"The Coffee NSP opportunity came to us shortly after the start of the micro-processing plant project and for us it was an opportunity to do things right from the beginning."
An opportunity to do things right from the start
Coffee came to Monserrat Prado through marriage. Her husband grew up in a coffee-growing family in León Cortés and the couple's decision was to settle in that city. Prado left San José and her professional career behind and, as she tells it, looking for something to do she ended up involved in what she had all around her and had not given it much importance until then: coffee. Together with her husband she established the micro-coffee mill and decided that she would oversee its management.
-The Coffee NSP opportunity came to us shortly after the start of the micro-processing plant project and for us it was an opportunity to do things right from the beginning, and this is proven by the fact that in at the same time they were also linked to the Blue Flag Ecological Program.
Better capabilities, better decisions
Through the project, Prado says that she has strengthened her capacities from the greenhouse, through the farm, to the processing plant, and has been able to acquire more criteria for decision making with her own vision and aligned with her environmental concerns. For her, being young and new to the world of coffee, was a big deal.
The management training provided Prado with the tools to perceive herself not as a "little family project", but as a company and above all, to develop a vision of where it can lead. To understand that what they offer is not just another coffee, but a value-added proposal based on aspects such as quality, an artisanal process that she herself takes care of in every detail, and female empowerment. She understands that part of her work consists of enhancing all those qualities that until now she perceived as "normal" and treating them as part of the identity of her product, of what gives it value.
For Prado, to be in contact with the managers of other companies, each with its own particularities of geographic location, size and way of managing the business, enriched her perspective. She says it has helped her to identify what they can do better, but also to give due value to what they are already doing well.
Innovation and professionalization of the coffee industry for generational handover
Prado says that she has had the opportunity to share training sessions with many elderly people. While she believes it is important to preserve the tradition and the work of the older generations, she also considers it important to engage the youth and perhaps the way to achieve this is through other branches that have not traditionally been part of the coffee world.
The use of information and communication technologies, marketing, and barista services are all ways in which young people can enter the world of coffee and perhaps, without intending to, even end up involved in the coffee farm itself.
Actually… I'm the one in charge!
From dealing with suppliers, to dealing with collaborators and closing contracts with buyers, doing business in a male-dominated world is not easy for a young woman. Prado says it is not uncommon for her counterparts to ask her for her husband's phone number to close a deal in which she has handled the entire process. What she has had to learn to do is to stand her ground and answer: -You see, I'm the one in charge!
Although she believes that little by little spaces are opening up and there are already more women in very diverse positions throughout the coffee chain, Prado feels that it is precisely in this type of situation that the Coffee NSP trainings have helped her to have more confidence and criteria. So now she has been able to refer to topics with greater propriety and to demand and earn respect in a world in which women have yet to prove that they deserve their place.
Perseverance and support to overcome resistance
Prado's enthusiasm for best practices is evident and the question is, are other people as eager as she is to innovate and improve, or is there resistance? The answer is that there is resistance. And particularly among people who have been dedicated to coffee for a long time and have deeply rooted conventional practices.
It almost seems that in the case of Ditsö, having a young person from outside the coffee industry was rather beneficial and translated into greater openness, curiosity and a desire to learn, experiment and innovate in order to achieve differentiation.
Reflecting on how to overcome these barriers that prevent the adoption of good practices, Prado believes that learning by doing and having support is of great value, because being able to clarify doubts on the spot and loving through this experience leaves a deeper impression.
But she is convinced that the key is to insist on the issues. There are things that at the beginning, when they are just beginning to spread, sound crazy. But little by little, if more and more people talk about it and one and then another begins to adopt it, it generates curiosity and the desire to try it. It is by doing so and verifying the results that one realizes that they were neither crazy nor just simple ideas.