Taste of Immokalee achieves performance metrics that any business would be proud of, especially one that is operated by high school students.
With triple-digit growth rates achieved in nearly all areas, 2018 was a pivotal year for Taste of Immokalee, a social business created and operated by high school students. The business model that puts teens in charge has persevered through initial growing pains since launching in 2014 and is gaining momentum as a sustainable business that earns profits for the purpose of giving back to the community.
“Our business began with a great idea from a group of high school students who wanted to make a difference, but we initially had no idea how to make it happen,” said Marie Capita, Taste of Immokalee’s Executive Director. “It has truly been a grassroots effort and together we have learned everything from the ground up. While the rewards have been tremendous as we see the growth and success of each student that moves through our program, this year we have the additional reward of seeing the bottom-line business success as well.”
Key 2018 performance metrics are highlighted below:
• 141% increase in annual sales revenue, highlighted by a 227% increase in revenues from holiday gift basket sales.
• 229% increase in sales to Publix stores with 90% increase in store locations – footprint now includes 17 Collier County and 15 Lee County stores.
• Bigger and better product line. Two new products were introduced during the year – a 50% expansion – and all recipes were improved with fresher ingredients, most notably locally-sourced tomatoes from Lipman. Taste of Immokalee products meet the growing demand for nutritious products that are cholesterol free and low or no fat.
• 61% increase in the total number of students served, growing from 49 in 2017 to 79 in 2018 (which includes a steady increase in the number of paid internship positions available to students).
One of the driving forces behind this success has been the addition of business mentors who bring years of experience and work alongside the students to help them apply classroom knowledge to real business experiences. As the students are immersed in disciplines such as finance, human resources, operations, sales and marketing, they have direct access to professional experts who provide guidance and help the young entrepreneurs learn to make sound business decisions.
The social business model has become so successful that Ms. Capita and her team are working to develop a curriculum package that can be licensed by other communities. “The Taste of Immokalee model can work in any community where there is an opportunity for business leaders, nonprofits, and determined youth to come together and collectively make an impact,” said Ms. Capita. “Together we can ignite the dreams of our youth and change our communities for the better.”
Taste of Immokalee is a benefit corporation founded in 2014 by Immokalee-based One by One Leadership Foundation. What began as a seed of an idea by a group of local high school students has grown into a social enterprise that creates and sells specialty food products representing the unique blend of Immokalee’s culture and rich agriculture. Taste of Immokalee is committed to providing students with hands-on experience in all aspects of business, with a focus on giving back. Profits are returned to the community of Immokalee to benefit youth programs and alleviate hunger and poverty. Learn more at www.TasteofImmokalee.com.