First few days in Nicaragua
Sunday, January 12th, 2014
Sitting in a corner Italian restaurant, one of the few places open in León on a Sunday night, a number of thoughts pop up as I observe the people around me. To my direct right is what looks like a married couple in their 50s- they’re wearing khakhis and t-shirts, are speaking German, and are eating desert. It’s a cute sight. Assuming they’re tourists, I want to ask them where they’re staying, where they’re eating, and what their itinerary looks like- are they doing volcano hikes? Taking in the cultural and/or culinary scene? Perhaps heading to Granada or the Corn Islands, for a slightly higher end experience that won’t put them neck to neck with groups of backpackers?
Speaking of the backpackers, there are at least a dozen of them to my left. They’re occupying two large tables, eating pizza, laughing, taking photos, and cheering. Another group came in just now- judging by their t-shirts, they’re from the same school and likely same program back in the US. I assume they’re staying in either the local hostels or mid-range lodges, eating fast food and drinking the local beer. They’re on a budget. Maybe they’ll volunteer or teach English, go volcano boarding, and head for San Juan del Sur over the weekend to go surfing.
The manager of the restaurant, a middle aged woman, graceful though moving around quickly to help her staff, has a soft smile on her face as she darts around Il Capriccio and wipes beads of sweat off her face. You don’t have to watch her very long to know that she’s proud of her restaurant and spends most of her time here, likely living upstairs or very close by.
I’ll stop here and backtrack. It’s day four of the first week of my two month stay in Nicaragua. In the next few days I’ll be meeting with the Las Tías board to go over all the research and analysis that has been done in the last few months, notably by the excellent UCLA MBA team of 5 that has been working with Spark on developing the business plan for the agro-investment we’ll be making in the next months. By virtue of a great network and opportunity to speak to agricultural and other experts, we’ve recently made a few revisions to our business planning approach and this month I’m helping to lead these changes. Much of this strategy is based on learning as much as we can about the local market and preferences, agricultural items in high demand, and exploring distribution channels that we haven’t previously considered before. Another part is identifying the optimal management structure.
I’m about to finish my meal; a sandwich and frozen yogurt made of their fruits of the season. I note what the top fruit options on their menu are and which ones were in my mixed dish. It’s too soon to get this ahead of myself, but I can’t help but imagine a place in the not too distant future that features dishes made of our budding social enterprise’s agricultural products. In what form? In what location? All in due time…