“FMS taught me great techniques and frameworks for thinking through our challenges as we grow and has enabled me to employ more creative models for success.”
Megan Vose is a Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) Alumna, recent Middlebury Institute graduate and social entrepreneur who participated in the FMS 2016 Monterey Certificate Training. She is returning to Panama to manage her business, El Motete, with her best friend and business partner, Will Riddlehoover who served with Megan in Peace Corps. She tells us more about her FMS experience and El Motete’s impact:
Why did you join FMS?
Moving into a growing business environment that is becoming more socially conscious in Panama, I knew it would be a great opportunity to apply FMS skills to our business and further expand our network of people that could possibly support us as we grow.
What was your biggest takeaway from FMS?
Networking: I met incredible and creative people. It was also really eye-opening to learn about how vast the space still is, and how much there is still room for growth and involvement. I enjoyed learning about the key players and the people who are really building the space in very unique and interesting ways.
Tell us about your current work
I am co-founder of El Motete, a specialty grocery store located in Panama City, carrying 100% locally-made and locally-grown products. We carry items such as fresh produce, value-added products, and artisanal goods all made by local producers that we work with through a direct producer-to-market supply chain. We launched in March of 2016 and are excited to be expanding our customer base in the city.
As Peace Corps Volunteers in Panama, Will and I realized that the greatest barrier to access for small-scale producers was access to retail markets. As we noticed a growing culture of not only food-conscious but also socially-minded and progressive food-based businesses opening in Panama, we saw a great opportunity to bridge the gap between rural communities and the city by giving them a space in El Motete to share their products and their stories, spreading the value of buying local.
What were some of the greatest challenges that you faced launching your business?
Financing was challenging, but we were fortunate enough to reach our goals through a successful Indiegogo campaign and with some money from our own pockets. It was a lot of work, but we were able to start without being indebted to anyone, and that gave us a great foundation for growth. Another challenge was navigating the legal and bureaucratic framework of starting a business in a foreign country. With the help of friends and fellow business-owners in the city, as well as our amazing lawyer, we continue working through these challenges. Support, patience and an open mind have been key to our perseverance and we are excited for the new challenges as we continue to strengthen the presence of small producers in Panama City.
What does impact mean to El Motete?
The whole basis of our business is to build a system that has a positive and sustainable impact to small-scale producers outside of Panama City. These are the individuals that we met and worked with in Peace Corps and they are the motivation for everything that we do. We’ve been very busy and have had great success in our first two months since opening. We realize that first and foremost we need to build a lucrative and sustainable business in order to best support our mission moving forward and this is our focus today. From there we will be able to impact more and more small-scale producers and hopefully continue to encourage buying local.
How are you using the skills you learned in FMS?
The tools I learned in FMS have helped me think about ways of moving forward to ensure that we stay true to our current mission. It taught me great techniques and frameworks for thinking through our challenges as we grow and has enabled me to employ more creative models for success. I’d highly recommend FMS to anyone working in this space.
What are your top three tips for those looking to start an impact career?
- Follow your passion
- Take risks
- Value the relationships and networks around you!
The Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) program seeks purpose-driven professionals to join its award-winning social enterprise management and impact investing certificate trainings in Monterey, California (June 6-17, 2016), and Washington, DC (Winter 2017). Founded in 2011, FMS has trained more than 300 professionals since its inception. FMS received a 2013 Cordes Innovation Award from AshokaU and has now become the flagship program of the newly launched Center for Social Impact Learning at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.