We launched 2018 with our first event, “What is an Impact Hub?” And we did so with much success! As this was my first event at Impact Hub, I loved meeting the attendees. It’s truly heart-warming to meet so many caring, passionate, thoughtful people when it seems every day we are bombarded with only negative news stories. On that note, I’d like to offer up right here, right now, an uplifting story—yes, uplifting!—about two such thoughtful people. A story of how a couple’s love of travel, coffee and community not only turned into a successful business, but how their values-based business created, and still creates, an impact for good in this world. Since we at Impact Hub Basel will focus on Social Entrepreneurs, this is a perfect opportunity to offer a glimpse of our future here…

I give you Michael and Marie from Direct Coffee…

When you hear that someone went to Ethiopia on their honeymoon, you can’t NOT take notice. Who does this?! So when I met Michael Tuil and he mentioned that, I knew I was speaking with someone quite unique. He and his wife not only chose Ethiopia as a honeymoon destination, but they loved it so much and fell in love with the people there, they decided to make this place and community a central part of their lives back here in Switzerland. In November 2015, Michael, who studied Social Business, and Marie, a Journalist and Social Economist, came up with the idea of a social start-up that combines coffee trade with positive change. Less than two months later, they had quit their jobs and were again in Ethiopia! They met with coffee farmers, found local partners for their social projects, and then selected their first batch of coffee for their new business. Only half a year after the initial idea, they were set to begin. Crazy awesome! In their 35 square meter apartment in Zürich, they began dispatching coffee to customers around Switzerland. And viola…Direct Coffee was officially born!

Truly making an impact? Let me count the ways…

IMG_0573Knowing the people who grow their coffee and ensuring they have a better life with fair prices is important to them. These are not just words to help their image. They back it up with actions.  A quarter of the sales price of their coffee remains in Ethiopia. They reinvest their profits in local projects like deworming school children, offering eye exams and providing eye glasses more affordably. This is what struck me most—how involved they are in giving back to the Ethiopian community. Well, what really struck me was that they quit their jobs and took such a bold step to make their dream a reality…Hut ab! But seriously, the social projects they’ve created and continue to support are, as they’ve put it, their personal source of motivation. To read more on this aspect of their business model, click here.

Projet social du test de la vue et des lunettes a l ecole de notre cooperative bufeta gibeAs for the environmental impacts of bringing coffee to the good people of Switzerland, well, this is unavoidable. After all, the only other option is to…NOT…drink…coffee…undenkbar! But Michael and Marie have taken steps to ensure that the impact is as small as it can be: there are no chemical fertilisers or pesticides used in the growing process; irrigation is not necessary; and the water used to wash and process the coffee is fed back into the water cycle via a natural purification tank. And to compensate for the impacts from shipping their coffee, they are working with Green Ethiopia to calculate the impact and plant trees. For a more detailed look, click here.

There are so many “little things” this dynamic duo has not only thought about, but actually provided solutions for. And they continue to try and improve even on those. With packaging, they’ve found an aluminium-free envelope (thus saving resources), and they offer a Nespresso®-compatible capsule that is 100% biodegradable! And to top it all off, the shipments are prepared by people with disabilities. Which means they not only have the pride and responsibility of a job, but they also get to dance at work! I suppose we all could dance at work, but…

Have a look at this grooviness for yourself…

If these two sound like people you’d love to learn from, you aren’t alone! Lucky for you, they’ll be a part of our March event, so make sure you register on Eventbrite or Meetup!

Or for the more coffee-curious adventurer, they offer a wonderful ‘immersive tourist experience’ to help build a bridge between farmer and consumer. Next trip is November…dust off your passport!