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The Beginnings: Café Campesino founder Bill Harris has a story about choosing be

The Beginnings:
Café Campesino founder Bill Harris has a story about choosing between a house and a coffee bush in
rural Guatemala. He had been president of a family grocery wholesaler that had redesigned the
company to be a strong restaurant food provider because of changes in the industry. Although
successful in this business, he decided that he wanted to do something different and resigned from the
day to day operations of the company. During his hiatus from a full-time job, he decided to travel with a
Habitat for Humanity group to built homes for people in a rural and mountainous area of Guatemala.
While clearing the property, they dumped a load of dirt on a coffee plan in the area. When the farmer
saw what happened, he became irate, and told the crew to stop building the new dwelling because the
coffee bush was more important to him. After a long discussion with the farmer, and the promise to
damage no new plants, work resumed.
Bill could not stop thinking about this: the farmer was willing to give up a new house to protect one
bush. He investigated and found that most of the farmers had 10 acres or less, each bush produced
about 2000 berries, and the farmer received about 50 cents a pound of coffee produced. There were
millions of these type of small coffee farmers, and they were at the mercy of traveling buyers of coffee
who dictated a price that was much lower than what was generally supported by the market.
He continued to investigate solutions to this problem, and in 1997, there were a few others in this U.S.
who were pondering a solution of the problems for these small impoverished farmers bandying about
the term “fair trade.” Bill created a company called Café Campesino which literally translated from
Spanish meaning “coffee from a small farmer.” In 1998, Café Campesino imported 40,000 pounds of
green coffee beans using the tenets of fair trade by purchasing from agricultural cooperatives (coops) of
groups of small farmers to band together and get a premium in price for their crops.
These actions eventually led to a group of roasters who started Cooperative Coffees that began regularly
importing green coffee beans directly from the farmers coops that annually increased their imports of
coffee to the U.S. The group was successfully supporting those small farmers, but at this point, Bill
needed more companies selling the roasted coffee beans to consumers. This is where Café Campesino
again pivoted and became the company it is today.
The Modern Café Campesino: Who and What They Are
Bill needed more coffee roasted and sold to meet the supply being imported. He recruited his brother
Lee, a successful restaurateur, to move from Tallahassee, Florida, back to Americus, Georgia. Using his
culinary skills, along with training from other roasters, Lee was successful in developing techniques in
roasting coffee. Also, Bill was still working with Cooperative Coffees to import green beans from coops,
and he needed to someone to run the day-to-day operations and plan for a strategy for growth in the
future. He became friends with a Habitat volunteer, Tripp Pomeroy, who like Bill had decided to break
from his career in restaurants and mutual funds, and the third partner in the new Café Campesino was
Bill and Tripp traveled the Southeast extolling the virtue of fair-trade coffee along with the benefits for
the environment for organically grown coffee talking to civic groups, coffee shop owners, and retailers
about the advantages of buying their coffee and delivering the message that their coffee was “crop to
cup” and showed value to customers of buying their coffee. Lee was hard at work developing different
roasts with his unusual combination of trained chef and roaster by developing many different roasts
that were well received by the people drinking their coffee. They had loyal customers including coffee
shops, retailers, and individual customers buying from their web site.
Americus & Sumter County, Georgia
Bill and Lee grew up in Americus, and Tripp was a transplant who loved the area. The area had thrived,
but like much of Southwest Georgia, the traditional manufacturing companies were closing, and the
economy sputtered. Just like supporting farmers in rural areas in other companies, the trio wanted to
stay in the area support the town that they loved. Tiny Sumter County, population about 20,000, did
have a history of success. President Jimmy Carter was born and raised in Plains – a small town in Sumter
County – and he and his wife Rosalyn continued their community service after his presidency including
the Rosalyn Carter Institute for Caregiving located on the campus of Georgia Southwestern State
University campus. In 1942 Clarence Jordan established Koinonia Farms in a rural area of the county as a
communal farm where all races were welcome. Koinonia resident Millard Fuller and Jordan started a
group to provide African Americans in the area home ownership, and Fuller later moved to nearby
Americus to start Habitat for Humanity. Although Café Campesino would have probably been more
successful moving to Atlanta, the organization maintained the long tradition of service by staying in
Americus. Each of the owners strive to have a social mission of service to the Sumter County community
in addition to their support internationally of small farmers.
The Cooperatives
Café Campesino through Cooperative Coffees have a relationship with 13 different small farmer
cooperatives spanning Colombia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, and
Sumatra. Bill and Tripp have traveled and met many of the farmers and administrators of these coops,
Fair Trade Coffee
There was some disruption in the market when Transfair USA, the certifying organization Café
Campesino was aligned with at the inception, decided to part ways with Fair Trade International and
announced their “fair trade for all.” This policy changed the players in the fair-trade hierarchy and got
away from coops and instead worked with larger plantations to pay their workers more. They changed
their name to Fair Trade USA, and because of this policy shift, larger coffee companies could import
coffee using the fair-trade moniker. Many independent roasters parted ways with Fair Trade USA, but
they still designate themselves fair-trade using a different certification process. The result of this is that
