ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Rebel Donut lovers could soon taste some distinctly Caribbean flavors in their doughnuts with fruits and spices newly introduced to the local baking team by a Haitian candy maker.
Likewise, patrons of Marie Flore Morett’s “Délices” confectionery business in Haiti could soon savor doughnuts alongside the soft candies her team sells in Port-au-Prince.
Morett has been working with Rebel Donut since early October, sharing recipes and learning how the Albuquerque business manages its operations.
She’s one of 10 entrepreneurs from various Latin American and Caribbean countries now in Albuquerque under a Professional Fellows Program run by the U.S. State Department’s Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative. The program is sponsoring 250 fellows for four-week stints this fall in 24 U.S. cities, allowing them to enhance their business and professional skills through workshops, mentoring, networking, and internships at local businesses.
“The fellows all met up in Atlanta and then headed off in teams to cities around the country, including 10 that we’re hosting in Albuquerque,” said Adelle Lees, executive director of Global Ties ABQ, the local arm of the State Department’s Global Ties U.S. network.
All the Albuquerque fellows are now embedded in local host businesses and nonprofits that focus on the same industries in which the visitors are involved at home, Lees said. Some, like Morett, are immersed in day-to-day operations. Others are working on joint projects with their hosts.
The fellows are also attending the weekly networking meetings 1 Million Cups Downtown and Taza at the South Valley Economic Development Center.
Both fellows and hosts say the program is mutually beneficial.
Rebel Donuts founder and CEO Carissa Vender said she’s now testing some typical Haitian confectionery ingredients in doughnuts, such as fresh coconut, spicy chile and passion fruit.
“Marie has encouraged us to rethink some ingredients we might have overlooked before,” Vender said.
Morett, in turn, is acquiring critical business skills to better manage her operations in Haiti. A social worker by profession, Morett established Délices to provide income for struggling single mothers who grow the raw ingredients for candies.
“I’m a social worker, and being a business leader doesn’t come naturally to me,” Morett said.
Juan Manuel Arellano of Mexico said Albuquerque software development company Matterform is helping him improve the technology behind his new business, Medicheck, which offers a web platform and mobile app to connect Mexican doctors, clinics and patients online.
On the other hand, his host, Matterform CEO Michael Herrick, said he’s become more aware of potential business opportunities in Mexico.
Other fellows said they may seek to replicate business programs they’ve seen in Albuquerque.
Suriname fellow Jason Jones, whose firm Brilliant Solutions employs university students to build online platforms for small businesses, may launch a coding boot camp modeled on Central New Mexico Community College’s Deep Dive Coding program. And Daniela Berrio of Colombia, who runs a hostel in Medellin that connects visitors with local arts and culture, is considering a local version of 1 Million Cups and Taza for her home city.