Brewing a Better Community

by Greg Ubert, Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea

My par­ents empha­sized the impor­tance of giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity through­out my child­hood.  I was brought up that it was the right thing to do.

Over 22 years in the spe­cialty cof­fee busi­ness, I’ve learned that it’s also the smart thing to do.  A cof­fee house is a community-based busi­ness.  One way to ensure that your busi­ness thrives in your com­mu­nity is to help build a thriv­ing community.

Also, a study con­ducted by Cone Inc. found a whop­ping 91 per­cent of con­sumers would switch to a brand asso­ci­ated with a good cause, assum­ing com­pa­ra­ble price and quality.

Here are just a few of the ben­e­fits your busi­ness can reap from com­mu­nity involvement.

Build Awareness. Potential cus­tomers become aware of your busi­ness when they see your name and logo asso­ci­ated with school sport­ing events, char­ity fund-raisers and other local affairs.

Make Connections. Every time you spon­sor a Little League Team, take part in a com­mu­nity fes­ti­val or head a com­mit­tee for your local Chamber of Commerce, you meet peo­ple who not only can help your busi­ness, but who are moti­vated to do so.

Boost Brand Loyalty.  Customers today are more likely to patron­ize a busi­ness that they view as a good cit­i­zen involved in the com­mu­nity. Moreover, they’ll go out of their way to visit your cof­fee shop instead of the cor­po­rate store or fran­chise down the street.

Improve Morale.  Companies that pro­vide vol­un­teer oppor­tu­ni­ties often see improve­ments in employee moti­va­tion, pro­duc­tiv­ity and retention.

Generate Publicity.  Local media often cover com­mu­nity and char­i­ta­ble events. Coverage can range from hav­ing your name men­tioned as an event spon­sor to a stand-alone story about the good work your com­pany does.

Coffee and Community, the Crimson Cup Way
I’m pas­sion­ate about mak­ing a dif­fer­ence because I’ve wit­nessed first­hand the power of com­mu­nity in help­ing busi­nesses grow and thrive – not just at Crimson Cup, but in hun­dreds of inde­pen­dent cof­fee houses that serve our cof­fee and in the small farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties that grow the cof­fee we roast.

One of my goals in found­ing Crimson Cup in 1991 was to give back to my home­town com­mu­nity of Columbus, Ohio.  I started with a phi­los­o­phy that my com­pany would cre­ate more L.Y.F.E.® and L.O.V.E.® in the course of doing business.

•    L.Y.F.E. stands for Leave You Feeling Energized. We strive to ener­gize our cus­tomers through great-tasting prod­ucts, awe­some cus­tomer ser­vice and top-notch cof­fee exper­tise and training.

•    L.O.V.E. means Leave Others Very Energized. We spread L.O.V.E. through pos­i­tive inter­ac­tions that ener­gize our cus­tomers and by giv­ing back to the community.

Little did I know how much growth would come as we imple­mented that phi­los­o­phy.  From a one-man enter­prise with a sin­gle cof­fee roaster in a tiny office, to a com­pany of 30 plus employ­ees, we still stay very involved in the com­mu­ni­ties in which we live and work.

Our suc­cess at Crimson Cup has allowed us to give back in a num­ber of ways.  By shar­ing a few these pro­grams, I hope to spark ideas for ways in which you can make a difference.

Grounds for Hope
Our biggest com­mu­nity invest­ment is through the Grounds for Hope pro­gram. Created in part­ner­ship with Cancer Support Community of Central Ohio, sales of cer­ti­fied organic cof­fee blends help with pro­grams and sup­port for those liv­ing with, through and beyond can­cer. For every bag of cof­fee pur­chased, we donate $3 to sup­port edu­ca­tion and out­reach efforts. We’ve donated more than $22,000 in cash and $15,000 of in-kind ser­vices through this pro­gram since 2009. I became a board mem­ber of the orga­ni­za­tion to sup­port its long-term vision.

See Kids Dream
Some of our employ­ees vol­un­teer with See Kids Dream, a non­profit orga­ni­za­tion that focuses on empow­er­ing young peo­ple to achieve their poten­tial. We’ve also donated more than $9,500 since 2009 to help kids from all over the city rec­og­nize their poten­tial for giv­ing back to their community.

Military Coffee Drive
We are host­ing the sec­ond annual Military Coffee Drive at our cof­fee house this year. For every 12 ounce bag of cof­fee pur­chased dur­ing the drive, we donate a bag of cof­fee to active-duty mil­i­tary.  This has become a very pop­u­lar pro­mo­tion among our cus­tomers.  Last year, we sent more than 100 pounds of cof­fee to sol­diers serv­ing over­seas. In addi­tion to the drive, we send cof­fee and tea to troops through­out the year to offer a lit­tle piece of their home­town com­mu­nity while they are away.

El Socorro de la Penitas, Honduras
Our con­cept of com­mu­nity has evolved beyond the bor­ders of the towns where our cus­tomers run their cof­fee houses to the small farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties where our cof­fee is grown.  We take sev­eral trips each year to visit coffee-growing com­mu­ni­ties, and this year we began spon­sor­ing trips to cof­fee plan­ta­tions for cof­fee shop owners.

Since 2011, we’ve been work­ing with small-plot farm­ers in the Honduran vil­lage of El Socorro de la Penitas to develop a sus­tain­able future for their com­mu­nity. By advis­ing the farm­ers on con­sis­tency in grow­ing and pro­cess­ing tech­niques, we’re help­ing to improve the qual­ity of the cof­fee. We can then pay more for the crop.

Small farm­ers have often received only a small frac­tion of the price their cof­fees bring on the world mar­ket. We believe edu­ca­tion is the key to chang­ing that. One of the ways we’re help­ing is by donat­ing desks for a library and com­puter lab in the village’s Jose Cecilio del Valle ele­men­tary school, in which a sin­gle teacher instructs about 60 chil­dren between first and sixth grades.

We also spon­sored a trip to the vil­lage in May by a group of Ohio State University agri­cul­tural stu­dents and Zia Ahmed, the direc­tor of the university’s stu­dent life and din­ing ser­vices. Working with Stephan Erkelens of Axiom Coffee Ventures and local lead­ers, the stu­dents drafted a five-year plan to trans­form the vil­lage into a thriv­ing cof­fee enter­prise. Crimson Cup will be work­ing with local lead­ers, Axiom, and Ohio State stu­dents to imple­ment the plan.

As small busi­ness own­ers, we all have the power to make a real dif­fer­ence in our com­mu­ni­ties, both locally and in coffee-growing coun­tries. I look for­ward to work­ing with many oth­ers in cre­at­ing a sus­tain­able future for small­holder cof­fee farm­ers and the cof­fee indus­try as a whole.

In addi­tion to his role as Founder and President of Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea, Greg Ubert holds a num­ber of com­mu­nity lead­er­ship roles. Reach him at greg@crimsoncup.com.

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