the term “fair-trade” might be confusing to some consumers. Bill said in a discussion with students that
for 20 years he had grown his coffee company by spouting the benefits of fair trade, but in the future,
his company needed to find other ways to differentiate themselves from the growing fair-trade moniker
that now pitted him against much larger organizations with the same designation. They are now
members of the Fair Trade Federation.
Organic Designation
Café Campesino, through their importer Cooperative Coffees, went through an arduous process by the
USDA of getting their coffee labeled organic, and they promoted that to groups and potential customers
when selling their coffee. It’s interesting to note that when Bill was asked about the taste difference
between organic and non-organic coffee, his response was because of the roasting process, there was
no difference. He went on to point out that the reason for the organic labeling was to protect the
drinking water downstream from the mountainous regions where the coffee was grown. It’s an
important part of the company’s sustainability pledge to their customers.
Shade Tree Grown
The Shade Tree designation to coffee is also part of the sustainability pledge to customers. During the
growth of coffee demand, governments offered farmers incentives to cut down vegetation and rain
forests to have fields of coffee plants without shade. Without this canopy along with extensive tree root
systems, the soil cannot absorb rainfall and soil erosion is hastened since much of coffee is grown in
regions with steep slopes. Also, chemicals are required since many nutrients in the soil disappear
without the foliage. Many companies also call this “bird friendly,” and the environment for organic
farming is greater when small animals and birds can be natural pesticides.
B Corporation
Café Campesino went through a process to be recognized as a B Corporation. In their website, Café
Campesino lists the reasons why they sought this designation:
1. Businesses can be a Force for Good in the World
2. Transparency and Accountability are Essential
3. It’s Fair to Farmers that we also submit to Third-Party Audits
4. Our Customers Care
5. We Can Inspire Others to Join Us
Joining this group, they are not only accountable to their shareholders, but also to their customers,
suppliers, and their employees. They submit to third-party evaluation to these groups with respect to
how their suppliers (coops) are treated, and they open their books to their employees. Because of this,
they can assure their customers who value sustainability and act ethically as a company to all
Café Campesino’s Customers
Café Campesino sells wholesale to coffee shops, markets/retailers, restaurants, universities and
hospitals. They also sell to organizations for fund raisers for resale. To individuals, they have a thriving
internet business.
Whether wholesale or retail, the customers have to value the company’s standards of free trade,
sustainability, and commitment to all stakeholders – and the understanding that there is a cost to that
type of product. And just like a fine wine, the typical customer of Café Campesino also appreciates the
unique roasting, taste, and freshness of the coffee. Usually, they will roast the coffee within 48 hours of
orders being filled.
Café Campesino’s Products
As described earlier, Café Campesino only purchases their coffee beans from small community farmers
as their website states, “we have known for years.” Currently, they have 41 different choices of different
roasts including differences in acidity, body, regions, roast levels, blends, and single sources. When
ordering, the customer can actually check to see the exact region and batch the beans are sourced
similar to purchasing a fine wine.
Café Campesino has great loyalty among their customers and do not suffer greatly due to customer
dissatisfaction with their product. These customers do value their company philosophy, but they also
appreciate the quality and taste of their roasts and the freshness of the beans. Bill feels that there is a
trust between current customers and the company that their purchases do good for the environment
and the stakeholders.
They have also created an environment where their employees are very supportive of the company. One
of the ways this is achieved is that they open their books to all employees showing the profit/loss in all
issues, and the employees both promote the product and work to minimize unnecessary expenses.
Café Campesino has trouble communicating to their target market(s). The company feels that if buyers
of coffee who also value the philosophy of the company know about their products, they have a good
chance of selling to them.
With some attempts, they have had miscues on how to get their product in front of their potential
customers. A good example is that they secured shelf space with a national chain regionally with great
fanfare. It was not a success because without knowing the Café Campesino story, and a great number of
competing products on the same shelves, their product was not purchased. As described above, the
trust between the customer and the company cannot be established in this environment.
Learn more about Café Campesino:
Case Instructions:
Bill has asked you to help him find ways to promote his coffee to customers who will purchase coffee
online for personal use. One of the great successes his company had in promoting their product to
customers was to sponsor Bikes Across Georgia. Café Campesino operated a mobile coffee shop that
followed them around, sold cups of coffee each morning, and they still have loyal customers who
routinely order coffee from them each month. They have learned that if they can get their message to
end users, and they order bags of coffee on the Internet, many turn into regular customers.
You should think about groups of customers that you can segment and choose a target market. After
choosing a target market, you should develop a plan with budget to recommend to Bill along with a
method to measure success.
If you are unsure how to proceed, ask questions and discuss it on hands up. The report should look like a
professional business report, and be no shorter than 2500 words.

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Café Campesino founder Bill Harris has a story about choosing be appeared first on essaynook.com.

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