Focusing on the 1%
I Have a Bean is a coffee business that offers a chance at redemption and helps change attitudes about previously imprisoned people returning to society — all while making great coffee.
They are dedicated to roasting phenomenal coffee beans, procuring beans at the top 1% and winning numerous taste competitions.
The company is also committed to hiring individuals released from prison, whom founder Pete Leonard notes are often considered the bottom 1% of society.
Here is some of Pete's story:
"I led a short-term missions trip to Brazil. On that trip my coffee epiphany happened. I had freshly roasted black coffee and it was great. I came home from Brazil and started a process of finding out about roasting coffee - no plans for a business - that was not on my radar. But it was on God's radar. All I was really doing is trying to find a great-tasting black coffee and eventually I got there.
"People are released from prison in the neighbourhoods all across the USA. Our goal is to put roasting plants all over so we can employ locally but on a national level it gives us the ability to do this; if you place an order today we roast your coffee today and you get that coffee today. It all happens today. We've been in several taste competitions against large local and national roasters. We've never lost a blind taste competition.
"We've got employees that have a label of 'ex-offender' but here they're producing product rated in the top 1% of coffees. We're doing that so that the quality of their work will change the perception of the public."
Here's part of Duke's story, one of their employees:
"Being in in prison and people finding out my offence would I be hireable? Would somebody want to work with me? Would they trust me when I did something that wasn't worthy of trust?
"A weekend into the job, Pete pulled me into the office and of course I'm very nervous as to why he wanted to talk to me in the office but he presented me with a key. A key to the back door and said if you're showing up this early you need a key to get in to start your day and I just broke down in tears. Here I am in the first week and Pete trusted me enough to give me the keys."
Pete knows he's making a difference - seeing people's lives transform whilst having the opportunity to make a living.
Watch this 7 minute video for more insight:
Is there something similar in the UK?
There is a recent start-up in Oxford - New Ground Coffee which roasts high grade, speciality coffee in Oxford and uses it as a vehicle for ex-offenders to train and gain employment across the Thames Valley. They buy quality and ethical green beans and roast them to bring out the unique characteristics of each coffee. They use profits to fund training and guide ex-offenders into a long term, sustainable future in the coffee industry.
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