Thomas Ricolfi

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2016


This profile was prepared when Thomas Ricolfi was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2016.
The New Idea
Tenoli, meaning “bridge” in Náhuatl, is Thomas Ricolfi's hybrid solution to the problems faced by the small corner store owners in marginalized urban communities in Mexico. Tenoli’s vision is to connect micro businesses with the public and private sectors to achieve true economic inclusion. Thomas's model is based on human relationships, carefully established trust in the communities, shared expertise, strategic modernization, and creating new market connections through non-traditional commercial partners.

When small corner store owners are listened to, become actively involved in the store owner community, and are presented with a holistic and customized solution, the community of store owners begins to create a new reality for themselves and their families, decreasing vulnerability and insecurity, and increasing profitability and diverse opportunities. When these shops can be intentionally integrated into the formal economy and provided with more links and connections, they can truly begin to thrive.

Thomas and his team establish a physical presence in each neighborhood and begin by gathering baseline data and generating interest among shop owners. They then begin to host classes, workshops, and topic-specific conversations in their center, coupled with community business experts giving personal visits and follow-ups from shop to shop, creating relationships and identifying personalized needs of each shop owner. As shop owners begin to trust Tenoli through this consistent process of real human contact, the community grows and strengthens. Through these connections and increased business, financing, diversification and capacity building opportunities provided by the multi-sector bridge solution, store owners can become more resilient to market competition increasingly dominated by multinational chains.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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