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 firstname.lastname@example.org.