By Leslie Lagerstrom
The vibe hits you the minute you walk in the door. Warm and inviting, with its tables and couches and cozy nooks and crannies, Wildflyer Coffee in Minneapolis, Minnesota, immediately fosters a sense of community that visitors want to be a part of. But it’s not just the surroundings that make this place special.
In addition to offering delicious specialty coffee, Wildflyer is dedicated to providing job stability to youth experiencing homelessness. It is focused on compassionate service, building community, and providing the skills needed for youth to spread their wings. The nonprofit was started by Carley Kammerer, who in her previous role as a social worker, saw the need for a different kind of job training.
“Too often, I witnessed kids get jobs and then get fired within a matter of days,” Carley explained. “I realized that they needed to be taught how to not only land a job, but also how to keep one.”
Following the sage advice of a colleague, she avoided the temptation to begin with a brick-and-mortar business. Instead, she launched Wildflyer as a coffee cart run by at-risk youth ages 16 to 24 who participated in a four-month training program to learn critical skills for succeeding in the workforce and life. For four years, the cart could be found at farmers markets and special events around town. Then, in 2020, Carley opened Wildflyer’s first physical location (without wheels) on Minnehaha Avenue in Minneapolis. The excitement of seeing her vision expand to an actual shop was immeasurable.
And then COVID hit.
Determined not to let the global pandemic get the best of her, Carley took the opportunity to teach her employees how to work for a dial-in service instead of a retail business. Rather than working as baristas behind the counter, her team took orders over the phone and ran hot coffee out to customers waiting in their cars at the curb.
“It was definitely risky,” she admitted, “but I knew as a former barista myself, no matter what, people still want their coffee.”
As the world went back to work, Carly reopened the shop. In 2021, she offered workplace training and stable employment to 14 young people, and in 2022, she was able to increase that number to 24. With a goal of reaching more young people throughout the Twin Cities, in March of 2023, she opened a second location in Saint Paul.
Carley is quick to point out that she could not have done it alone, citing community partners who stepped up to offer help in various areas. They have included teachers and guidance counselors referring kids to her program; local businesses providing transportation, mental health support and interview attire; and, of course, the companies that have ultimately provided jobs to the young people who have trained under Carley at the coffee shop.
Reflecting on all that Wildflyer has achieved, Carley says with a smile, “We’ve proven that a great way to build community is to include community in solving problems.”
About the Author
Leslie Lagerstrom is an advocate for transgender children and their families. She is a national public speaker on the subject, and her writing has appeared in several anthologies, in addition to being turned into a stage production.
About Publish Her
Publish Her is a female-founded publisher dedicated to elevating the words, writing and stories of women. We are passionate about amplifying the voices of women of color, women with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community. We aim to make publishing an attainable, exciting and collaborative process for all. Publish Her specializes in print-on-demand books, workbooks, journals, magazines and more.