Cuban Coffee and Collaboration
This gift proposal from Florida International University arrived in a creative way—inside a jumbo cannister of Café Bustelo coffee, a household staple throughout Miami, home of the U.S. public research university. Inside the cannister: a proposal designed to look like a yellow brick of Café Bustelo that smelled of espresso.
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- Cuban Coffee and Collaboration
- Bagel Bites
Through this multisensory proposal experience, FIU secured in 2021 a US$1.25 million gift from Café Bustelo and Café Pilon, two world-recognized coffee brands in The J.M. Smucker Co. portfolio.
“The [gift] proposal itself was a substantive, intentional, thought-out vision for a partnership that would benefit all parties, but it was done in a way that was fun and compelling,” says Lili Betancourt Space, Development Officer and Interim Executive Director of FIU CasaCuba, a cultural center and think tank celebrating Cuban history, diversity, and heritage.
The gift helped with the construction and mission of FIU CasaCuba, and it supports scholarships for students at FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and the development of new curricula that examine the coffee industry and culture.
The idea for the unique gift proposal packaging came from Michael Cheng, Dean of the Chaplin School, who understood “we had to do something both bold and memorable,” says Nina Rose, Senior Editor, FIU Foundation, who wrote the proposal.
FIU has a strong connection to Miami’s Cuban coffee culture; the campus has Café Bustelo’s largest retail store in the U.S. The university is also home to more students of Cuban heritage than any university in the U.S.
Celebrating coffee culture and its ties to immigrant stories, was central to the proposal, Rose explains. It highlighted both Jerome Smucker (the originator of the fifth-generation family business and descendent of Swiss immigrants) and the Souto family, who fled from Cuba to Miami in the 1960s and reestablished their family coffee business in the U.S. They’d go on to acquire the two most popular Cuban-style espresso brands in the U.S.—Café Bustelo and Pilon.
“There are certain brands that are immediately associated with Cuban culture, and Café Bustelo is absolutely one of them. So, there was a real vote of confidence in and a validation of FIU CasaCuba that we received from being associated with Bustelo,” says Betancourt Space.
The gift helped to develop a long-lasting, deep relationship with Café Bustelo. The company will sponsor events at FIU CasaCuba and play a central role in welcoming every visitor with a cup of Cuban coffee.
The proposal—which earned FIU a 2022 silver Circle of Excellence award for case statements—was “a true collaboration of departments and of individuals who really understood the story we were trying to tell and the impact we were trying to have,” says Betancourt Space. “That it resonated with the donors like it resonated with us was a gratifying, full-circle moment.”
About the author(s)
Hannah Ratzer is Editorial Specialist at CASE.
Article appears in:
May - June 2023
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