El Coco Loco Eco Hostel/Waves of Hope

El Coco Loco Eco Hostel/Waves of Hope

Nicaragua
Organization type: 
for profit
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

El Coco Loco aims to provide the benefits of tourism to the local community while also giving travelers a unique beach front experience. El Coco Loco, has created an non-profit initiative called Waves of Hope that exists to provide social, environmental, and economic development to the local community and region.

About You
Organization:
El Coco Loco
Visit website
Section 1: About You
First Name

Robert

Last Name

Orton

Country
Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Yes

Organization Name

El Coco Loco

Organization Phone

505 8999 8662

Organization Address

El Manzano #1, El Viejo, Chinandega

Organization Country

, CD

How long has this organization been operating?

Less than a year

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, CD

Innovation
What makes your innovation unique?

El Coco Loco is unique in a variety of ways. First and foremost, El Coco Loco offers a unique experience to travelers passing through Central America. Created by veteran travelers, El Coco Loco caters to travelers who are looking for a more full experience in their trip. Using local architecture as well as environmentally conscience designs, El Coco Loco is a low impact eco resort. What really sets El Coco Loco apart is the dedication to the community. El Coco Loco has created a registered nonprofit organization called Waves of Hope. Waves of Hope aim is to alleviate poverty, support and create educational programs, protect the environment and help the local community and region develop in a responsible, sustainable manner. Guests at El Coco Loco are encouraged to get involved in Waves of Hope programming and are given the opportunity to experience local culture. Many guests relish the chance to become involved without needing the commitment and costs associated with other “voluntourism” projects.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

Impact
Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact

The social impact of El Coco Loco has been great in a short period of time. Through Waves of Hope donations, 245 backpack kits were donated to local school children. This initiative helped increase attendance in local schools by up to 35% in one school. By donating all of the necessary school supplies (including required school uniforms) El Coco Loco and Waves of Hope helped families not have to choose between school supplies and food for their children. Another successful initiative had a Waves of Hope volunteer training 5 young women from the community in an esthetics course. The women have now opened a spa cooperative and offer manicures and pedicures to guests at El Coco Loco. The proceeds earned by the salon help to sustain the business and pay the salary of the young women. Through conversations with local health care providers, and donors in the US and Canada, Waves of Hope was able to donate $1000 USD in essential medicines to the local hospital. The hospital serves numerous communities and provides free healthcare, unfortunately, many times the pharmacy does not have the required medicine for patients and they are required to purchase their remedy at private pharmacies. Local healthcare providers informed us that they believe many times, patients do not buy the medication due to economic constraints. Volunteers for Waves of Hope have committed hundreds of hours of support to the local school helping a teacher overwhelmed with 35 students in 3 different grades with her classes. They have also created a successful English teaching program for children as well as adults. Volunteers have also created an after school program that more than 20 children routinely participate in. The after school program offers a mix of physical education, arts and crafts, reading programs, beach clean ups and other activities. The group meets sometimes as coed activities, and other times as boys club and girls club separate. These programs (along with many others not mentioned) combined with the day to day interaction of guests of El Coco Loco represent the social impact that El Coco Loco and Waves of Hope have had on the community.

Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing

El Coco Loco and Waves of Hope have the combined goal of sharing the benefits of tourism with the local community. Through a community assessment, a wide range of problems was identified in the community. Lack of jobs, educational challenges, disposal of human waste, lack of potable water are a small sampling of problems identified by community members. El Coco Loco employs several community members at the hotel. Further jobs are needed, and El Coco Loco is committed to training community members to create their own small businesses. Guests are encouraged to rent horses from local people, book fishing trips with local fishermen, and support local vendors. El Coco Loco also believes in the youth of the community. Youth are encouraged to stay in school, engage in productive hobbies and to take pride in their community by keeping it clean and safe. Recently, Waves of Hope has begun a program to replace unsafe pit latrines with a system of composting toilets that is technologically appropriate and realistic for a small community. This new development will help alleviate the contamination found in many local drinking water sources. In addition to composting toilets, bio-sand filters are being developed to provide easy to use, effective water filtration for local families.

Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. Include a description of the business model. What might prevent that success?

El Coco Loco has identified several keys to success. The keys identified are location, marketing, accommodations, guest support services, restaurant, customer service. The location was decided upon for a number of reasons, being close to a beach, in a small town setting, but also being located in a community of people willing to change and work together to develop. Through a carefully planned marketing campaign, El Coco Loco hopes to continue to win the reputation of the best hostel in the North Pacific of Nicaragua. This includes being included in travel guides, publications distributed throughout Nicaragua and Central America, a fun easy to navigate website, as well as word of mouth from previous guests. The accommodations at El Coco Loco were carefully planned to capture the local architecture of Nicaragua, using natural, native materials, and offering the comfort and beauty that guests demand. Guest support services provides access to taxis, external tours such as horseback riding, boat tours, fishing tours, and volcano tours. The restaurant at El Coco Loco takes pride in using fresh, local ingredients, serving local dishes as well as dishes from around the world at very reasonable prices. The restaurant is staffed by local people, trained by professionals from the restaurant industry in the US and Canada. Finally, customer service is an important part of every business. Founded by travelers, and created for travelers, El Coco Loco aims to make every guests stay enjoyable. For some, this means getting involved with our after school programs, while others, it involves spending endless hours on the beach. Events that may challenge the success of El Coco Loco are mainly out of the control of the ownership. Downturns in the economy can affect the amount that people travel. As well, Nicaragua has a troubled history, and at times the government has been unstable. Overall, the ownership of El Coco Loco is confident in the business model and the investments that have been made both in the property and in the community.

Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible

Year 1: El Coco Loco opened its doors in January of 2010. Throughout the early months, guests were extremely satisfied with their stay and many became excited about the Waves of Hope initiative. Many guests have donated and allowed projects such as a new roof for a school that had lost their roof in a storm. In March, El Coco Loco hosted an alternative spring break group from Case Western Reserve University and successfully built a kitchen on the local school with community ‘sweat equity’ help. El Coco Loco has been included on the website www.muchbetteradventures.com and a positive review has been posted on www.tripadvisor.com. Current business is better than expected and as word travels, the outlook is optimistic. Waves of Hope has been approved for Tax Deductible status for a nonprofit in Canada. Creating a board of directors for Waves of Hope is also a goal for year 1.
Year 2: In the second year, El Coco Loco expects to be featured in travel guides such as Moon Handbooks, Lonely Planet and Fodor’s. As development continues in the community, projects begin to focus more on locals offering tourism options. El Coco Loco envisions supporting local projects such as restaurants, tours, internet cafes, and even other lodging options. Another important initiative that will be in place for year 2 is the protection of nesting sea turtles. Cooperating with local wildlife officials and local law enforcement, El Coco Loco hopes to protect the eggs of endangered sea turtles.
Year 3: Now fully established as the best option for travelers in the North Pacific of Nicaragua, El Coco Loco can continue to support further development of the community. Offering scholarships and training programs for local youth. El Coco Loco will continue to host alternative spring break trips, long term volunteers and offer guests the opportunity to get to know Nicaraguan culture while helping local people develop in a responsible manner.

How many people will your project serve annually?

101‐1000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$50 - 100

Does your innovation seek to have an impact on public policy?

No

If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?

--

Sustainability
What stage is your Social Enterprise in?

Operating for less than a year

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?

No

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with NGOs?

No

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with businesses?

No

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with government?

