The One Cup Project turns coffee purchases into life-giving aid

As the saying goes: a penny saved is a penny earned. But in One Cup Coffee Co.’s book, a dollar spent on coffee is a dollar given to others.

The One Cup Project is the brainchild of a Seattle-based social-purpose coffee roaster that runs coffee shops and serves businesses, churches, and office coffee-service providers as a wholesaler. Owners Christian and Erika Kar and their more than 20 team members combine a passion for great coffee with a heart for a world in need.

Since 2010, One Cup’s partnership with World Vision has converted simple everyday purchases of coffee into life-giving aid. One Cup donates at least 15 percent of its online sales directly to World Vision. That total is multiplied by matching grants so that every dollar spent on coffee becomes a dollar’s worth of impact on a child’s life.

“[Customers] have now become benefactors in helping children and families change their lives for good,” Christian says.

Christian and Erika got their start in 1990, just as Seattle was making a name for itself as a coffee-culture trendsetter. They built a profitable business and treated their customers and team members well. But their perspective changed drastically after traveling to Kenya in 2007 to work with community leaders to help break the cycle of poverty. Christian came back intent on figuring out how they could use their business more effectively to benefit others.

“We chose to partner with World Vision because of their outstanding reputation, expertise, and low overhead,” says Christian. “It’s been an amazing transformation of our business since then.”

One Cup’s motivation is no longer just more profit. People want to work for them because they like the business model and what they stand for, and can make enough to support their own families, Christian says. Customers like spending their money on this coffee, especially knowing the impact their purchase has on people’s lives. And as owners and drivers of the business, Christian and Erika know that growing sales has a direct correlation to growing the humanitarian impact.

“It’s not another sale I’m trying to make, it’s more impact dollars,” Christian says.

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