Student Journal: summer dispatches from the field Orphans in Mexico: expanding the boys' goat cheese and soap business

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The Dispatches

1- It is 6 a.m., time to get up and be introduced to the goats

2 - Lunch with the big cheese and a road trip to Cancún

3 - Gringos and luggage up to the rafters, and assessing the goat cheese market in Cancún

4 - Milking the goats, a business meeting in Mexico City, and 'stoptional' red lights

5 - A new wave of volunteers, spending time with the boys

6 - Our recommendations to improve the orphanage's business operations



Group photo
The Berkeley students (Brent Mitchell, second from left, and Doug Brown at right) say goodbye to the boys

Our recommendations to improve the boys' business, saying good-bye to IPODERAC and our readers

ATLIXCO, MEXICO - On our last day, we got up early to present our recommendations to the IPODERAC management about improving profitability of the soap-and-cheese business.

Our study of cheese production costs identified a few varieties of cheese that are not profitable at their current sales volumes. We recommended shifting sales focus to more profitable cheeses, such as the soft Saint Maure goat cheese, and raising prices or discontinuing production of the unprofitable varieties. We also recommended entering the Cancún market by targeting five-star hotels and distributing cheese by renting space in refrigerated trucks.

Like most of our meetings, it was a mix of serious discussion about IPODERAC's business and the kind of humorous Spanish lesson you don't get in school. As always, the staff had endless patience for our sometimes patchy grasp of the language and demonstrated their appreciation of our insights into the business.

Popo pops up

After the presentation we began almost two hours of good-byes. The camera never got so much use as it did this morning. Even Popo, the ever-reclusive volcano, made an appearance for a couple of hours from its usual shroud of smoke and clouds.

We left the IPODERAC staff looking sharp, wearing the Berkeley hats and t-shirts we brought them. After a hearty send-off, we got in the Roo for the final trip to Mexico City. We departed truly impressed by the great work and dedication of the IPODERAC staff and supporters. We look forward to following developments at the orphanage and to keeping in touch with our new friends there.

The Berkeley International Business Development (IBD) project has been a highlight of our first year in business school. The project offered a rare combination of challenging business issues and the opportunity to learn about another culture as well as help a worthy organization.

Goat milk soaps
IPODERAC's line of goat-milk soap products

Being an IPODERAC volunteer is a unforgettable chance to get to know Mexico and have a rewarding not-for-profit experience. If you would like to help or just find out more about IPODERAC, check its Web site. If you're interested in buying IPODERAC goat's milk soap in the U.S., here's a list of locations that sell it. We can personally attest to the quality of the products.

Thanks for following our adventures with the 72 chavos of the IPODERAC orphanage. We hope you've had a fraction as much fun reading about our experiences at IPODERAC and throughout Mexico as we've had living them.

—Doug Brown
—Joost Krikhaar
—Fabio Matsui
—Brent Mitchell


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