On Sunday afternoon, the CJM team and I traveled to the outskirts of San Pedro Sula to Ami Noel’s cousin’s weekend home. After traveling for about 30 minutes on a paved road heading South, we turned off on a dirt road and headed deeper and deeper into the countryside. On the way, we stopped by a truck full of watermelons to buy some fresh snacks for the afternoon. As we got closer to the house, we passed by some quaint little dwellings of local farmers and then Ami Noel pointed out our destination at the top of the hill, an impressive country cottage that seemed as if it should belong in the Alps instead of the Honduran countryside. Apparently, Ami Noel’s cousin owns a small Maquila and has built the business from scratch.
We all jumped out of the truck as soon as we arrived in the driveway like kids that had just seen their first water park. We explored the land and marveled at the beautiful scenery. After riding horses and relaxing in the shade, we focused our attention on the question at hand, “What was the future of CJM?” During our Friday reality check, I had given the team five possible scenarios regarding the future of CJM: 1. Do nothing, 2. Modify the current model, 3. Focus on building a sustainable business first and then add the social element at a later date, 4. Focus solely on the social objective, or 5. Close CJM. During our retreat, we analyzed each possibility by listing the advantages and disadvantages. Jesus shared the original vision of the cooperative, which was to be an umbrella organization that would help sell the services of micro enterprises. In theory, these small businesses were to be funded by members of the group. In reality, CJM had failed to develop the internal expertise necessary to offer each of the technical services, and as a result was forced to subcontract to other suppliers, some with questionable ethics. I suggested that the group refocus its efforts on developing the expertise within the group first. Suddenly, a cloud began to lift over the team. They began to make alliances with one another and decide what types of businesses they would like to start. The excitement was palpable. No longer would they be forced to conform to an idea of selling services they did not understand, but rather, they could focus their efforts on creating their own small businesses that revolved around their own experience. As a result of the meeting, three small businesses are forming in the following areas: Graphic Arts, Fumigation, and Consulting. For me, the most exciting part was that the idea didn’t come from a single member of the team, but was a group effort. I must confess that I had no idea how the retreat would end, but now I am energized and excited about the future.