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No longer a waste, but a new purpose.

OUR ARTISAN BUSINESS WAS BORN OUT OF A COFFEE SHOP.

A pile of used burlap coffee sacks sitting in the back of our shop caused us to ask the question, “what could be done with these to upcycle them into something more valuable while retaining the cool-factor considering they are authentic coffee sacks?” In Nicaragua, coffee is the #1 export commodity, and therefore coffee sacks are abundant. Thousands of sacks get printed at a time, with information such as the coffee company’s name and the lot information for the coffee that will go in them, but at the end there are inevitably unused sacks that are leftover. Since they have information printed on them for a specific lot, they can no longer be used for future shipments. We discovered that these sacks, if left in storage, will mold and rot due to the humidity of the Nicaraguan climate. So most companies are forced to get rid of them.
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Why not put them to better use?

UNDERSTAND ORIGIN

LOCAL CONTEXT

Nicaragua is one of many countries around the world that produces amazing coffee (and a lot of it) and yet suffers from high levels of poverty and underemployment. It’s hard to imagine when paying $5 for a cup of coffee that anybody in coffee business supply chain would be living in extreme poverty, but we all know the unfortunate truth. When we set out to discover and empower the talented people of Masatepe, Nicaragua, we knew that artisanship was at the core of the local culture. Masatepe boasts a flourishing furniture industry and many large textile companies, so most people know a craft and are very talented working with their hands. Due to oppression and poverty, they’ve learned over generations how to create value out of what resources they have available around them.

CELEBRATING LOCAL TALENT

Don Beto is a great example of a local entrepreneur who is incredibly industrious. Beto was 12 years old before he got his first pair of shoes. He was so proud of them and cared for them so much, that he only wore them to school and back, choosing to go barefoot the rest of the time. Many of his classmates and neighbors were not fortunate enough to have shoes of their own, so Beto set out to learn how to make shoes himself so he could provide them to others. Over half a century later, Beto looks back at his lifetime, and the thousands of pairs of shoes he’s made, and it’s clear to him now that when he was just a 6-year-old boy he was already a budding entrepreneur. We’ve since discovered his many other talents. Stories like that of Don Beto’s are spread out all over the world. By creating endeavors and organizations that value people above profits, we allow ourselves the opportunity to discover these lost stories and uncover this hidden talent.
50+ years at a craft is rare these days, and the decades of experience is evident in his workmanship. We were amazed at what Beto could do with burlap, turning a used sack into a work of art
Paula, one of the seamstresses that works for Beto’s Coffee Co, has lived her entire life in the small town of Masatepe. Along with her husband who is a teacher, her family has combated poverty as long as she can remember. Early in her career, Paula got a job at a local textile company and learned how to operate a sewing machine as she sewed the inseam of jeans for a large manufacturing company. The work was not ideal, but she was grateful for the income.
When she was offered a job at Beto’s Coffee Co, and was able to come under the mentorship of Don Beto and his lifetime of experience in the craft, she was grateful not only because of better work conditions and better benefits, but because she believed in the purpose behind the organization. Having grown up here herself, and now raising her own children here, she knows the importance of progress and opportunity where normally there is none. Today, Paula is able to send her oldest son to the best medical school in the country, a dream she has had since becoming a mother.

Sustainability.

ACKNOWLEDGING OUR CONSUMPTION IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT.

We often don’t think about the full process, or maybe we don’t understand every step of a product’s creation, but once we do become aware of it, we have a social responsibility in how we respond. Waste products from any industry often drive up costs or drive down profits. Finding value along that supply chain is beneficial to everyone. In the case of coffee, the more value we can discover along the supply chain, the more value that coffee creates, the more likely it is that farmers and consumers alike will benefit. Each year, millions of sacks of coffee are transported from the “coffee belt” (where coffee is grown) to other parts of the world that heavily consume it. It is the number one consumed beverage in the world after all! What happens to all of those sacks?
LEADING BY EXAMPLE

Similarly, coffee trees (which are more like a bush than a tree) need to be cut back every 3 or 4 years in order to encourage new growth and healthier cherries. Every so often, the entire tree simply needs to be replaced. The cut wood from the coffee industry can be seen coming off of coffee farms by the truckload across Nicaragua, and is usually sold as firewood locally. When we discovered that coffee wood, which can be twisty and gnarly by nature, could be used to craft wood products, it quickly became a staple in our product line. Again, a material that otherwise was going to waste, now adds value AND looks great.
Be aware of the fact that the brands we buy reflect the causes we believe in.
For those of us who love coffee and who genuinely care about the environment and social impact, sourcing waste products from the coffee industry and crafting them into valuable products is an opportunity to model our priorities to the world. We love coffee, we love the environment, we love the farmers and workers along the supply chain, and we love cool products that allow us to talk about things that matter.