WomenVenture Client, Carley Kammerer, is the owner of Wildflyer Coffee in Minneapolis MN.
Long before Carley Kammerer opened Wildflyer Coffee, she was passionate about working with homeless kids. In her role as a social worker, her goal was to help young people find jobs and move into permanent, stable housing. She started to feel as though social work alone was a band-aid that was not directly helping young people move out of programs and shelters and hold a job or afford a home. That’s when the dream for Wildflyer Coffee began: a coffee shop and life skills training program for young people experiencing homelessness.
In 2017, Wildflyer started operating a coffee cart at farmers markets and private events until they were able to open a bricks and mortar shop in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis last year. From there, the social enterprise blossomed.
“We work with young people aged 16-24 and they do a six-month work and life training program. Each week, they work in the coffee shop about 20 hours and then do about five hours of programming,” says Carley.
At the end of the program, participants will walk away with certificates in business communication and customer service through St. Paul College and training in digital literacy, financial literary and mental health in the workplace, plus solid work experience.
The program has yielded results. Carley tells us the story of Lucy, one success story, who has come back to Wildflyer. “Lucy started with us last February—she had been homeless on and off since she was 11 years old. Her dad died and her mom left after that, so she was on her own. She started working with our program, found a full-time job and went back to high school to pursue her diploma. She also just got her own market-rate apartment! She calls it “The Castle”, it’s a very small studio, but to her it’s everything because it’s her first stable place. She’s actually come back to the agency now because she’s on our Board of Directors.”
Earlier this year, Carly joined WomenVenture’s Accelerating Success class, which trains women who have been in business for at least two years in marketing and leadership, and focuses on helping them better understand their financial information and make sound growth decisions. “It was a game changer for me. I feel like I can go to board meetings and know what I’m talking about now. I can understand our financial reports; I can look at our budget. It’s been really empowering to feel as though I can actually do this side of the business.”
For both WomenVenture and Wildflyer Coffee, the results that come when we invest in people is undeniable. Growing confidence, learning tangible skills and building community can mean a roof over a young person’s head, or a successfully run, women-owned business.