No

Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your Social Enterprise

Partnerships and professional development that would help El Coco Loco would also directly and indirectly help Waves of Hope and the community of El Manzano Uno. Affordable solar power, water treatment, and composting toilets available to El Coco Loco as well as the local community would increase the quality of life of many people. Professional volunteers, fluent in Spanish and able to develop capacity building courses would help to develop more community involvement. Partnerships with Universities through accredited semester long volunteer programs and shorter Alternative Spring Break trips would bring excellent new ideas and energy to our projects within the community. We also aim to partner with sustainable tourist groups and agencies to promote El Coco Loco, such as www.muchbetteradventures.com, as this will help increase our profile and clientele, which in turns helps support additional employment and growth within the community. El Coco Loco aims to be a leader in the community and with partnerships; it can demonstrate the feasibility of many alternative technologies and help to implement them in the community.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

There is a formal business plan for El Coco Loco. This business plan includes a community development section, which Waves of Hope is based upon.

El Coco Loco is a small eco-friendly sustainable tourism project. We rent out four private cabanas and two dorms to backpackers traveling across Nicaragua, surfers and guests that fly down from North America. Room prices range from $5 to $20. El Coco Loco also offers a restaurant that serves local dishes, international dishes and fresh seafood daily. The restaurant is open all day and serves meals ranging from $3-$7 per night. Various services and tours are offered through El Coco Loco including surf lessons, volcano hikes and spa services (through a local cooperative we helped train). Guests are also provided with transportation to and from El Coco Loco as requested. El Coco Loco is a full service hostel that prides itself on guest satisfaction, happiness and comfort. The goal for El Coco Loco is to become a profitable eco-hostel within the next 12 months. The will allow us to achieve many of our goals for El Coco Loco, which include:
Funding many of the various initiatives and project in Waves of Hope
Showing the true side of Nicaragua and its culture to our guests and encourage to become engaged either through volunteering, fundraising efforts or both.
Creating employment opportunities at El Coco Loco and in supporting business ventures.
Generally help to increase the quality of life in El Manzano #1.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

The idea for El Coco Loco was born during our first visit to Nicaragua in 2006. Like many other travelers, given its well-documented troubles and hardships, we were unsure what to expect of Nicaragua. To our surprise, we found a beautiful country with a great deal of potential and the people, despite observable financial difficulty, were warm and inviting.
Over the course of our three-month stay we were struck by two distinct aspects of the Nicaraguan tourist industry. Firstly, despite cheerful hospitality and low prices, the quality of the establishments in which we stayed were generally poor. Secondly, although in its infancy, it was clear that the tourist industry was growing rapidly and unfortunately this development was focused on high-end, all-inclusive resorts. These observations led to the idea of establishing our own small, affordable, eco-friendly, self-sustaining, culturally integrated hostel that would allow us to further promote Nicaragua as a tourist destination and perhaps assist in slowly changing the negative reputation that it had received due to past conflicts and unrest.
After returning home, the impression that Nicaragua and its people had made on us did not diminish. Over the following two years we focused on developing our plan, gathering the required resources, and searching for the perfect location. Throughout the planning process we were cognizant of the environmental damage caused by tourism and were eager to learn from the successes of other Eco-tourism projects. Furthermore, we felt that it was important for us to serve as an example within the community of how alternative practices such as composting toilets, grey-water irrigation systems, and alternative power generating systems, geared toward protecting the environment, not only work, but are safe and efficient.
Continue on comments

Tell us about the person—the social innovator—behind this idea.

El Coco Loco was founded by Jamie Collum, Earl Cahill and Benjamin Orton; three friends that met while studying at the University of Ottawa and who reconnected a couple years later while traveling in Central America. During their time apart, each founder spent various lengths of time in developing nations across southeast Asia and Central America. During this time, the three partners each realized time and time again how kind and sincere the people and families they met in these impoverish nations truly were. This period of their lives inspired them and helped to develop their strong passions to create opportunities for those whom are less fortunate.
While building this Eco-friendly backpacker's resort, the founders of El Coco Loco teamed up with Robert Orton and started Waves of Hope, a nonprofit organization to help better the lives of the local people through improved education, employment, health and environment. Robert Orton, a former Peace Corps volunteer with over four years of experience in working with small communities in Central America, is the acting director and one of the driving forces of Waves of Hope.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Personal contact at Changemakers

If through another source, please provide the information
randomness