This year, we had four teams travel to Guatemala as a part of their Project Pyramid Immersion experience. Teams worked with companies such as Primeros Pasos, Impact Hub, Hanes Coffee Consulting, and Soles4Souls. Three of our teams traveling to Guatemala for their in-country consulting research took the time to reflect on their experiences. Read more on what they have to say below!
For us in Impact Hub, our time in Antigua, Guatemala was pivotal to challenging our incoming assumptions, realigning our strategic direction, and growing together as a team. Our team is comprised of five Vanderbilt students from four different graduate programs: Chika Chimezie (JD/MBA), Ryan Lojo (MBA), Anna McCracken (MSN), Lauren Schmidt (M.Ed.), and Travis Welwood (MBA). We knew coming into the experience that we would face unique logistical and communication challenges: one of our team members remained in Nashville due to the growing threat of COVID-19, and only one (and a half) of us can speak Spanish fluently. We leaped these hurdles however with thorough preparation, deep understanding of our combined skillsets, and constant communication leading up to and throughout our time in Guatemala.
Our team has been tasked to work with the Nashville Department of Economic and Community Development to come up with a plan to engage the economically disenfranchised population of Nashville, and to facilitate business co-working space and support services for this community. We made a trip to Antigua, Guatemala to engage Impact Hub Antigua, with which the TFC has a strong relationship, to build a use case around an extremely successful model with a similar vision to that which we have for Nashville. We visited several other organizations, but derived the most impactful learning from working through ideas with leaders from Impact Hub Antigua and Pomona Impact, a Social VC fund tightly connected with Impact Hub Antigua. Going forward, we are working to identify who our unique beneficiaries are, where they are located in Nashville, and what they truly need to climb the economic pyramid. This will help us shape the business plan we pitch to the City of Nashville, and allows the city to start building excitement around the idea. There are several major questions we still need to answer, but our time in Guatemala provided the clarity we need as a team to effectively move through remaining challenges and deliver the best possible solution to the City of Nashville.
Our team wasn’t sure what to expect from our trip to Guatemala. Working with a Nashville-based nonprofit, Soles4Souls, we were worried that we wouldn’t get much information out of the trip that we couldn’t get in the U.S. We were cautiously optimistic, however, and worked hard to fill our schedule while in-country with relevant meetings and tours.
Once we got on the ground, we threw ourselves into both enjoying Antigua and learning as much as possible to help us with our impact measurement project. The first day we had a very valuable meeting with a former consultant who specialized in impact measurement, and it was invaluable! We were so excited to be off on a great start to our information gathering. At mid-week we loved having our LDP check-in and ensuring we were all on the same page as a team. We also put a few things into place to work even better together!
Throughout the rest of the week, we had many more meetings – some that were specifically relevant to our project, and some that helped us understand the context in Guatemala and micro-entrepreneurship more greatly. We started to see common threads running through the information we were getting from each person. We ended the week with a meeting with our in-country partner, Salome. This meeting was a great way for us to tie together all our learnings and pulse check how they might be directly applicable to the work that S4S does in Guatemala, and even more broadly, in other countries.
Hanes Coffee Consulting
For our Project Pyramid immersion trip, the Hanes Green Coffee Consulting Group headed down to Guatemala to explore the coffee landscape and explore corporate social responsibility efforts. With our client based in Nashville, we used the spring break time to fact find and gain a better understanding of the Guatemalan coffee industry. A few of us were able to come to Guatemala early to have a relaxing weekend at beautiful Lake Atitlan but our work began in Antigua. Between the four of us, we brought our perspectives from our masters programs in Economics, Business Administration, Marketing and Leadership & Organizational Performance to analyze our experiences in the country.
We spent our first day all together taking a tour of a large, privately owned coffee plantation called Finca Filadelphia. A large portion of their crop is sold to Starbucks and the company focuses on environmental sustainability. Next, we traveled to De La Gente Coffee, a non-profit that supports coffee cooperatives, to dig into a model that prioritizes farmer welfare and a fair price. We spent the day learning from coffee farmers, seasonal pickers, coffee roasters and De Le Gente’s education team. Manuel, the coffee farmer, and his wife had us in their home for a traditional Guatemalan pepian de pollo dish for lunch. With the help of our translator Moises, we were able to ask Manuel about his struggles and triumphs in coffee.
Continuing on our coffee search, we spent time speaking with baristas and exploring the local coffee shop scene in Antigua. We made a visit to a less successful coffee cooperative and heard firsthand how lack of capital can be a breaking point for an aspiring coffee farmer. We traveled to Guatemala City for our last night and met with stakeholders at Le Central Coffee Roasters and Primavera Coffee Importers. Speaking with the founder and a master cupper, we were able to dive deeper into what premium coffee means and how business is done in the coffee industry. Aside from learning about and drinking a lot of coffee, the four of us were able to hike the volcano Acatenango in time to see it erupting before sunrise! Overall, we are so thankful for the opportunity to experience the Guatemalan coffee industry in action and gain a better understanding of stakeholder positions.