NOTE: This is an encore presentation of an episode that first aired on July 11, 2016. Advice from Lee Wallace is featured in the book, Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs. To hear the original, extended interview, go here: https://tonyloyd.com/096.
Smallholder farmers grow more than half of the coffee consumed worldwide.
Imagine if you will, that you are working at a non-profit in Minnesota, focusing on public policy. The phone rings, and the person on the other end says “Hello. This is the Port of Los Angeles. We have 38,000 pounds of green coffee with your name on it. How would you like to pick this up?” You know nothing about coffee or roasting or retail. What would you do?
That is exactly what happened twenty years ago at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. In today’s Social Entrepreneur, Lee Wallace, the Queen Bean of Peace Coffee tells us the rest of the story.
Peace Coffee is a for-profit social enterprise, owned by a nonprofit, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. Peace Coffee has a wholesale business that they have been running for about two decades. They also have four retail coffee shops within the Twin Cities, Minnesota.
Last year Peace Coffee purchased 735,000 lbs. of coffee from 12 countries and 20 smallholder farmer cooperatives. In the process, Peace Coffee paid $370,000 in fair trade premiums.
Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Lee Wallace
“We think hard about how to do the right thing for coffee farmers.”
“Our customers named us.”
“I was trying to find a career that made sense to me in terms of my passions.”
“What I was trying to do was find places that sit at the nexus of mission and money.”
“Pretty quickly I realized that this is a magical place for me.”
“I have always been interested in how organizations work.”
“We spend a lot of our time at work.”
“The Twin Cities is an amazing place to learn about natural foods because we have such a vibrant and thriving co-op ecosystem.”
“My dad really wanted us to understand the history of industry as it came in and out of communities and how that really impacted families in those communities.”
“The original idea was that we would be an importer of all kinds of things.”
“More than 50% of the world’s coffee farmers, farm coffee on very small parcels of land.”
“We come this work with the sense that, what we’re doing is working on trying to elevate the livelihood of an awful lot of people who historically have been very disadvantaged when it comes to the way trade works.”
“It’s livelihood, but its community development too.”
“Co-ops are stepping in and playing the role of civil society in these communities.”
“People in these communities have ideas and know how they’re going to make their communities better. Our job is to be a good partner on the other side of that.”
“We have a price floor…We believe that below this level is unsustainable for coffee farmers.”
“This company existing 10 years from now is more important than what is happening this month. This company is bigger than all of us.”
“You’d be amazed at who would be willing to talk to you.”
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