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CHAPTER 2

BETO’S BISTRO

Creating an atmosphere of community.

The work Iteams does around the world as a non-profit, is called Integrated Community Transformation. Our philosophy is simple; look for the leaders and resources that already exist in a community, and build on top of those.

“In other words, look for the good in the world and build on it.”

This recognition of existing resources forces us to change our approach when entering into oppressed communities around the world. Rather than looking at what is broken or lacking, our team looks for what is working and abundant.

The search for existing resources has led us to find a number of things in Masatepe we believed we could build from. Of those, coffee and entrepreneurship both rose to the top. The Nicaraguan people are incredibly industrious and resourceful. They are hardworking and know how to create opportunity out of what’s available. Our team knew this was a trait we could build on. Coffee is another thing that is abundant and excellent in Nicaragua, serving as the country’s top export commodity. Masatepe is littered with coffee farms that dating back many generations, and other, more mountainous regions of Nicaragua produce some of the highest quality coffee that can be found anywhere.

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Brandon, the founder of Iteams Nicaragua began travelling around to other cities in Nicaragua to study the coffee shop industry in this cultural context, questioning whether the concept could thrive here as it does in more developed countries and other parts of the world. He was surprised to find that the few coffee shops that did exist seemed to be doing well. Upon surveying the local community in Masatepe, many people agreed a coffee shop would be an excellent initiative for the community, providing internet access, a meeting place for both the business and the faith communities, a clean hang-out place for students...etc. No other coffee shop existed within 30 minutes drive in any direction, so it would fill a void in the local market. Brandon and rest of the team decided to give it a shot.

Brandon looked within his existing network for the first employees of the business. Rather than hiring trained baristas, we decided to hire trustworthy friends and learn together.

Community

FINDING THE RIGHT SPACE

Our team knew that we needed a space for the Bistro that represented everything we loved about Nicaragua. Spanish-colonial architecture, old coffee industry artifacts, local art, handmade furniture and artisanal decor. As our search began in the center of town for a space to rent, we were disappointed in the spaces that were available. Mostly small and unaccommodating for what we needed, they also lacked feeling that we wanted this space to possess. In Brandon's and Hannah's trips to and from Masatepe, they continually passed by an abandoned building that stood as a graffitied eyesore right behind the city jail. One day the door was open and they decided to be nosy and peak inside. What they saw inside this 100-year old building, was the colonial-inspired space they had been dreaming of. The building was immense, with a lush courtyard in the middle, 14’ ceilings, and many of the original features of the home still in tact.

In fact, the very nature of the building reflected Iteams values and philosophy as an organization. Look for the good and build on it. Restore existing resources rather than bringing in new ones.

Community

WHERE ARE WE TODAY

Today, Beto’s Coffee Company, which includes the Bistro and the artisan shop, employees 15 Nicaraguans directly, and many more indirectly. It has served exactly as we hoped it would, as a platform to network us into the community, both through our customers and our staff. It has also served unexpectedly as a model from which we would build other businesses. We call this model Business for Transformation (B4T). It’s a hybrid model that bridging the traditional for-profit and nonprofit structures, and providing a platform to generate both economical and social impact in places like Masatepe where traditionally nobody would choose to launch such enterprises, because it’s difficult. We choose to look past the difficult and limiting nature of working in an oppressed community and instead focus on the many opportunities that exist here because of the void left by nobody else being willing to do so.

All of the necessary ingredients already exist here. Hardworking, industrious people who are hungry for opportunity.

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BETO’S COFFEE CO.

CHAPTER 3