Can you consume salsa and barbecue sauce while doing something positive for your community?
If those products come from Taste of Immokalee, the answer is yes. TOI is a benefit corporation supported by the 1 By 1 Leadership Foundation, a faith-based nonprofit. Since 2014, the organization has taught the basics of entrepreneurship to 150 local high school students. Among those who complete the four-year program, 100 percent go on to college.
“Our goal is to get kids career-ready,” says executive director Marie Capita, “whether they end up starting their own business, working for a corporation, or going to medical school.”
The Taste of Immokalee products are sourced from the agricultural areas of Collier County and distributed by Lipman Produce to stores ranging from Publix and Wynn’s Market to Neighborhood Organics. The current best sellers are Mandarin tangerine barbecue sauce and mango-pineapple salsa. Profits are used to defer the cost of goods and program expenses, and TOI donates the rest to organizations such as the Immokalee Child Care Center and the Benison Center (created after Hurricane Irma to distribute supplies to families in need).
Despite the charitable aspects of the program, students are also schooled in the realities of business. “They have mentors, but they’re the ones running the company,” Capita says. “They have to supervise production, stand behind the product, and understand customer service. They learn to be responsible for the bottom line.”