Monday, June 8, 2009

Doing Good One Cup At a Time

Who knew giving back could taste so good? Jonathan Golden, owner of Land of a 1,000 Hills Coffee Shop in Roswell and Atlanta, Georgia, found out his daily cup of coffee could do more than wake him up each morning.  After talking to his friend, a Rwandan bishop, about what Americans could do to help after the 100-day genocide in 1994, Golden learned that investing in Rwanda’s agriculture, especially coffee beans, could start rebuilding the life of many farmers. 


With an approved $20,000 line of credit and a used coffee roaster bought off eBay, Golden began the Land of a 1,000 Hills Coffee Shop with the mission of not only selling a rich cup of joe, but reaching out to those in need. The company’s logo was born “Drink Coffee. Do Good” and the business grew one cup at a time. Since the beginning, Golden has worked directly with the Rwandan farmers.  Land of a 1,000 Hills promised to pay a minimum of $1.26 per pound of beans when they began building their business in 2004.  This was over three times the meager 40 cents other coffee companies had been paying previously.  Today, Golden’s business consistently pays farmers an average of $1.86 per pound.


In addition to fair prices, the Land of a 1,000 Hills promises to set aside $1 for every 12 oz. bag of coffee sold for micro-finance programs.  These micro-finance programs help Rwandans rebuild their economy through micro-loans that allow those devastated by the genocide to start and improve their own small businesses.   Golden has chosen to participate in these types of programs directly by starting his own “Sustainable Cycle.”  This play-on-words is actually a fund built by customer donations that goes towards the purchase of bicycles for Rwandan farmers to help them efficiently and safely transport their goods.  Land of a 1,000 Hills currently has a goal of 250 cargo bikes, custom designed by Tom Ritchey, a pioneer in mountain biking and owner of his own bicycle design company. Customers interested in donating or just finding out more about the company can check out their website,


Land of a 1,000 Hills Coffee is a for-profit business whose message promotes healthy capitalism for the farmers in Rwanda.  Golden’s business serves as an excellent example of philanthrocapitalism, a growing trend that has recently caught the eye of many nonprofits.  Businesses like Jonathan Golden’s exercise a greater freedom to address currently social issues through the power of the consumer that the more traditional nonprofits are unable to do.


Anonymous said...

What is interesting is that no matter how many different ways and/or times Land of a 1000 Hills is asked, no one can ever get a straight answer in dollars how much goes to their so called charitable cause. At the end of the day it appears these guys are basically scamming churches with a good story to sell over priced coffee. (And honestly the coffee is pretty bad). I really wish these guys were authentic.

Lalia Helmer said...

Dear anonymous,
I am sorry that you are unwilling to reveal your identity for the sake of establishing your authenticity for making these claims.
Nevertheless it is always important to be on the alert that even businesses that claim to do good have transparency. So thank you for bringing up this important issue.