Carley Kammerer and Wildflyer Coffee Build New Pathways of Empowerment for Youth Experiencing Homelessness.
Community. Safety. A warm beverage. Nourishment. Delectable, savory scones. Plenty of seating. Strength. A road forward. These can all be found at Wildflyer Coffee.
Carley Kammerer opened Wildflyer Coffee and designed the non-profit’s unique employment program to provide the critical skills that youth emerging from homelessness need to succeed in the workforce and in life. A licensed Social Worker, Carley was saddened by the recidivism she observed in standard homeless response services. “There’s a lot of good basic needs work that is happening, but I felt that youth experiencing homelessness needed employment opportunities to begin to move past the barriers that kept them in crisis.”
WomenVenture has been honored to champion Carley through Wildflyer’s growth. In 2017, Wildflyer began operating a coffee cart at farmers markets and private events until they were able to open a brick-and-mortar shop in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis in 2019. Soon after, Carley took WomenVenture’s Accelerating Success class to prepare her to carry out her vision and lead the social enterprise.
“Accelerating Success strengthened my financial knowledge.” Carley shares that she was more confident in making reasoned decisions based on profit and loss reports. “Before that, I would get very stressed trying to make decisions regarding cash flow over the course of a year.”
Carley’s passion and leadership have led to consistent growth for the organization. Wildflyer will be expanding to a 2nd location in February in partnership with RS EDEN. Carley’s commitment to Wildflyer’s mission have inspired multiple partners (Project for Pride in Living, Normandale College, and Dogwood Coffee) to join with Wildflyer in providing safety and meaningful employment to the young people they employ.
Along with strengthening professional skills and earning a livable wage through 20 hours a week directly in the coffee shop, youth participate in a 4-month curriculum where Wildflyer provides employment coaching, career planning, case management and resource connections that help youth attain and maintain housing and future employment and education. Upon leaving the 4-month program, 72% of youth are employed or enrolled in educational opportunities. At a 3-month post check-in, 80% are employed or extending their education and enrolled in supportive housing services.
Carley continues to stretch her skills as Wildflyer develops. This past year, she was a participant in Scale Up!, WomenVenture’s advanced business development course designed to help entrepreneurs achieve exponential growth. Carley wanted to bolster her capacity to lead Wildflyer through new growth. “We got big quickly and I needed help supporting our culture through the change. There was a point when Wildflyer’s culture was causing big problems. I needed to lead us back toward our values of honesty, kindness, learning and direct communication.”
As Carley considers the future, she envisions opening more shops in the next ten years. In her own words, she wants to explore what more Wildflyer can do with coffee. “Coffee that tastes good and more importantly does good. Coffee that jolts open our eyes – even when we don’t like what we see. We make coffee because we’re tired. Tired of seeing their wild hearts broken. Tired of looking away…….Wildflyer makes coffee to serve….Wildflyer makes coffee to empower.”
Author: Lisa Day, WomenVenture Grants Manager