Barista Magazine

APR-MAY 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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relationship. And through that combination, we were able to grow from 70 people at the fi rst one in 2003, to almost 600 people at the biggest one so far in 2014. [For more information about the 2018 Let's Talk Coffee event September 20–24 in Huila, Colombia, visit] CR: So in the ensuing years Sustainable Harvest continued to grow? DG: Yes. I realized that we had hit upon something where many of our customers were forging their fi rst direct-trade relationships through us, and signifi cant growth occurred, both for their businesses and ours. And we were lucky that some of our customers really grew. CR: I know it wasn't all success though, and that factors like consolida- tion brought about some challenges. How did you navigate those? DG: It's funny—my message hasn't really changed in 30 years. It's a message about farmers knowing their customers and getting profes- sional training, so that they can be their own actors in accessing global markets. In pretty much every tool we've created and every event we've done, that's been the message. So when things have gotten challenging, I've always believed in the core ideal of prioritizing what's good for both producers and roasters. And we've never had to guess—they've told us directly because we've put them all in the conversation, and brought everyone to the table in a global collaborative approach. CR: Tell me about starting the Relationship Coffee Institute founded in 2013 to help women farmers in Rwanda. DG: During times of struggle, I've sometimes questioned if it's fi nan- cially sound for a for-profi t social enterprise coffee-trading company likes ours to do as much development as we do. The fact that Bloomberg Philanthropies approached us to partner to develop the nonprofi t Relationship Coffee Institute—and that Michael Bloomberg was willing to bet on us to fi nd a solution for 3,500 women in Rwanda—was a vote of confi dence that there was something really strong in our model. That meant a lot to me. It has now turned into a six-year engagement, and we're reaching 27,000 women currently. CR: In 2017, you hired a new president and changed your role to CEO. What's your day-to-day like now? DG: My focus is just trying to help our customers really get to know our suppliers. I love bringing people together to learn from each other—it gives me a lot of energy. I'm not as involved in day-to-day operations as I used to be, which has given me a chance to visit more with growers at origin and remember why we do the work in the fi rst place. I'm really lucky to have someone like Liam Brody leading the company. I know I'm not going to be around forever, and I think it's important at my age to fi gure out how you pass the baton. No company is just about one person, and Sustainable Harvest certainly isn't just about me. It's a bigger concept that has a lot to do with people who've invested their lives into making it happen. I've been really lucky with the choices I've made so far in working on this transition without feeling like I've been forced out. CR: Sustainable Harvest will continue without you at some point, then? DG: Absolutely, at some point. Right now I'm still excited about working with people I like, moving the ball forward, and seeing people's lives across and along the chain improve. I want to keep scaling what we do, and making sure we have a company culture where the values are really clear. I think we do, and that makes me happy. I don't think this compa- ny will fade away when I leave. (Clockwise from top le ) With Paul Katzeff of Thanksgiving Coff ee—who helped fund Sustainable Harvest when the company launched—outside a B Corporation event in Berkeley, Calif., in 2016; with Michael Bloomberg at the 2016 U.S.-Africa Business Summit in New York—Bloomberg Philanthropies funds Sustainable Harvest's nonprofi t entity in Rwanda, the Relationship Coff ee Institute; with Cristian Umaña of Costa Rica's Coopeldos cooperative and Lindsey Bolger of Keurig Green Mountain at the fi rst Let's Talk Coff ee in Mexico in 2003; and with Torrey Lee from Cafe Moto, Doug Zell from Intelligentsia Coff ee, Jorge Cuevas from Sustainable Harvest, Geoff Wa s from Intelligentsia Coff ee, and Peter Giuliano (then with Counter Culture Coff ee) in Mexico in the early 2000s. PHOTOS COURTESY OF SUSTAINABLE HARVEST COFFEE IMPORTERS UNLESS NOTED PHOTO BY BLOOMBERG PHILANTHROPIES 130 barista magazine

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