Founded: 2012, by Chris Morrison, Simon Coley, Matt Morrison Employs: 30 full-time staff Legal status: Limited liability company
Tell us about Karma Cola.
Karma Cola: We started a company called All Good in 2007 to produce organic and ethical goods that would be good for the land, the growers and the people who bought them, and through All Good we brought the first Fairtrade bananas into New Zealand. Then we tripped across the statistic that the world drinks 1.9 billion colas a day but cola farmers weren’t earning anything, which gave us the idea for a soft drink that could connect cola lovers with cola farmers.
All Karma Cola drinks are organic and Fairtrade where possible. There was no Fairtrade cola when we started trading with West Africa, so we created our own direct trade system. We won the Fairest Fairtrader Award in 2014, out of 27,000 Fairtrade products globally, because of the work the Karma Cola Foundation does in Sierra Leone.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned? Understanding your ‘why’ is vital. If people don’t know your story, your ‘why’, they won’t look out for your product. It helps to figure out your ‘how’ as well: ‘how’ you’re going to reach your customers.
Failure is part of success. Although we liked the name Karma Cola and the concept, when we started we didn’t know much about cola or the people who grew it. It was a long journey until we produced our first batch of cola six months later, and luckily for us, knowing the right people who knew the right people really helped us out.
Once we met the people of Boma [a small village in the Gola rainforest in Sierra Leone], we knew we had to keep going. One whole village, now eight, directly benefited from the sale of our drinks and that motivated us to make it a success.