I spoke with Emmanuel Gutierrez, the executive director of Nosara Crece (Nosara Grows), in Guanacaste, about a range of topics—from the future of the organization, to COVID-19’s impact, to the successes they’ve achieved over the past few years. Even in a time of great uncertainty, the organization has gone above and beyond in their coastal community. Proving true to their name, their accomplishments are only growing.
What is Nosara Crece’s mission?
Our main mission is to close the gap between the wealthy communities in [coastal areas] and the local population that lives in social risk. We would like to offer economic and social value for investors, allies and other stakeholders that want to support economic and social growth in the community.
What has been the most significant impact of COVID-19 on the work you do with community entrepreneurs?
It was hard to find people interested in investing money. The pandemic was a challenging time, so people were afraid of new projects, new ideas coming up. Now, I think we are in a new stage, because we are in a recovering mindset. We now have results and outcomes to share with the people who are looking for new projects to support.
The main negative impact of the pandemic was fear about new projects. Now we have results: we are not a new project. The entrepreneurs had the same feeling. They were afraid of investing in new projects or expanding their businesses, so this produced delays, long discussions, and long planning processes. But now, everyone feels that it is a good moment to invest and to grow.
Tell us a story about something unexpected that happened as a result of Nosara Crece’s work.
We implemented a pilot program last year to see if people would commit to their credits and pay their loans, pay their bills, and provide good results. We invested $100,000 to measure the behavior and the development of the projects. We had amazing results because the [re]payment rate was always 100%, which is really good in a microfinance effort. We actually had two projects that paid the total amount in just a few months.
It was really surprising that some projects had a really good cash flow to recover the credit. We have programs here that are designed in San José by institutions, other NGOs, or programs that don’t fit with the local economy, with the local context. The most surprising thing was that the behavior and the performance of the local businesses was better than expected.
One of the social programs that we support is La Feria, Nosara Market, a farmer’s market that we invested in and created and managed during the pandemic year. We were planning to have only 20 vendors, but it suddenly grew really fast. It has become the largest farmer’s market in the province of Guanacaste. In the high season we’ve had 65 vendors—a lot of products, vegetables, and food. It was surprising that our small investment of $10,000 created a huge impact. The annual revenue for that project in 2021 was $255,000.
[Nosara doesn’t] have a lot of the products and services that you need in a community. We still need a lot of public services, health services—and yeah, a community needs a market! So that was one of the main needs that we found at the beginning.
We are more than happy and excited to invest efforts and resources and money in anything that is left on the checklist when you live in a community. But what kind of community? An integrated community. A community with opportunities for all. Nosara is recognized as a destination for wellness, yoga and surf, but we are asking, wellness for whom? All the projects try to address this challenge to share the wellness with everybody.
By the year 2025, what will Nosara Crece have achieved?
That’s a really important question. We plan to implement or execute $800,000 in credits this year, so in five years or in 2025, I can say that probably we will grow to [address these needs] in other coastal communities of Guanacaste.
We’re lucky in Nosara, because there are different NGOs, businesses and efforts that try to match needs and solutions. But there are so many other communities that don’t have access or these kinds of wealthy people or tourists, so it’s really complicated for them. We want to replicate the same model [throughout] the Pacific coast in Guanacaste. [They] need not only financial programs, but also training programs like Viva el Sueño and opportunities like La Feria.
We want to offer the same to San Juanillo, Samara, Ostional… communities with low access to opportunities.
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Emmanuel mentions various ways that readers can engage with Nosara Crece’s work. These include donating to support entrepreneur training through the 40-hour “Vive el Sueño” program, which provides English language, logo design, photoshop, and social media training for $200 per participant ($8,000 for all 40 people the program accommodates); and donating or helping to fundraise so the Nosara Feria can build a permanent facility. This $50,000 project will allow the market to offer space for community events, shared gardens, and food distribution from the food bank. Donations made through Nosara Crece’s page are eligible for a tax deducation for U.S. taxpayers; donations made by local transfer to Nosara Crece’s Banco of Costa Rica account can request a Costa Rican tax deductibility invoice.
Supporters can also choose to invest funds in Nosara-area entrepreneurs that have graduated from the “Vive el Sueño” program. These five-year investments generate a 5% return that can be returned to the investor or used as a donation to support further training, give seed capital to projects not subject to credit, or support other social and environmental initiatives in Nosara.