These foreign students are interested in business models with social impact.
By Jessica Guzman // Jan 08, 2020
Several students from New York University (NYU) are in El Salvador to learn about the ‘‘Cultivating Opportunities’‘ program and its social impact on local producers.
The program—which was developed by Super Selectos eight years ago—works hand-in-hand with the Clinton Foundation, which created Acceso Oferta Local (meaning “access to local supply” in English, “AOL” for short). The program aims to provide more opportunities to develop small producers.
Carlos Calleja, vice president of Grupo Calleja (the company that owns Super Selectos), explained that the students came to share their knowledge as well as learn how this business model motivates local producers.
“It is an honor that NYU is visiting and has chosen the AOL model in partnership with Super Selectos as a case study, which confirms our commitment to continue working with producers, and to create more and better opportunities.” Calleja said.
Currently within the Cultivating Opportunities program, there are 2,000 local producers—between agriculture and aquaculture—from whom the supermarket chain buys 60 percent of its products, including vegetables, fruits, fish, and seafood.
“The program started eight years ago and we started with only 12 products, including fruits and vegetables. Now there are more than 60 products that farmers produce and that we purchase, since there is a standard of quality, and they are certain that their products will be purchased at a good price and with constant demand,” Calleja specified.
The NYU students have interviewed the producers to learn their ways of cultivation, how they began, and how they have improved their agricultural practices—and also about their quality of life, since the students are interested in business models with social impact.
One of the visiting students is Giovanni Barcenes, the son of Salvadoran parents. His father is from Santa Ana and his mother from La Unión.
Born in the United States, Giovanni is studying for a Master of Public Administration at NYU, and the subject he is visiting the country for is one that examines scaling social enterprises.
“The subject is about how a business can help farmers, and how to connect them to large markets such as Super Selectos. In these two weeks, we will study this model and make suggestions on how AOL can increase sales and help improve farmers. We will also study how Acceso can have more impact in the community by generating more employment,” said Barcenes, adding that “it is an honor to be Salvadoran.”
Another student, Camilla Zard from Ecuador, said that it seems to her an ideal model to replicate—and not necessarily only in the agricultural sector, but in other sectors as well.
“The objective of our trip is to study the impact that AOL has had with cultivating opportunities in the country in regards to moving farmers forward. Our study is focused on businesses with social impact; my vision is to create a company to promote artisan women with limited resources, and to help them promote a business in my country, and this is a good model,” said the visitor, who described that Salvadoran people are “very kind, cordial—among the best I have ever known—and the “pupusas” are delicious.”
The visit to the country is part of the program of Professor Scott Taitel, who is the Director of Social Impact, Innovation, and Investment at NYU Wagner. He aims to teach students the success factors and challenges facing social businesses, and assessing the social impact in the community.
Andrés Baiza, general manager of AOL, explained that the organization provides technical assistance to producers and, at the same time, buys the products to take them to the formal market—in this case Super Selectos.
“We not only come and purchase from them and sell their products, but we also speak with local producers, we train them, we look for markets for their products, and we give them quality technical training,” said Baiza, who added that the producers also sell to restaurant chains.
Currently, Super Selectos buys a variety of products from AOL adding up to $7 million annually, making local purchases 60% of its store offerings and thereby reducing imports.
Eric Chacón, a local producer who has three years of experience producing and selling for AOL, confirmed that his production has increased (and therefore his profit) by 50 percent. Since they no longer spend on transporting their products to be sold;, they have learned good agricultural practices and there is good demand.
“They provide training for cultivation and for taking care of ourselves as a worker. We are constantly producing and they purchase from us,” said Chacón.
The farmers produce lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, “pipián”, cooking tomato, “güisquil”, guava, watercress, orange, cassava, and beets, among other vegetables.
It is an honor that NYU is visiting and has chosen the AOL model in partnership with Super Selectos as a case study, which confirms our commitment to continue working with producers, and to create more and better opportunities.– Carlos Calleja, Vice President of Grupo Calleja