Imagine walking into a coffee shop that serves quality, fair trade coffee and ordering a drink, but instead of getting a bill, the cashier asks, “How much would you like to pay?” One might wonder how such a place could exist, but it does – at Downtown CREDO, right here in Orlando. CREDO functions as a donations-only coffee shop, meaning that customers choose their own price. Founded in 2010 by local social entrepreneur, Ben Hoyer, CREDO was created not because of a passion for coffee, but to serve as a vehicle for his purpose: to make his community better.

This past week, iGRO, the Orlando Economic Partnership’s program to engage new talent in the area, gathered to listen to Hoyer tell “the CREDO Story,” the account of how he founded his non-profit coffee shop.

Sitting around a conference table, Hoyer explained how CREDO was never about coffee, it was about inspiring members of his community to live a life of purpose. By disrupting the typical process of buying a cup of coffee and requiring customers to choose their price, customers are forced to stop and think about what they are doing and the impact they are making.

 “I knew that I needed to make my community better than the way that I found it,” Hoyer commented on the driving force behind CREDO. “At first, I was trying to do this by cleaning up trash around lower income neighborhoods, but I felt like I wasn’t making a difference because picking up trash wasn’t fun and it wasn’t significant because the community didn’t value it. That’s when I realized that to make an impact, I had to enjoy what I was doing and it had to be significant to others, as well as myself.”

Over the years, CREDO has been embraced and transformed into a city-wide movement. Taking the same beliefs, or “credo”, he originally formed his coffee shop on, Hoyer has built several other projects and programs to support his mission. These projects range from cultivating a creative community through co-working spaces (CREDO Conduit) and events (Orlando Exchange) to community outreach programs benefiting the local community (Rally Makers and Orlando Together). Most recently, Hoyer has been working hands on to progress Orlando’s growing social entrepreneurship scene, with the Central Florida Social Enterprise Accelerator, a program connects experienced entrepreneurs with those who are up-and-coming and is set to kick off this fall.

Hoyer credits Orlando’s supportive community as part of his success. iGRO participant, Catalina Mejia-Molina commented, “This really made me realize how special Orlando is. Ben stressed that if you have an idea and believe in it, this is the type of place that will support you because they want to see you succeed. Orlando is a place where the community works and grows together.”

iGRO aims to attract, cultivate, and retain talent in the region by exposing interns and new hires to the “other half” of Orlando. The summer program offers networking and social events to help participants explore Orlando and get engaged with new opportunities.