Volunteer Stories

Erika Brown

El Salvador

ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW

Location of the project: El Salvador
Organization that sent the volunteer: NCBA CLUSA


VOLUNTEER IMPACT

All implementers search for the perfect “new volunteer” who we can introduce to the Farmer-to-Farmer program and who embodies the spirit of the program with such enthusiasm and vigor that it translates to continued success and outreach upon their return. This description is befitting of volunteer Erika Brown, the Marketing Strategist and Logo Designer for the 2019 assignment in El Salvador with Asociación Cooperativa de Producción Agropecuaria Hacienda Las Tablas (Las Tablas). 

When presented with the opportunity to assist coffee producers in her mother’s homeland, Erika jumped at the opportunity. It was the perfect way for her to reconnect with her Salvadorian heritage and support producers who were in jeopardy of losing everything they had worked arduously over the years to obtain. Her marketing expertise was welcomed by members of Las Tablas who were in need of a commercialization strategy that would help them meet the requirements to register as a cooperative business with the Salvadorian government and propel them into the international coffee market, where they could generate more lucrative sales among roasters and other buyers abroad. 

Erika traveled to El Salvador on a two-week assignment to address ongoing challenges the cooperative was facing in its growth as an organization. She took steps to increase the visibility of Las Tablas’ coffee to a broader, more global audience by helping the cooperative to develop a digital branding strategy that would be led by the cooperative’s youth. In order to execute this strategy, Erika trained the youth on how to effectively manage social media to showcase the work of Las Tablas. One of the activities Erika conducted, required each training participant to have a red and green sheet of paper that they used to vote whether the example social media posts were inappropriate or appropriate. This allowed her to evaluate whether they had mastered the concept of appropriate Facebook posts. “It was exhilarating to see that they had absorbed the information and understood the importance of using Facebook for business,” Erika exclaimed during her post-assignment interview. Additionally, she leveraged her relationship with Latina-owned INgrid Design, a graphic design company in her hometown of Louisville, KY, to create a logo that Las Tablas could print on its coffee packaging. Importantly, a logo design was required for Las Tablas to register as a cooperative business, and if they did not have a logo ready to submit to the government by June 2019, they faced dissolution. This was a crucial step to keeping Las Tablas in business and ensuring that members would not lose their livelihoods.

"Once in the field, I faciliated multiple conversations with the local community to better understand their needs, challenges, and goals. They shared how coffee prices have lowered in recent years, how the market is saturated and how they needed help creating a logo, brand, and marketing strategy so they can be more competitive. Throughout these dialouges, one theme dominated. Ultimately, these community members want to create opportunities and a sustainable path forward so they can provide for their families and keep them together." - Erika Brown

NCBA CLUSA’s Farmer-to-Farmer program and Erika delivered a much-needed solution for Las Tablas, which nearly had to close its doors as a result of not having a full marketing and branding plan. Upon her return from El Salvador, Erika wrote about her experience on her personal blog and continues to spread the word about the Farmer-to-Farmer program.

Testimonials from the Field

"Erika was a huge asset to Las Tablas establishing their marketing and branding strategy.  Her ability to relate to the Salvadorian culture as well as connecting with the youth were a huge benefit to the success of this assignment. The youth were eager to participate and now play instrumental roles in the longevity of the cooperative. Everyone is happy with the logo and looks forward to the future" - Jose Gomez, Former F2F El Salvador Country Director

“Erika's visit and technical assistance to our cooperative was very important and beneficial. We all worked with great enthusiasm in creating the branding strategy, each session was very productive and very enthusiastic. Thanks to Erika's work we got everything delivered on time and subsequently the trademark registration process continued. We hope that the registration unit [of the Salvadoran government] will be able to approve our trademark soon and continue with the goals that our cooperative has as a priority. In conclusion we are highly grateful for you all considering us for this project.” - Alvaro Portillo, Former President of Las Tablas

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