It never ceases to amaze me how things seem to cross my path lately. Every so often I go through my Twitter followers to see who they are and to possibly block spam-ish looking ones. A few weeks ago one name caught my attention: @nonprofitcoffee and the associated name: Three Avocados. I love non-profits, coffee, and avocados so needless to say I was intrigued. I went to the website to learn more. I’ll save the details for Joe Koenig (the founder) to explain but basically this organization sells coffee grown in Uganda to raise money to help people in Uganda to have access to clean water sources. Of course it takes clean water to brew coffee and I am going to guess the majority of us can’t even imagine not being able to brew our favorite blend in the morning not to mention not being able to drink a crisp glass of water or bathe in clean water. For many people in the world this is a harsh reality which leads to disease, dehydration, the inability to receive an education, and the possibility of injury from gathering the water itself. The idea for this organization started with well,three avocados. On a trip to Uganda, Joe and some others were invited to worship at a local church. When the offering plate went around a widow placed three avocados in the basket. In Uganda the pastors don’t get paid and they rely on what is in the offering to eat. The woman gave everything she had to ensure that someone else would eat. At that moment, they were inspired. Before I go any further, I will let Joe give you his take:
Three Avocados is important to me because it’s my opportunity to use the skills and resources I’ve been given to help others. While in Uganda in January 2010, I was sitting in our bus as we were stopped. I looked at the window and saw a young man sitting under a tree on the side of the road. His bike was laying next to him and he looked absolutely exhausted. It was at that moment that I realized that could be me. There was nothing I had done or my parents had done that gave me the ability to be born in the United States, with every opportunity placed in front of me. There was also nothing that young man or his parents had done for him to deserve to be born into extreme poverty. It was really that realization when I told myself I had to do something. I didn’t know what, but I knew I had to do something to help.
Throughout the rest of my trip, I thought about it. What could be done to improve their economy, to give them an opportunity? I figured there had to be something that could be produced in Uganda that could be sold in the states, with the profits going back to help the people of Uganda. Myself and a few others that were on the trip kicked around a few product ideas. We finally settled on coffee, as it was something people were already spending a large amount of money on in the United States.
This is the point where we vary from the typical charity. In fact, I don’t consider us a charity at all. I like to look at Three Avocados as a business that just happens to have a greater purpose for our profits. Our sustainability and business model is no different than any other coffee company out there. The concept behind Three Avocados is not to get people to give ‘new’ money — as in, money the are not currently spending or giving. The concept is to get people to think about how the products they buy impact the world around them. We want to say to people, ‘buy this instead of this’. We want to show people how a simple redirection of their dollar can have a significant impact on the world.
I returned from Uganda and immediately began planning Three Avocados and doing basic feasibility studies. I began researching what was the best way to use the profits – what would provide the greatest impact. It became clear that clean water would lead to better health, which leads to better education, which leads to a better economy, which leads to a path out of poverty. Water truly is the first step. That’s why we chose clean water to be the focus of Three Avocados profits. By February 2010, the organization was established as a non-profit corporation in the State of Missouri, and by April 2010, we had our first coffee available for sale. Each bag sold provides between $0.50 and $3.00 for clean water in Uganda. The variance is due to the different distribution channels that we use to sell the coffee.
I am thrilled to be returning to Uganda on January 15, 2011, where I will have an opportunity to meet with coffee farmers on Mt. Elgon and hear their stories about how coffee gives them an opportunity for income and learn more about what we can do to help them!
I went ahead and bolded some things that he said that I loved and thought were important. A small redirection of your money whether it be for your wedding or your coffee, is exactly my philosophy. I have been incredibly excited to share this organization with you but of course I ordered some coffee and wanted to have the chance to try it first. A business is only as good as its product even if it does serve a good purpose and I didn’t want to plug an organization with bad coffee. My coffee arrived last Monday and on Tuesday morning I woke up eager to get it in the pot! First let me say, it smelled wonderful. I’m not a coffee connoisseur, I can’t tell you that it had hints of berry or tinges of chocolate, but what I can tell you is that it was delicious and I have officially made the switch to Three Avocados Coffee. It was bold and flavorful, fresh tasting, and held up well to the amount of cream I like to use. Good thing I bought three bags! The coffee is organic and fair trade but not labeled as such due to the incredibly high cost of certification. As the organization grows they hope to help the coffee farmers to obtain that certification.
If you would spend $5 on a latte at your local coffee shop, would you consider spending just $9 to get an entire bag of coffee that will work to save lives in Uganda. 63 children die each day in Uganda due to lack of clean water. If that isn’t motivation to switch brands, I don’t know what is.
The organization is barely a year old and needs all the help it can get to get the word out. You can visit them on Facebook and Twitter. For every bag of coffee you purchase online through the Three Avocados website, $3.00 will go towards future water projects. The coffee in general also helps the local economy by ensuring people in Uganda have a sustainable means of income.
For your wedding: You could consider putting bags of coffee in packages for out-of-town guests or pouring the coffee in cute little containers to use as favors, put their names on it and it can be a place card too! Attach a little story of the mission and you may create a new faithful customer of this great organization!
Thank you so much Joe for sharing your story and for all the work that you do! Have a safe and fabulous trip in Uganda!