‘Zuri, the Coffee Farmer’ by Jessica James

Image: ‘Zuri, the Coffee Farmer’ created by Jessica James ™️ 

It is now coming up to our first year and there is much reflection to be made. Since incorporating in July 2020, we have encountered many obstacles.

These obstacles have included purposeful sabotage of our brand and packaging, lies against me and our company, financial scamming and shaming, blaming and attacking of my character and our small and newly established business.

I have chosen not to address such things publicly in order to remain focused on my growth. It’s all been a huge distraction and possibly a silent consensus to put me out of business. I say this because we have been worst affected by people within the industry who have exercised bad business practice and then criticised me as the smaller business owner, as opposed to showing and doing better. This amongst other reasoning that would take time to unpack, with a deeper analysis. In my opinion, not necessary. I know what battle I am in.

To me, it makes little sense for the industry to want to put someone as pioneering as myself out of business. Ultimately, my methods are always based on adding value to the market as a whole, not just my own business.

It is with sadness that I have come to realise that there are many industry people who are threatened by my presence, but that’s okay. I am still here.

This was always supposed to be a learning experience and I have learnt a lot. The seemingly supportive community was what I thought I was buying into when I first started, but I wwas sadly disappointed.

Businesses who were completely insensitive to my position as a new company, who tried to wipe me out before I had even started, the micro-aggressions suffered ffrom those who choose to ignore me as if I do not currently exist as a going concern! So what if my business has dwindled from what was a supposedly great start? My mind has changed about how I am doing things due to the things that I have learnt, so now I couldn’t care less whether or not people want to support me based on ideals preset within this terrible industry. Most of these companies buy coffee that was produced within forced labour conditions, anyway. We are going slave-free on our coffee from today and forevermore.

I thought that this was an industry built on community and education of the consumer and farmer. I thought the institutions that are within it were acting with integrity and in support of every element of the industry that needs the additional support. 

I thought being a woman meant that I could rely on other women in the industry when things got tough.

I thought being a woman of colour meant that I could relate to other women of other cultural backgrounds and not be judged.

I thought being Black was enough to get the support I needed from my “village” of kinfolk, here in the UK, the US-based black coffee community, and those kinfolk in other parts of the world who could help support my growth; only to find the complete opposite of both of the above.

The gaslighting and the institutionalisation of it all!

Now, this is not going to be a complete rant. I have actually found a solution and will be employing the economic power of the business I am building to make this work, not just for myself but a wider community of people.

For this reason, we will be making the transition from a limited company to a social impact business and also making a significant revision to our approach to this industry, going forward.

There is much work to be done to turn this company around for good and we are now engaging you, our following to pivot with us.

We no longer want to knowingly buy and sell coffee that is derived from a slave trade. We no longer want to have our coffee beans roasted by third parties who couldn’t care less about seeing our brand succeed. We no longer want to pretend as if the discrimination and the hypocrisy is not happening.

The call to action here is to show support in whichever ways you can, helping us to turn this industry around for the better. We want to see more equitable payments for the farmers and development into their livelihoods and communities.

No longer can we knowingly profit off the backs of these people without doing better to ensure their sustainability. As a Black woman, that makes me no better than the colonisers who worked and beat my ancestors to death.

With this in mind, we have concluded that we must get to a point where we are creating a communal ecosystem that benefits the wider and local communities.

Based on this, we should have our own premises where we can roast our own coffee, would enable us to create more jobs and meet our customers in person.

One of the ways we will be achieving this is by engaging the digital art community in a series of fundraisers to help us generate funds into the business that we can utilise to help the artists within their local communities and the farmers who grow our coffee. It is an initiative called ‘The Good Coffee Art Project’ and our first event will be held online today, June 19th - otherwise known as ‘Juneteenth’. 

This date was important for us to be able to draw on the parallels between the auction of the coffee house and the auctions in the slave rooms all those years ago. 

As a woman of colour and a proud one at that, I have kept silent throughout this painful period and now as we re-emerge, my voice will be a voice for the voiceless going forward, by God’s grace…

My final message to the industry is, as Founder and CEO of a truly ethical coffee company, whether or not you want to like me or what I’m doing, there is a bigger cause at hand. I will not stand by and watch the continued ill-treatment of people who deserve so much better.

There are many times I have gone without eating for the sake of this company.

I am like those people.

You should treat me better.

As we continue to mobilise our plans to create lasting impact within the industry, we ask that those who are in support of our message and the ethics behind our brand continue to do so. The seeds we have sown within this business are sprouting and we cannot wait to share with you all :)

I’m doing things differently. Join me, if you want different for this industry too.

The End.

signed: Chantel Daniel, Founder and CEO of The Good Coffee Project ™️  and The Good Coffee Art Project ™️ 

 

Written by Chantel Daniel