Nico's Next Track: Help a Young Entrepreneur Grow

A microproject by Fundacion Calicanto


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.
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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.


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.

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.


NYT mentioning Nico and La Vecindad
FT Urban Ingenuity Award Mentions Esperanza (p.19)
Esperanza Social Venture Club (Facebook)

Organization Information

Fundacion Calicanto

Location: Panama City, Panama - Panama
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Keyes Hardin
Panama City, Panama

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This project is no longer accepting donations.

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