TOMS wins over water partner, takes on coffee business | 


TOMS CEO Blake Mycoskie took the stage at the South by Southwest Festival last week to make a big announcement. The man behind the company that has pioneered the one-for-one model through its sale of shoes revealed the company’s new venture: coffee.

The sky blue label with a white stripe, a nod to the flag of Argentina, where the design for TOMS shoes were discovered, will now adorn bags of coffee in the company’s expanding stores and neighborhood Whole Foods. Money from each bag or cup sold will help bring clean water to more people in the world. Or as the tagline says: ”Coffee for you, Water for all.”

The coffee itself aims for the middle of the market, something that is better than Starbucks, but not quite at the high end of Counter Culture and Stumptown. Mycoskie and TOMS got a fair share of attention for the new business. He revealed that TOMS will continue to add new ventures each year to extend the organization’s impact and grow the overall business.

The coffee comes from Guatemala, Honduras, Malawi, Peru, and Rwanda and will sell for $13 per twelve ounce bag. TOMS says a bag of coffee will deliver clean water for one person for a week. That comes thanks to a partnership with the Denver-based Water for People. A yet-undisclosed amount of money made from the sale of TOMS coffee will be given to Water for People for its work in the same countries where the coffee originates.

“We have this philanthropic and aid problem where we have long term issues to deal with and the grant cycle does not match,” said Water for People CEO Ned Breslin to Humanosphere. ”We have been looking for ways out of that funding cycle.”

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How to help change the world one cup of coffee at a time | 

Flickr, feistyfeaster

This is a guest post by Hallie Goertz, who recently returned to Seattle after working for nearly four years in East Africa. A coffee break, of sorts, from today’s electoral frenzy. Goertz worked for Technoserve, a Gates-funded project that I wrote about last year on a visit to Rwanda and one of a number of local coffee connections to that nation.


Bells.  That’s what wakes me these dark October days in Seattle.  Not real bells mind you, but the iPhone simile of bells.

After living on the equator the past three years, first in Rwanda and then in Kenya, I’m used to getting up when the sun rises – between 6 and 7 AM all year – and these bells are a jarring reminder that I’m not in East Africa anymore.

On this morning I’m writing, the sun won’t rise in Seattle for another two hours. So in my Pavlovian reaction to the digital bells I stagger to the kitchen to put the kettle on.  While the water boils I get out my favorite mug, pour-over, filter, and coffee and line them up in front of me.  A few minutes later I’m watching my real morning wake-up call drip away, I inhale deeply and take a sip.  The day has now officially begun…

I expect that many of us start our days in a similar way.  Your alarm may sound different and you may use another brewing method, but an appreciation of a good cup of coffee, along with an ability to survive, no, celebrate, our dark, damp winter, runs deep around here.

Enjoying a cup of coffee is a nice way to think globally while acting locally every day. Continue reading

Rwanda’s future could depend upon a really good cup of coffee | 


Farmers sorting coffee beans at a Technoserve cooperative

Most Rwandans are poor farmers.

And most depend upon growing coffee for half or more of their annual income.

A four-year-old social enterprise project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation appears to be helping farmers significantly increase their income by taking better advantage of this mountainous nation’s fairly unique ability to grow the best coffee in the world.

By geographical happenstance — very high elevations and wet, tropical weather – Rwanda’s unlike almost any other place when it comes to growing coffee. But until recently, few coffee farmers here were making the most of their advantage.

“Now we’re seeing some farmers earning up to three times more than they were before we started working with them,” said Paul Stewart, regional director of the Technoserve Coffee Initiative in Rwanda.

Overall, Stewart said, the incomes of participating farmers have increased by 70 percent over the last four years.

Technoserve is a non-profit organization devoted to helping the poor make a profit. It’s been around a long time, created in 1968 by an American businessman who felt the best way to fight poverty was to help the poor improve their business prospects.

In 2007, the Gates Foundation gave Stewart and his colleagues at Technoserve a $47 million grant to apply their strategy in Rwanda – to see if showing farmers how to boost the quality of coffee could put a big dent in poverty. The first step is showing them how to properly care for the newly picked coffee beans. Continue reading