Meet Our Fellows: Maria Julia Alvarez, Xavier Retif and Ricardo Diaz Meraz

Maria Julia Alvarez, Nicaragua

Maria Julia Alvarez is the Founder of the clothing brand F5 refresh, created to bring fun, high-quality, and fashionable clothes to the Nicaraguan market and to help the local economy. The company addresses the lack of diverse clothing brands and the need for ready-to-wear clothes in Nicaragua. Maria previously volunteered with Mision Bosawas. She holds an Associate's Degree in Architecture from the National University of Engineering, Peru. Maria completed her fellowship with Sarah Burroughs of Made Designs.

YLAI 2017 Maria at Made Utah Council for Citizen DiplomacyMaria with host Sarah Burroughs

During her fellowship, Maria was able to assist Sarah in preparing a pop-up shop for the Salt and Honey Event. With instruction from her host, Maria also constructed her own bag with materials they purchased from a local fabric retailer. This increased Maria’s interests in the bag making process and learning about the different supplies and resources available here in Utah.

Maria shared with UCCD that part of the reason the fashion industry in Nicaragua is not thriving is because they are lacking access to many resources, therefore eliminating a variety of designs. During her time in Utah, Maria learned where to access these supplies, the costs for different materials and hardware, and pricing for finished products. She plans to begin “upcycling” to create unique, in-demand pieces and reduce waste. She hopes to maintain a relationship with one of her contacts here to import metal hardware accessories to Nicaragua in the future.     

YLAI 2017 Maria with bag Utah Council for Citizen DiplomacyMaria with her bag

Sarah Burroughs shared with UCCD how much she enjoyed receiving insight from another designer in the sewing industry. She valued learning from Maria about different techniques to promote brand awareness through product packaging and social media platforms. Due to this fellowship, Sarah now plans to try new marketing techniques, like diversifying her social media presence and outreach.

Xavier Retif, Mexico       

Xavier Retif is the Founder of Bazar Malta, a beer boutique. Bazar Malta offers over 150 beers from 20 Mexican states, bringing recognition to Mexican craft beer and promoting the local economy. Xavier previously worked as a Senior Financial Analyst with Seagate and as a Financial Specialist for IBM. He holds a Master's Degree in Finance from EAE Business School. Xavier completed part of his fellowship with Kestrel Leidtke of Tin Angel Cafe.

YLAI 2017 Xavier at Tin Angel Utah Council for Citizen DiplomacyXavier with host Kestrel Leidtke

Xavier was eager to immerse himself in the many facets of the restaurant business. Whether it was working on administrative tasks, partnering with local produce vendors, working behind the scenes in the kitchen, or organizing a blind taste-testing event, Xavier did it all! His experience here has taught him to have better planning strategies and more specific organization within his own business. He has enjoyed making connections in Utah and meeting people who have inspired him. Xavier shared with UCCD how grateful he is for this opportunity and that he truly could not buy this experience. He has loved learning from everyone around him. It has been a life changing experience for him personally as well as professionally.

YLAI 2017 Xavier at Gardner Village Utah Council for Citizen DiplomacyXavier at Gardner Village

Xavier’s host, Kestrel Leidtke enjoyed the fresh perspective he brought to the business. She is impressed with his innovative ideas, goals and work ethic. She hopes to have continued partnership in the future.

Ricardo Diaz Meraz, Honduras

Ricardo Diaz Meraz is the Co-Founder of Trigona, which produces eco-friendly, market-quality products derived from honey and beekeeping. Trigona provides new technology for beekeepers in rural areas of Honduras to enhance their production. Additionally, it establishes fair trade between consumers and producers. Ricardo holds a Master's Degree in Tropical Beekeeping from the National University of Costa Rica. Ricardo completed his fellowship with Peter Somers of The Honey Stop.

YLAI 2017 Ricardo with bees Utah Council for Citizen DiplomacyRicardo with The Honey Stop's bees

Ricardo was able to assist in the multiple projects Peter is working on. This included caring for beehives, offering support to beekeeper hobbyists, as well as working on the re-opening of Peter’s own honey shop. Ricardo enjoyed working on a small team and visiting several beekeeping locations with Peter, including Eco Bee Box. He was impressed with Slide Ridge and their methods of transforming honey to vinegar and wine. Ricardo shared how interesting it has been for him to observe how bees are cared for in northern hemisphere climate. He is very excited for future partnership to import coffee blossom honey from Honduras for Peter to begin selling in his store.

YLAI 2017 Ricardo at Honey Stop Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy

Ricardo working with beehives

Peter shared with UCCD how impressed he was with Ricardo’s professionalism and in-depth apiculture knowledge. This fellowship has been a great opportunity for him to learn as well. Ricardo’s graceful and calm manner with the bees helped Peter want to improve his own “bee etiquette.” Their shared vision in making organic products also impacts the planet by protecting important bee species.

UCCD congratulates Ricardo on winning the Crowd Favorite award at the YLAI Pitch Competition!

YLAI 2017 Pitch Competition Photo by Rachèle 1 Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy
Ricardo with UCCD Staff

 

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