activist notes

Just Us! and them, too. Deal with Ethiopian coffee co-op makes popular beans available to local roasters and helps growers in Africa by activistnotes

[I have a couple issues with the title of this recent article, but I love Just Us! I enjoyed an Italian Roast at their Wolfville cafe last night while reading my favorite novel, Things As They Are; or, The Adventures of Caleb Williams by William Godwin. …Ian Hussey]

Deal with Ethiopian coffee co-op makes popular beans available to local roasters and helps growers in Africa
Sun. Jun 22, 2008 – 7:47 AM

IN CASE you haven’t heard yet, Ethiopian coffee is hot. The beans everyone is chasing now are Harar, Yirgacheffe and Sidamo, from renowned coffee-growing areas in Ethiopia — and demand is definitely outstripping supply.

So the folks at Just Us! Coffee Roasters were delighted last month when their co-operative became one of the first to sign a trademarking and licensing program with Ethiopian coffee farmers. The Oromia Coffee Farmers’ Co-operative delivered 18,144 kilograms of beans to Just Us! early in June.

“We’re proud to be one of the first coffee companies to sign on to this agreement, which will bring major and positive changes to the lives of the coffee growers,” Jeff Moore, CEO of Just Us!, said in a recent interview.

The agreement was signed last month at the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s annual conference, which the Grand Pre company always attends.

The conference, held this year in Minneapolis, offered coffee-roasting, brewing and espresso-tasting labs, along with discussions about sustainability and biodiversity. For Just Us!, the conference offers new ways to build on core strengths: a passion for quality and a dedication to social justice.

Just Us! got off the ground in 1995, when Moore headed to Mexico to see what he could figure out about importing, roasting and selling coffee — a business he knew absolutely nothing about. (His background was in social work.) But he had experience with running a non-profit organization, and he wanted to do something in the developing fair-trade movement.

Moore, unable to speak Spanish, went to Mexico without a translator. He dropped by the coffee shop of a coffee collective he had read about in a magazine article, and a customer was fortunately available to translate as he chatted with the person in charge.

Back in Nova Scotia, he told his wife, Debra, that he thought they had found a viable business. He was convinced there would be a market for organic coffee offered at a price that would give the growers a decent income.

But to move forward they would need to place a substantial initial order: a container load, or 37,500 pounds of green coffee beans. And they would have to borrow against their house to do it. The Moores decided to go for it. Their success has borne out the wisdom of that choice.


It’s possible to run your own business, make a profitable living and work for the greater good. Some suggestions:

1. Let your company embody your philosophy.

If there are issues you feel passionate about and you want to use your company as a vehicle to create change in that area, then, like Debra and Jeff Moore, you might want to begin with the philosophy and move from there to the product or service. In effect, you flip the starting process back to front. Rather than ask, for instance, “How can I make money selling widgets?” you ask, “What can I do or sell in order to bring about change in this particular area?”

Experiment with ways of asking and answering these questions. Read widely and find out what others are doing. Look to other countries and other groups. Many processes are emerging that meld profit with social change; investigate as many organizations as you can. Websites such as Springwise show new business models, often based on social change and sustainability, which entrepreneurs around the world are trying.

2. Find ways to match your idealism to business reality.

The best company in the world will go under if too little money is coming in.

If you are starting a business that’s an offshoot of your hopes for larger change, be doubly sure that you’ve done your homework.

Do a lot of research on costs and profit projections; don’t let your enthusiasm tempt you into an overly rosy assessment.

Allow for flexibility and enough time to change your strategy, if necessary.

3. Be alert to new avenues for expansion.

Just Us! has expanded into fair trade sugar, tea and chocolate, as well as fair trade tourism.

Keep coming back to your core strengths and to your brand identity. Is the new opportunity compatible with your company’s purpose? Is it a natural fit or are you hoping you can force the pieces together?

When you can find seamless ways to integrate your best ideas, you’ll expand your potential to keep growing.












1 Comment so far
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How much per pound did they pay for the coffee? This isn’t anything new or even interesting. There are lots of roasters doing this.

I’ve seen too many “fair trade” rosters buy direct from farmers for 50 cents a pound and turn around and sell it for $10 or $15 to get too excited. Even though they would be paying $2 or $3 a pound through a middle man.

If they are paying $3 or $4 a pound for the green beans, then my hat is off to them.

Comment by Ryan

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