BACKGROUND

We’ve been working on various education and medicine initiatives in Central America since 2013. Without going into too much detail – Guatemala has a very low rate of literacy and educational priority. They also have trouble getting access to proper medicine. When approached by a friend about a coffee farm that wanted to get involved in helping to solve some of the largest problems their country is facing, we had to connect with them.

While this farm had been growing coffee in the highlands of Guatemala since the mid-1900’s, they had very little brand presence and mostly focused on supporting their local community. They had a desire to rebrand themselves with the hopes of selling more coffee and, in the process, create more opportunity to have a positive impact on their country’s future.

When starting this project, no one had any clue just how positive their impact would become.

OUR WORK

  • Brand Identity Design
  • Website Redesign
  • SEO/SEM
  • Strategic Partnerships
  • Vision, Value, Culture Statements
  • Narrative Design
  • Content Creation
  • Contract Negotiation

We started with their brand. Getting everyone involved from their semi-retired owner to the families that pick the coffee, we had what we call a “Whiteboard Session”. A Whiteboard Session is designed to uncover everything that currently makes a brand great. From the coffee they grow, to the way they grow it, to the people and communities that are involved in the process. It’s also great for talking about what’s next for a brand, and where they desire to go as a team.

Through this Whiteboard process with the coffee farm, we were able to define a clear purpose statement and the brand story they really want to be telling moving forward. This fueled the entire branding project and gave us some incredible insights into where we could collaborate to help them craft real impact.

After creating a modern, clean, and approachable brand identity package (everything from logos to business cards to social media assets), we set out to apply it to a new website.

We also connected with our NGO and charity partners throughout Central America to collaborate on an in-depth impact strategy for the farm. Here are some of the areas we targeted:

  • We performed environmental studies on both their farming and roasting processes to better help understand their impact on the planet.
  • We did community surveys to better understand what their local community – who is vital in the harvesting of their crop – desired most from the largest company and employer in the remote area.
  • We analyzed new markets to sell both their raw and roasted coffees in the US and EU.
  •  We compiled government and NGO data into a country-wide census to better understand the biggest challenges facing the country.
  • We partnered with international business lawyers to attain a clear grasp into the Guatemalan nonprofit/civil association establishment law.

RESULTS

mist rising over coffee farm and rainforest

Through our advanced impact assessment and a collaborative process of over a dozen organizations in both Guatemala and internationally, we couldn’t believe what was possible for the farm through what seemed to be not much investment of resources. Here’s what we found out.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

Being an agricultural entity, the environmental impact assessment was, in the farm’s eyes, the most critical area of research we performed. The truly wanted to have an expansive impact across the country and even had visions of eventually helping other farms in underserved Central America build similar programs. They had never done environmental research on their farm which, for them, begged the question:

What would doing good across the country really mean if they weren’t doing what’s right at home?

Moreover, if the assessment provided bad results, they knew they were going to have to fix those related issues first; delaying their ability to have an impact further afield. Needless to say, they were nervous. We’re proud to say, however, that this was one of the most exciting results we’ve been able to share with a client to date.

Not only did they pass Rainforest Alliance certification with flying colors, but they were able to attain a carbon negative rating for their operations. This means they were absorbing more carbon, through their efficient use of the land, than they were putting out through farming it. In the sustainable farming world, this is one of the highest honors you can receive. So high, in fact, that many of the client’s team cried tears of joy when hearing this news.

COMMUNITY IMPACT

Through a survey of their community, most of which are vital to the harvesting and management of the farm’s almost 2,000 acres, we found some pretty disturbing but sadly, expected results.

It was well known to us that Guatemala faces a massive housing deficit. It is estimated that the deficit is currently 1.6 million homes and will reach 2.1 million by 2020. A lot of factors have lead to this. The country was in civil war until 1996 which left a shattered economy and an epic wealth imbalance that the country has never recovered from. In fact, little over 1% of the population owns 60% of the land.

We found out that of the farm’s nearly 50 year-round, full-time employees (this swells seasonally to almost 200), only 2 owned their own homes, excluding the owner’s family (who are part of the 1% that owned more property than their own). Moreover, we found that much of the community surrounding the farm lived in dilapidated housing, often with dirt floors and inadequate sanitation.  The farm knew they had to do something.

Through months of negotiations, and collaborations with non-profits and NGOs, the farm began to buy properties surrounding the farm. Not just the desirable ones – they made it their initiative to buy every property in the area with the intent on improving each one and selling them back to the community. They committed that day to do whatever they needed to do to change this dynamic.

Since 2016, and with the help of a global network of organizations, they have bought over 250 properties and, so far, have DRASTICALLY improved over 100 of them. They’ve begun selling them back to the community on affordable land contracts. They’ve worked with Habitat For Humanity to help expedite improvements. While this is an on-going effort, the farm has high hopes to eradicate the poverty in their surrounding communities.

“The families in this community have been vital to our success for over 70 years. We are the community. The community is us. It’s our responsibility to do whatever we can to ensure the well-being of the families that helped build us.” – Owner

NEW MARKETS

RAW COFFEE

With the help of international lawyers, customs brokers, freight companies, and US raw coffee distributing networks; we began to sell a dedicated 25,000 kilos of raw coffee to the US each month. This number is still growing.

ROASTED COFFEE

Coffee being a saturated market to the end user, we knew we had to get creative.

So, we built a fundraising program for organizations to sell their coffee – farm direct – to donors. Churches raising money for a mission trip to Guatemala could now sell coffee grown in the region they’ll be working. AND donor could elect to subscribe to get the coffee regularly, directly from the farm. So cool. Moreover, the response was amazing. After very little marketing dozens of organizations began fundraising with their coffee selling tens-of-thousands of bags of coffee to date.

Churches raising money for a mission trip to Guatemala could now sell coffee grown in the region they’ll be working. So cool.

We also developed a subscription service for the hospitality industry – i.e. restaurants, hotels, etc. This program is still growing, but as of late 2018, there were 50 enrollments in Guatemala and close to 30 enrollments in the US, ordering anywhere from 25 – 100 kilos a month.

In addition, we are currently rolling out a white label initiative for local coffee shops that want to serve their own brand of coffee, but don’t want to deal with the efforts, expertise, and overhead of roasting their own beans. More on this to come.

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Our business development efforts drastically increased their sales opportunities and introduced them to new markets, marking historic sales figures, exceeding expectations. To their credit, they have managed the swell with amazing efficiency, despite having to initiate many new systems and processes.

200

Homes purchased and in the process of being sold back to the community.

25,000

Kilos of raw coffee shipped to US EVERY MONTH

2,000

Kilos of subscription coffee sold to hospitality network in US each month

1

Rainforest Alliance Ceritfication. One of the most respected environmental protection program in agriculture.

$1,000’s

of Dollars raised each month for causes around the world. Much of which ends up back in Guatemala through service projects.

500%

Increase to Website traffic vs previous year.