Founders Story:


Dr. Kamiya Stewart & Maria Patrizia Santos

Co-Founders, Caracas Canteen


Taylor Center Changemaker Institute Fellows (Spring 2024)

Caracas Canteen

Maria Patrizia Santos (left) and Dr. Kamiya Stewart (right)

Q: What inspired you to start Caracas Canteen?

A: Caracas Canteen stems from our commitment to advancing water justice and equity, particularly regarding hydration. As social justice activists and equity researchers, we were deeply troubled by the racial, gender, and economic disparities in water intake and the resultant negative health outcomes linked to dehydration. Observing firsthand the inadequate hydration due to limited water access in our communities motivated us to drive meaningful change. Armed with our expertise and driven by a commitment to evidence-based solutions, we knew we had to take action. We are passionate about promoting positive health through hydration and advancing racial and economic equity in hydration health. Leveraging technological innovation and evidence-driven product development, we established Caracas Canteen to offer an impactful solution.


Q: How has participating in the Taylor Center Changemaker Institute Fellows Program helped propel Caracas Canteen from an idea to a business?

A: Engaging in the Taylor Center Changemaker Institute Fellows Program has been transformative for Caracas Canteen. By immersing ourselves in design thinking methodologies, we have been able to start designing a new product that resonates deeply with our target audience. The program's mentorship network, including Taylor Center staff, has provided invaluable guidance, steering us towards a more entrepreneurial mindset and equipping us with the skills needed to navigate the business landscape. It's been a journey of growth and discovery, propelling us from ideation of our new and improved water bottle to the brink of realization.


Q: What advice would you offer to individuals or teams interested in becoming a Taylor Center Changemaker Fellow?

A: For aspiring Taylor Center Changemaker Fellows, our advice is simple yet crucial: hone in on the uniqueness of your idea and ground it in empirical evidence. Understand that the program is as enriching as you make it; invest the time and effort needed to fully immerse yourself in the experience. It's not just a program—it's an opportunity to catalyze meaningful change and shape the future of social entrepreneurship.


Q: As you near the completion of the Taylor Center Changemaker program, what’s the next step for Caracas Canteen?

A: With the conclusion of the Taylor Center Changemaker program on the horizon, our focus shifts towards securing the resources necessary to propel Caracas Canteen to new heights. We are eager to pursue substantial grants and funding opportunities, enabling us to refine our SMART water bottle prototype based on comprehensive feedback gathered through design thinking methodologies. The next phase of our journey is marked by expansion and evolution, as we strive to make hydration accessible to all.


Q: What accomplishment would represent the ultimate success/major win for Caracas Canteen?

A: For Caracas Canteen, ultimate success means achieving tangible societal impacts by increasing hydration, reducing disparities in dehydration, and fostering wellness within our communities, one sip at a time. Securing our first six-figure grant would represent a significant milestone in our journey, validating our efforts and driving further innovation. Becoming the most-used SMART water bottle among populations most affected by dehydration disparities would indicate the widespread adoption of our mission.

To learn more about Caracas Canteen and how to purchase a water bottle, visit

Caracas Canteen will showcase their project and journey at the Changemaker Institute Showcase luncheon on April 17, from 12-2 PM at Salon 22 (2407 Bienville Street).  This event will celebrate the end of the Spring 2024 Changemaker Institute (CI), a semester-long program that supports Tulane graduate students and exceptional undergraduate students in building a business with social or environmental impact.

During this event, Caracas Canteen and their CI Fellow cohort will share five-minute pitches followed by Q+A and audience feedback to further support their changemaking journeys.  To attend, please RSVP here.