Special Note: Today’s post spotlights a small business in Orlando, Florida that is using coffee and a name-your-price strategy to forge a new path for community development and global impact.
More than a place where everybody knows your name, Downtown Credo is a place where community members from all walks of life can find delicious coffee, and a wi-fi supported workspace while supporting a vision for making the community and the world a better place.
Part small business, part global advocacy movement, this partnership of individuals, churches, coffee growers in Guatemala and formal investors was created in 2010. Their donation-only coffee shop opened in January 2011.
With a kitchen counter and an assortment of tables and chairs that you might find in your Grandma’s house, the atmosphere is casual yet intentional in offering an environment where authentic community can be experienced. Credo people believe that the answers to life’s most pressing questions can be found in relationships.
Nicole Higgins, Credo’s Rally Director, recently welcomed us for a conversation about how this really works.
Q: Downtown Credo looks like a coffee shop, but you tell me it’s much more. Please tell us about the ‘more.’
Nicole: Yes, we are a non-profit small business, but we are not following your typical business model. We’re offering a new way of doing business. The coffee shop is the brick and mortar of that mission.
Q: Tell us about the non-bricks-and-mortar part of Credo?
Nicole: Downtown Credo has three focus areas: Coffee, Rally and Conduit.
Q: I notice you didn’t say, “We have a coffee shop.”
Nicole: To us, coffee is more than a place where we serve beverages. The description ‘coffee’ represents the planters in Guatemala, who are trying to making a wage that allows them to care for their families and communities. Coffee represents the entire process —from partnering with the farmers , which includes annual tours of their farms, to pouring great drinks here in Orlando. When you drink our coffee, we want you to know that you are supporting a farmer with real needs.
Q: Tell us about Rally and Conduit.
Nicole: Everything we do through Downtown Credo is based on relationship. Rally represents action, which is how we want to respond to the apathy we encounter, in ourselves and in our community. We identify community partners with which we rally support. An example is our involvement with a Boys and Girls Club in a neighborhood adjacent to downtown. We also have a monthly clean-up activity in the same area.
Q: And Conduit?
Nicole: Again, everything we do here is based on relationship. We know that there are amazing people in our community, but they need a place to connect, a safe place to share their dreams and test their thoughts. There are also people with gifts to share, whether it is their money or their expertise. Conduit is where they intersect.
Q: Can you give me an example?
Nicole: Sure . Once a month, we have a Songwriter’s Stage where people can come to share their talents and be encouraged. We recruit judges who can offer feedback that will help define the next steps for the aspiring artists. And we also serve coffee!
Another example is the sewing classes now being taught at the community center where we have a Boys and Girls Club meeting. Creating the relationship through Credo was the first step. Now, kids in a challenging part of Orlando are learning a skill that offers a vision for careers involving sewing.
Q: All of this activity takes money. With the bricks-and-mortar comes bills for the electricity and terrific wi-fi. How do you all manage that tension?
Nicole: We’re still here! [insert hearty laughter sounds] We’re still here! When I’m doing profit and loss reports, I certainly think about the typical concerns associated with running a business. You have to. However, at the end of the day, though, it’s about relationships and providing a gathering point in the community.
Q: So, that name-your-price-for-food-and-drink strategy works?
Nicole: I think the majority of the people who come to Credo buy into what we’re about. They want to make a difference. They want to encourage our partners in Guatemala. They want to offer hope to the kids in Parramore. With their dollar bills, they are voting to reject apathy and it all ads up.
Q: Your favorite part of the job?
Nicole: That’s easy. Connecting with the people. My favorite thing to do is to amaze them by remembering their drink order. The look on their face is priceless.
Thanks, Nicole! We think small businesses serving their communities are priceless.
To learn more about Downtown Credo, visit www.downtowncredo.com.