By the end of this week, we will have hit 100 Mercado Fresco stores in operation in Managua, Nicaragua. We have been cautiously scaling. While the demand for more stores is high, we have wanted to make sure each store has the best chance at thriving. We want to set each woman up for long-term success, or our work is meaningless. We take care with every store we open, making sure we have fully vetted the operator, given her the full training, and strategized how to best add her new store into our delivery routes. We want each store to be fully stocked with all the inventory they need and to have adequate promotion to bring in customers and sales.
Finally hitting 100 stores feels so good and is a huge feat for us. Our goal is to scale to 250 stores in Managua by 2018 and we are well on our way to that goal. However, I have had many sleepless nights wrestling with how to help out all of the women we have knocking down our door for opportunity. We have 400 women on our waiting list, hoping for the opportunity to operate their own Mercado Fresco store. What this tells me:
1. We are doing something right!
2. Mercado Fresco stores are drastically increasing incomes for a demographic who has historically had trouble finding well-paying jobs.
3. When given the chance, people want to work hard to improve their lives and better provide for their families.
4. We have GOT to find a way to open more stores or new franchises so that we can provide work for these 400 women.
The first solution our team has developed and is ready to implement is the addition of the Mercado Fresco Express stores. Many women come to us who want to open a store, but their home is in an unsafe area, it is not on our routes, it is too close to another Mercado Fresco store, or they do not own a refrigerator or the necessary land. We want to widen the gates so that we can accept more people and open more stores. All of our stores are currently in residential areas, we do not have any storefronts in more metropolitan, high-trafficked areas. Mercado Fresco Expresses will be mobile carts that can be set up at bus stops, parks, and other busy places to reach these other areas.
I’m excited about this new concept because we will not only be able to provide more work for those who are eager for it, but we will also be reaching an entirely new demographic. We will be able to catch customers out and about, coming and going from work, needing a quick lunch. I am ready to get these stores up and running!
We are currently fundraising for Mercado Fresco Express. We are doing research to better understand the dynamics at play for these mobile stores and are hoping to begin piloting them very soon.