Is free always good?

1MillionCups of Central NH kicked off 2020 with a presentation by a growing business but also, a purely creative, cultural venture.  

Sindy Chown, who was born in Venezuela and now makes Concord her home, already has a career as a medical interpreter and Zumba instructor. She is not interested in monetizing the lovely native forms of Latin American dance that she performs. Her dream is to teach Cumbia and Garambato de Barranquilla dance form to anyone who wants to share her culture and to grow her travelling dance troupe, free of charge.

As she shared eye-poppingly lovely pictures of her dancers clad in traditional outfits with us, she spoke of her work to date with her daughter and friends of her daughters who wanted to learn this graceful art. While she has been working primarily with children, she is open to also teaching adults. However, it has been a challenge to find physical spaces in which to demonstrate the rich Venezuellan dance culture without paying a booking fee, which is a stumbling block to her desire to make this learning accessible to anyone who wants it.

The many business promoters who come to 1MillionCups were eager to make suggestions for spreading the word of her dance mission and finding places to demonstrate and teach. The Boys and Girls Club, libraries, and YMCAs were suggested. If she wanted to grow her outreach to adults, senior centers are always looking for activities to schedule. Both the State Counsel for the Arts and the NH Humanities Council might be willing to underwrite her in venues where she would have to pay a fee. While Sindy has a Facebook presence, the youth who she most wants to engage with are in different online spaces (Instagram, SnapChat, TikTok.)

Laura Miller, President of Making Matters NH, might have had the shrewdest advice of all: “You should consider charging a fee.” 

This wouldn’t have to stand in the way of her mission to make the cultural exchange of dance available to everyone. She could charge a modest fee, but then turn around and provide scholarships to those that needed help affording it. Or, she could simply request donations, either at a suggested amount or “Pay what you think it is worth.” This would help Sindy pay for booking fees at venues where she felt she could reach a lot of people… but it would also help with the psychological issue of people associating money with things that are worthwhile.

Our next presenter, Ragged Coffee, also received what may have been unexpected advice. Larry Giglio was clearly knowledgeable about the coffee business and the niche market of small batch roasting. His small company is all about fostering relationships and spreading awareness that coffee can taste better! “My coffee does not need cream or sugar.” he proudly affirmed. To increase its visibility of a product that should be consumed fresh, Ragged Coffee sells its beans at farmer’s markets. It is also served at several New Hampshire bed and breakfasts and is available in retail stores as well as restaurants.

One of their more clever niche sales and marketing tactics is to work with companies to produce bags of quality coffee with their corporate logo. 

To restaurants that argue they don’t even make a profit on coffee, Larry counters that the cup of coffee that concludes the meal is the last impression the diner will be left with.

In reviewing pictures of the marketing materials the company uses, and Larry’s acknowledgement that they really should be doing videos, a marketing-savvy attendee bluntly told him: “YOU should be starring in your own videos.” He had been speaking very passionately about the quality of his product and best practices; why not bring that fervor to our image-obsessed world?

Despite being located outside of Andover, “Ragged Coffee” was not named for “Ragged Mountain.” Larry mentioned his and his wife’s hectic lives and being run ragged in the morning by their children.

Hmm. Perhaps the children should be in the videos too. (This author can practically hear the search for the other shoe…)

Our thanks as always to The Hotel Concord for providing us space to feature local enterprises every month and foster entrepreneurship in Concord the first Wednesday of every month.

Sindy’s dance venture, “Barranquilla Flavor”, can be perused on Facebook here.

Our thanks to Ragged Mountain for putting samples of their delicious roast in our cups this morning!

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