Mónica Mendoza and Jaime Zuluaga started six years ago brewing beer in pots at their small restaurant. They stayed in Barrio Escalante, the neighborhood with the highest rates of poverty, drug use, and crime in San José, Costa Rica.
They rose up, and they’re working to take the neighborhood with them. They hire those no one else will hire. Every Thursday night they are on the street feeding scores of residents and tending to their medical needs.
Now their family owns four brewpubs and the Costa Rica Beer Factory that supplies them. They have a small distributorship and a large venue to host craft beer fests along with other cultural events.
And Barrio Escalante is prospering. The handful of restaurants have multiplied many times over. The neighborhood has become a cultural and artistic center.
But Costa Rica Beer Factory’s success and the neighborhood’s rise might never have happened.
Opportunity for success
“In Costa Rica, it is very difficult—almost impossible— for someone who is not from a well-off, well-connected family to open a business,” said Luis Loria, director of the Instituto de Desarrollo Empresarial y Acción Social, or IDEAS Labs, a San-José-based non-profit organization. “Access to credit is a very important barrier faced by entrepreneurs who want to take the first step.”
IDEAS Labs led an effort to lower barriers to doing business in Costa Rica, namely by improving access to credit, which was a large factor in the Zuluaga family’s success, made possible through the reforms.
“When we started six years ago we were a tiny restaurant, with many dreams,” Mónica said.
The reforms that allowed them to invest in those dreams are being repaid to all of Barrio Escalante.
Investing in good
Every Thursday, the Costa Rica Beer Factory team hosts what they call “Foundation Nights.” They set up a street kitchen and feed hundreds of meals to the homeless or anyone from the barrio who needs help.
They also work to help neighbors overcome addictions. They rehabilitate and hire people others thought were too far gone.
“We have reintegrated people that nobody would hire. They were completely sunken in drugs, and today they are workers at Costa Rica Beer Factory,” Mónica said. “That is the part that… makes me happiest. I always said that if we could take only one person from the streets, already my life would have a purpose.”
The Costa Rica Beer Factory started as one of six restaurants in the neighborhood. Its success “invited more than 100 restaurants to open their doors” Loria said.
Invest. Work. Grow. Reinvest. Grow so much more.
Revitalizing an entire neighborhood and its people started with lowering barriers and improving access to credit. Opening a pathway to prosperity allowed entrepreneurs to kickstart their visions and other small business owners to expand beyond what was previously possible.
All of Barrio Escalante is climbing, thanks to a first step.To support causes such as the Zuluaga family’s and other similar Dignity Unbound projects around the world, please visit https://dignityunbound.org/donate.