Cof­fee com­pa­nies do a latte for so­cial good

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Julie Mar­shall

Emily Ehr never imag­ined that drink­ing a cup of her fa­vored dark-roast cof­fee could help her com­mu­nity. But it can and it does. Ehr, a vol­un­teer at Colorado Ther­a­peu­tic Rid­ing Cen­ter in Long­mont, bought three bags of The Gal­lop­ing Bean cof­fee over the Christ­mas hol­i­days. Pro­ceeds from each bag went to the hip­pother­apy cen­ter, which pairs ther­apy horses with lo­cal chil­dren and teaches the kids to over­come phys­i­cal and men­tal bar­ri­ers as they learn to ride.

“It feels re­ally good to get what you want and to help a cause,” said Ehr, who lives in Broom­field. “It’s a dou­ble win.”

The cof­fee was cre­ated through a part­ner­ship with Erie Cof­fee Roast­ers.

While cor­po­ra­tions have given to char­ity through var­i­ous means for years, ob­servers say it’s un­com­mon for a busi­ness to work with a ben­e­fit­ing non­profit to de­velop a re­tail prod­uct.

The col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort is seen as part of a grow­ing move­ment among en­trepreneurs — par­tic­u­larly mil­len­nial en­trepreneurs — and their em­ploy­ees, to link busi­ness suc­cess with so­cial change, said David Payne, an in­struc­tor at the Univer­sity of Colorado Leeds School of Busi­ness.

Em­brac­ing so­cial val­ues is sound mar­ket­ing move. Polls in the last two years by Nielsen, Deloitte, Cone Com­mu­ni­ca­tions/Ebiq­uity re­port 90 per­cent of con­sumers will switch to brands that sup­port a cause or or­ga­ni­za­tion they be­lieve in and 66 per­cent will choose to spend more on a prod­uct if it comes from a so­cially ac­tive com­pany whose ideals they sup­port.

Only a few Colorado busi­nesses — in­clud­ing Erie Cof­fee Roast­ers, along with Mis­sion Cof­fee Roast­ers and Bris­tol Brew­ing Com­pany, both in Colorado Springs — have taken that a step fur­ther to in­volve non­prof­its in prod­uct and la­bel de­vel­op­ment.

It’s a move that can be “re­ally em­pow­er­ing and foster own­er­ship,” said Erie Cof­fee Roast­ers co-owner Lisa Zautke. “It feels like a to­tal col­lab­o­ra­tion.”

Two years ago, Lisa and Nate Zautke left their jobs as bio­med­i­cal re­searchers to be­gin roast­ing cof­fee, us­ing beans they pur­chase di­rectly from farm­ers in South Amer­ica.

A close con­nec­tion to pro­duc­ers al­lows the busi­ness to be glob­ally re­spon-

sible. “But we wanted to also have an im­pact lo­cally,” she said.

First came “Courage” – a medium roast blend to ben­e­fit the Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety and its Re­lay for Life fundrais­ing races na­tion­wide, in­clud­ing one in Erie held last July. “As sci­en­tists, Nate and I had spent years look­ing for a drug to cure this ter­ri­ble ill­ness, and now we could con­tinue help­ing to fight can­cer through our cof­fee busi­ness,” Lisa Zautke said.

They sold a to­tal of 30 bags for $15 each, through their web­site and at the Erie Farmer’s Mar­ket, with $5 per bag do­nated to the cause. “It wasn’t huge, but Nate and I re­ally wanted to keep go­ing and see if we could make an even big­ger im­pact.”

In the fall 2016, the cou­ple met Deb Du­rand, a board mem­ber of the Colorado Ther­a­peu­tic Rid­ing Cen­ter, took a tour, and were in­spired to of­fer the non­profit a sim­i­lar part­ner­ship.

Horse ther­a­pists and vol­un­teers sam­pled a va­ri­ety of beans at the barn in 12 cof­fee pots and ev­ery­one voted for the best cof­fee and the name that would ap­pear on the la­bel.

The Gal­lop­ing Bean was the roaster’s best seller over the hol­i­days, with 179 bags sold on­line and $895 raised for the rid­ing cen­ter, Zautke said.

What Erie Cof­fee Roast­ers has done is pro­vide a sound busi­ness model, sim­i­lar to so­cial en­ter­prises such as the Den­ver-based Women’s Bean Pro­ject, which cre­ates prod­ucts (in this case jew­elry, and soup and bread mixes) to sell and sup­port a so­cial cause (women’s eco­nomic in­de­pen­dence), said Bruce DeBoskey, a phil­an­thropic con­sul­tant for busi­nesses, non­prof­its and foun­da­tions.

Sim­i­larly, Mis­sion Cof­fee Roast­ers of­fers cof­fee fundrais­ing pro­grams that ben­e­fit lo­cal artists, schools and non­prof­its. And Bris­tol Brew­ing Com­pany has a Com­mu­nity Ales se­ries of four la­bels, all ded­i­cated to a large va­ri­ety of lo­cal non­prof­its sup­port­ing the arts, the out­doors and hu­mane causes.

The most pop­u­lar has to be Vene­tucci Pump­kin Ale, says Steve Oliv­eri, head of the Bris­tol’s de­vel­op­ment, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and sus­tain­abil­ity pro­grams.

“It’s made from chem­i­cal-free pump­kins that we go out and pick off the Vene­tucci Farm. We gut them, roast them and cook them right into the beer that we sell to sup­port this pop­u­lar com­mu­nity farm that gives our kids free pump­kins ev­ery year,” he said.

While there is some dis­cus­sion among brew­eries na­tion­wide about cre­at­ing non­profit-ben­e­fit­ing la­bels on craft­beer.com among brew­eries, it’s still a rare oc­cur­rence, Oliv­eri said.

Payne, who teaches So­cially Re­spon­si­ble En­ter­prise, a re­quired grad­u­ate-level course, said prod­ucts like these fit squarely into what he sees as a re­turn to our coun­try’s cap­i­tal­ist roots and what econ­o­mist Mil­ton Fried­man es­poused: to em­brace the so­cial value of a free-mar­ket sys­tem.

“It’s a naïve, false stan­dard for busi­nesses and in­vestors to only care about prof­its,” he said. To­day’s en­trepreneurs, es­pe­cially mil­len­ni­als, “are con­cep­tu­al­iz­ing how to bring value to so­ci­ety and to solve prob­lems.”

Nate Zautke, owner of Erie Cof­fee Roast­ers, checks on cof­fee beans in a roaster.

Cof­fee beans cool af­ter roast­ing at Erie Cof­fee Roast­ers.

Some of the beans at Erie Cof­fee Roast­ers are trans­ferred.

Nate Zautke, owner of Erie Cof­fee Roast­ers, mea­sures some beans.

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