By Christina Miller
Walking into CREDO in Orlando, Florida, is not so different from walking into any other coffee shop. The buzz of coffee beans grinding fills the air; pastries tantalize from their case on the counter. Depending on which of CREDO’s four locations it happens to be, there might be professionals grabbing a drink en route to a meeting or artists sitting at a table collaborating on their latest project.
The difference starts to reveal itself when the barista asks, “How much do you want to pay for your coffee today?” Prices range from $2 to $4—buyer’s choice. Customers are introduced to their coffee as much for its story as for its flavor. Café de la Esperanza, for example, was grown and sun-dried in the Quiche region of Guatemala, an area once ravaged by a 36-year civil war, the barista explains. Each coffee plant is hand-cultivated, pressed, and sold at fair wages to protect workers’ rights and bolster the economy.
With the addition of this narrative, degrees of separation between coffee grower and coffee drinker start to dissolve. A seemingly small decision can bring a personal connection, explains CREDO staff member Nicole Higgins (MACCS ’10) with unconcealed delight: “We’re inviting people to be stakeholders on a global issue at a very local level.”
Nicole is all about fostering personal connections, doing so with a degree of enthusiasm that’s contagious. Those connections begin first thing in the morning as she greets regular CREDO customers by name, and they extend into work that reaches far beyond selling coffee. In her role as “Rally Director,” Nicole energetically leads an effort that distinguishes CREDO from other cafés much more than their story sharing and name-your-own-price approach: she helps CREDO partner with and “rally” community members to bring positive social change to downtown Orlando. Partnerships have included a bike rally with the Parramore Kidz Zone, monthly trash pickups with
Keeping Orlando Beautiful, and mentoring kids alongside the Boys & Girls Club. Nicole’s love for personal connections comes to the fore as she mobilizes “Rally Makers”—individuals and organizations who pool their resources and expertise to nurture new social enterprises in the city.
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