counseling to learn how to manage her costs and market her business. Enter Kelli Stam. Born and raised in Long Island, New York, Kelli attended college at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. After school, she jumped into the world of advertising, developing brands such as the Colorado Lottery, ESPN, Virgin, Sony and more.
But after a while, Kelli decided it was time to use her work to do good and to give back. She hung up her advertising agency career (at least for now) and entered the Peace Corps. She now lives and works in Boaco, Nicaragua as a small business development volunteer. Her primary work is in high schools in the community, training teacher counterparts to teach a kick-ass class called Emprendedurismo to juniors and seniors. In this class, the students learn how to start and maintain a business and the class takes the form of a project in which they form groups and start their very own businesses. In addition, Kelli advises small business owners in the Boaco community.
Kelli was just what we needed to help Cony get off and running. Now, Kelli meets with Cony once a week to help her develop and improve her business. We asked Kelli to tell us about the experience.
Tell us a little about what you're doing to develop Cafetin Verde with Cony.
Clinica Verde is located outside of the city center of Boaco and while there are many buses and taxis that pass by there is no foot traffic like there is in the city. The Cafetin, located in the front part of the Clinic, is new and was without a name and had no visibility.
Given this situation, Cony and I worked together to present a recommendation to the Clinic for a name: Cafetin Verde. And then worked on getting signage, which is now up!
In addition, we have identified other areas of need for the business and are tackling those issues over the coming months. Our action plan includes more publicity and awareness for the Cafetin Verde (we plan to make some simple brochures), implementation of a basic accounting system in order to track costs and income (which we have already put in place), and the development of a unique food product in order to draw people in for something that they can only get at the Cafetin Verde (we are thinking healthy smoothies).
What has been the biggest challenge?
Working with Cony has been amazing. She is a dream project for a Peace Corps volunteer since she truly wants the help and truly wants to improve.
The biggest challenge is the lack of disposable income that the communities have to spend on food outside of the home. The communities that the Clinic serves are some of the poorest communities and it is challenging to establish prices that allow us to do much more than cover Cony’s costs.
What's the goal?
Our goal is to find ways to save costs and increase Cony’s profits so that she can sustain a healthy business for both her clients and for her family’s needs.
What brings you the greatest satisfaction working on this project?
Generally speaking, I get the greatest satisfaction from the sense that I get that Cony feels supported and empowered, that she has an advocate in me, and someone who she can trust. In terms of specific successes and the resulting satisfaction from them, I am confident that day has yet to come.