While working as a Case Manager, Shelter Advocate, and Street Outreach Worker for nearly a decade in Wisconsin, Colorado, and Minnesota with youth experiencing homelessness, Wildflyer Coffee co-founder Carley Kammerer witnessed her clients struggling with employment opportunity and stability. Clients excelled at getting jobs but lacked the skills and faced too many barriers for maintaining long-term employment. It wasn’t that these youth didn’t want to work; they didn’t know how to maintain a job. This struggle with employment prohibited them from earning a consistent income that was enough to find stable housing and exit homelessness, leaving them trapped in cycles of poverty and instability. Carley saw a gap in services designed to address this specific barrier. She envisioned a new solution, a business that would exist solely to teach youth how to maintain stable employment, helping them achieve a sustainable end to homelessness. After completing an internship with a similar, successful job and life skills training program for youth experiencing homelessness at Purple Door Coffee in Denver, Carley knew she wanted to start a similar program in the Twin Cities.
In 2017, Wildflyer Coffee was launched as a mobile coffee cart, employing several youth each year to work at farmers’ markets and private events. The cart allowed the business to gain traction in the community, adding customers and donors and proving that eliminating barriers to employment would lead to housing stability. Wildflyer Coffee also operated as a wholesale company, selling coffee to local churches and businesses and online direct to consumers. The different operations created various youth employee positions and provided a diverse revenue stream to sustain youth programming. During this time, Wildflyer supported twenty young people in their journey out of homelessness.
In 2019, after experiencing sales and youth participant growth, the cart could no longer provide the number of hours or youth positions needed to conduct efficient programming. As a result, Wildflyer launched a capital campaign to open a brick-and-mortar coffee shop to employ 20-25 youth each year, providing a deeper depth of services and paid hours available while increasing sales and the overall sustainability of the business. In 2020, Wildflyer opened its first retail coffee shop in South Minneapolis.
In early 2022, local nonprofit RS EDEN approached Wildflyer with the idea of taking over their former coffee shop, Fresh Grounds, in St. Paul and reopening it as a Wildflyer, which would double Wildflyer’s program size. Wildflyer opened this second location in March, 2023 and now serves 50-60 youth each year through its work and life skills training program. We use coffee and the community it fosters as the foundation for our training program to develop the job and life skills youth need to break the cycle of homelessness. Our ultimate goal is for our youth employees to achieve dignified, living-wage employment to afford and to have the skills to maintain housing independently and move from surviving to thriving.
- Increase earned-income by increasing sales at our two coffee shops, e-commerce sales and wholesale
- Source coffee from farms that are investing in youth employment programs at origin so that across the supply chain we’re creating employment for young people
- Prepare 1,000 youth for the future of work
Annual Budget: $1.3 million – Earned Income, Foundations, Individual Contributions
Wildflyer Coffee is seeking board members with skills in the following areas:
- Board Governance
- Financial Management
- Human Resources
- Number of members currently: 12
- Meeting time and frequency: 4 meetings annually
- Meeting location: Minneapolis
- Does nonprofit carry liability insurance? No
- Time Expectation: Up to 5 hours/month
- Financial Contribution Required: Yes
- Service on Committee Required: Yes
- Committees: Executive, Finance, Governance, Fundraising, Other
- Length of Term: 2 Years
- Renewable: Yes