When Supply Hope started looking for new creative ways to make a difference in the lives of people living in poverty, it required considerable time spent learning the culture, the challenges, and possible solutions.
Here are some of the things we learned along the way:
- One of the primary needs of the poor is a way to earn a living.
- Giving people work preserves dignity, and given the opportunity, most people would prefer to provide for themselves over receiving charity.
- Every individual has unique talents and skills – and thrive when using them.
- Food distribution in Nicaragua is substandard and ineffective. Healthy, fresh foods rarely make it to places where people in low-income communities live.
- Shopping is done daily and small quantities are purchased due to lack refrigeration or money to buy in bulk.
- Many people operate small shops out of necessity but lack basic business training and struggle to earn a living.
- Roughly 60% of the lower income population’s budget is spent on food.
Taking these key learning’s into consideration, we started Mercado Fresco (“Fresh Market”) as our first micro-franchise in Nicaragua in order to make healthy, fresh, affordable food readily accessible to people who otherwise had no access. We knew that we needed to do things in a new and creative way to make the store operators successful. So, to save money on overhead, the stores were designed to be operated out of the home which also served the needs of women with children and the elderly. We developed extensive training classes and reporting programs that all franchisees must attend. Store equipment is provided, and fresh products are delivered to the stores on a weekly basis. Stores are operated using a consignment model paying a commission based on sales. Products are purchased in bulk (creating a greater profit margin) from producers who provide sanitary goods and offer fair wages. One of our greatest points of difference is that we are offer on-going support and training for our franchisees. Supply Hope micro-franchises are part of a community that is learning from each other and is supported by programs that help them earn – and learn – more.
We are continuing to grow, fully recognizing that we have to continue to think out of the box. We currently have 50 Mercado Fresco micro-franchise operators. They are earning a living and continue as a primary channel for low-income families to purchase high quality and affordable food products.