Posted by George Liu on October 15, 2015
Long gone are the days when coffee was simply about the caffeine. Coffee has changed from a commodity to an artisanal foodstuff, like wine or craft beer. Customers are willing to pay a premium for beans with subtleties in flavor – and they care more about where and how the beans are produced, along with whether coffee farmers make livable wages.
One social entrepreneur and alumna of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Jennifer Alexander Monzon, ’08, along with her partner, are pushing this trend forward with their Chicago-based start-up, Chapín Coffee.
Through Chapín Coffee, Monzon has handcrafted a coffee experience that connects the consumer with the local issues, art, and culture of Guatemala. But perhaps most important to Chapín’s founders, every bag of coffee sold funds schools meals for Guatemalan children through Chapín’s partnership with the nonprofit Pueblo a Pueblo. Their mission was clear, Monzon explained. “We wanted to end childhood hunger in Guatemala – to feed kids that suffered from chronic malnutrition.”
Chapín works with two Guatemalan cooperatives that have improved the living standards of area farmers by providing access to technical training, educational scholarships, and other opportunities for participating families. These cooperatives grow, harvest, and process the USDA organic, Fair Trade Certification, 100% Arabica-grade coffee beans. Then, the beans are exported to Chapín’s local artisan roasters in the US. Finally, each bag of coffee is inspected and hand-packed in Chicago before shipping out to customers.
Chapín Coffee also wraps their Signature Roast bags in a bolsa – a traditional handmade Mayan fabric bag. “That's my partner’s genius: he had the vision of wrapping our coffee products with a quintessential element of Guatemalan culture,” Monzon said.
Traditionally in Guatemalan families, the women wove all of the family’s clothes, and each tribe had their own pattern and colors. To stay true to this tradition, Monzon visited various artisan markets in Guatemala until she found a group she wanted to work with. By purchasing these local crafts, Chapín Coffee helps to preserve an indigenous culture, while also supporting the livelihoods of women artisans, who in turn support the children of Guatemala.
To accomplish all this social good, Monzon formed a mission-based, for-profit venture. That is to say, in order to maximize the resources they can provide to Guatemalan children, Chapín relies on revenue generated by the sales of their coffee.
When Monzon is asked why she chose to form a social enterprise rather than donate to charity or work for an existing NPO, her response is practical. “The nonprofit sector often is dependent on philanthropy and the general wellbeing of the economy,” she explained. “So a mission-driven venture made the most sense to us.”
Chapín isn’t alone. B-Corps, social enterprises, and “give-one-get-one” models are attracting consumers and investors alike. Mission-driven ventures, like Chapín, are blurring the once stark line that divided the nonprofit and for-profit sectors and helping shift the traditional definition of success, Monzon said. With more than 10,000 meals served to Guatemalan children, Chapín Coffee is defining its own success one bag of coffee at a time.–George Liu
You can purchase Chapín Coffee products online at http://www.chapincoffee.com/ and at https://www.artizone.com/chicago. To inquire about Chapín Coffee service for your office or workplace, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images credits (top to bottom): Pueblo a Pueblo, Eric Futran, Lizzy Diaz-Ortiz