WHO WE ARE
While launching a microfinance program in Ecuador in 2008, Neil met many talented artisans whose products needed a better market. As borrowers of the loan program, these artisans were using their loans to make more and better products, however their sales in local markets remained flat. Seeking to connect the social and financial opportunity created by this disconnect, Neil co-created Chaka in 2009.
Before co-founding Chaka, Neil worked in strategy management consulting in Washington, DC, launched a Microfinance operation in Ecuador, created and grew a student social enterprise consulting group that designed microfinance programs on 4 continents and received a research grant to study organizational design in rural South American microfinance. A graduate of the University of Virginia, Neil’s role is to ensure that Chaka is strategically delivering financial and social results for Chaka’s artisans, customers and investors.
Sales & Finance
Geoff is passionate about aligning the economic and social interests of consumers and investors: a passion that he lives out every day as a co-founder of Chaka. Working with Neil in Ecuador in 2008, Geoff also felt called to the opportunity to increase market access for developing world artisans. As Chaka’s co-founder and Director of Sales and Finance, Geoff splits his time cultivating relationships with Chaka’s retail customers and building oddly complicated excel spreadsheets.
While studying finance at Virginia Tech, Geoff helped to manage $5 million of the school’s endowment run as a member of a student-run investment group. After graduation, Geoff spent time working in capital markets and financial consulting. From this experience, Geoff was excited to create a market-based solution to poverty, helping impoverished artisans to become competitive in US markets.
Marketing & Operations
Kristen has a passion for Latin America and for people in developing countries. With a degree in International Studies/Global Development from Virginia Tech, she strives to find ways to make positive impact on communities in developing countries. Kristen first traveled to Nicaragua in 2005 and has returned numerous times since then to work with a variety of organizations to teach English, lead community development projects and to work with at-risk youth in orphanages and refugee communities. She is excited to have a continuing connection to Nicaragua and the developing world through Chaka.
As the Director of Marketing & Operations for Chaka, Kristen combines her Global Development degree and developing world experience with her self-taught love for graphic design to bring Chaka’s vision and mission to life through branding strategy, marketing campaigns, and general internal day-to-day operations.
Nicaragua Country Director
Hailing from Nicaragua’s capital city of Managua, Arlen’s unique array of talents as a designer, businesswoman and project manager makes her an invaluable member of the Chaka team. Arlen has more than 10 years of experience designing handmade products in Nicaragua and managing projects with artisans across the country on behalf of the United Nations. Originally working with Chaka as a partner designer-artisan, Arlen’s talent in managing artisans and her passion for making a difference in her country led Chaka to bring her onto the team full time. As Chaka’s Nicaragua Country Director, Arlen manages relationships with Chaka’s artisans, oversees product development and manages order fulfillment and in-country logistics.
Matt lives for adventure. And purpose. And he sees no better marriage of the two than working to help entrepreneurs in the developing world by being an entrepreneur himself. A wayfarer at heart, Matt combines considerable international experience, having lived in several different countries across the globe, with straightforward business acumen, having worked in the public sector as a consultant since graduating in 2007.