Wildflyer Coffee is on a mission to end youth homelessness in the Twin Cities

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Our new local roasting partner, Wildflyer Coffee, is on a mission to end youth homelessness in the Twin Cities. They are a non-profit providing youth, aged 16-24, with a four-month employment training program in their cafes. 

 We recently sat down with Wildflyer founder Carley Kammerer to learn about their mission, and how they go about fulfilling it.

Why did you start a Work and Life Skills training program for youth at Wildflyer? 

With every coffee purchase, our customers help to employ a young person working to leave homelessness behind. Right now, in Minnesota alone, 7,500 youth experience homelessness across the state. They want to work and often identify stable employment as one of their top priorities. Yet, they face unemployment rates as high as 75%, compared to 16% unemployment among their housed peers. Research shows that when young people remain disengaged from employment, they fail to build the economic base they need for an independent life. If this remains unchanged, by the age of 25, youth and the communities where they reside suffer lifelong economic consequences.

We wanted to change that at Wildflyer Coffee because we believe every young person has the right to access dignified employment. Our 4-month Work and Life Skills training program provides young people aged 16-24 with paid employment, on-the-job coaching, life skills workshops, and the support they need to find and maintain employment, housing, and ultimately to thrive in independence.

This work happens due to generous donors and customers committed to intentional purchasing practices that support our social enterprise. 

Every coffee company says they have ethically sourced, freshly roasted coffee beans. What can you tell me that is different about your coffee?

What's different about Wildflyer Coffee is that we don't just focus on ethical sourcing practices. Because you're right, who isn't doing that? What's different with us is that we're creating tangible jobs for youth experiencing homelessness within the Twin Cities and showing actual success outcomes from doing so. 

In 2023, we employed 27 youth experiencing homelessness, providing 4,063 hours of youth employment and paying $60,945 worth of wages directly to youth experiencing homelessness. In addition, we offered 21 personal and professional development skills classes, and program participants earned a Customer Service Certificate from Normandale College. 

Through these efforts, in 2023: 

  • 75% of program participants graduated from our Work and Life Skills Program
  • 100% of youth employed showed an increase in Job Readiness Assessment Scores
  • 85% of graduates are housed and employed, enrolled in education opportunities, or working with their Employment Counselor
  • 100% of participants feel safe and seen at Wildflyer Coffee and that Wildflyer cares about them.
  • 80% of program participants have a dream for their future and have a plan to reach that dream.
  • 80% of program participants would recommend Wildflyer to a friend 

We believe that the depth of our services and the subsequent outcomes and impact we're seeing set us apart as a coffee company that is doing more.


Get yourself some Wildflyer Coffee


Do you have any relevant certifications or sustainability initiatives worth mentioning?

There are no relevant certifications, but we are working on three different partnerships with co-ops at origin to source coffee from farms that are providing youth employment opportunities. We are excited to expand our mission across the supply chain, so stay tuned for that! 

Tell me an interesting story related to your coffee or brand.

I think Edda’s story from our blog shares the impact of Wildflyer better than I ever could! 

Edda first became homeless at 17, when she ran away from danger in her home. This led to her being arrested on nonviolent offenses, experiencing solitary confinement, having guns pointed at her seven times and even being shot at twice, being trafficked and struggling with suicide attempts, and feeling worthless and purposeless. She was lonely and kept being let down by systems. She would go on to struggle with housing stability and difficulties holding down a job for the next several years.

“I was in and out of everywhere, scared, lost, confused, hungry, alone, traumatized, suicidal, and never had time to plant my feet anywhere,” – Edda

Edda entered our program this past spring. She shares that one of her biggest challenges was realizing how her mental health relates to interpersonal relationships, a common struggle for many youth experiencing homelessness. She learned that there will always be people who are challenging to communicate with, and you can only control how you take it and move forward.

“I honestly didn’t think I was worth much of anything before Wildflyer. But seeing what I’ve done through the short program and what it has helped me with has shown me I’m always capable of more than I think as long as I keep going. I can do more than I can imagine. – Edda

Now, Edda feels she has built an extensive support system to keep her accountable and moving forward. She reported having “hope for the first time since before [she] had to grow up.” Now, she wants to go to school for macro-social work, emphasizing case management, outreach, case studies, legislation, community engagement, and event planning. She wants to “make the world a better place and an easier place. … help people survive and thrive … make a difference.” During her time in the Wildflyer program, she also got into RS EDEN’s housing program, so for the first time in a long time, she has a place to plant her feet.

Edda just graduated from our training program and continues to work with her employment counselor on her post-program employment plan. Since she lives in the St. Paul area, we know we’ll see her around. For now, Edda enjoys having a place to come home to, working on her art, contining to find herself, and dreaming about the future. Wherever she goes, we know she’ll soar. Like she said, “I am no longer my past but I am me, and me is free indeed.”

What’s the easiest thing someone can do at home to elevate their morning coffee?

Use Wildflyer Coffee or coffee from another purpose-driven business. Purple Door Coffee from Denver, is another favorite social enterprise of mine, if you need options. It's the easiest switch because you don't have to spend differently or change your routine, but you are putting your money toward something that makes a real difference. 

Anything exciting on the horizon? Maybe a throw down?

We have some initiatives we're excited about this year. We're working on expanding our program to provide more long-term support to youth after they graduate, building some critical sourcing partnerships to provide employment support to youth at origin through our program here in the States, and exploring the possibility of sharing our model with others to increase the use of social enterprise within the nonprofit sector. Of course, opening a third shop is always on the table, too! 

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