Social enterprise founded by Earlham grads wins international award
February 07, 2018
Bean Voyage, a non-profit social enterprise founded by young Earlham College graduates, has won the Grand Prize in the Facebook Social Entrepreneurship Award. This international competition for companies dedicated to the social good is co-sponsored by the charity, One Young World. Bean Voyage was represented in the competition by Abhinav Khanal ’16, who co-founded the company with fellow Earlham students in 2014.
The award carries with it $55,000 worth of Facebook ad credits and executive mentoring from Carolyn Everson, vice president for global marketing solutions at Facebook.
Based in Los Santos, Costa Rica, Bean Voyage provides training and market access to women coffee producers so they can skip the middlemen, earn more income and lead sustainable lives.
According to the award announcement published by One Young World, “the enterprise was inspired by the intersectionality of two key issues within traditional coffee trade: inequitable distribution of revenue and gender inequality. The high price of specialty coffee in the market is not reflected in the income earned by smallholder farmers as they earn less than 10 percent of final retail price even though they do 80% of the work in producing the coffee cherries.
In addition, women farmers do 70-80 percent of the work in coffee production but earn 39 percent less income than their male counterparts which then restricts them from further expanding their farms or spending towards the educational, healthcare and sanitary needs of their families. Even the alternative, fair trade, has proven to be unreliable as research has confirmed that farmers earn only 15 percent more revenue than their previous earnings. The problem is not about creating fair payment systems but addressing the larger issue of agency.”
“We're humbled by the support and confidence of Facebook and One Young World in our mission and efforts,” Khanal says. “We’re at a crucial junction as a social enterprise to maintain the balance between our efforts in the community, including the enrollment and training of farmers, and ensuring sustainable demand for their coffee in the market.
“This award will provide us with the opportunity to build our capacity on the market side of things,” he says. “Not only will the credits help us to further expand our audience and reach, but we will also have an opportunity to learn from Facebook's VP of Global Marketing Solutions, which will be highly valuable in building our capacity as Co-founders of this venture.”
Bean Voyage provides women producers a yearlong training in the production, processing, roasting and cupping of organic coffee. After training is complete, Bean Voyage shares the coffee with consumers around the world through an e-commerce platform (currently in the U.S and Germany). The success of the program allows the company to promise participating farmers a 300 percent increase in revenue.
In announcing the award, Everson, the Facebook marketing executive, expressed great excitement at Bean Voyage’s potential to change lives for the better, and praised the company’s “proof of concept,” which is currently playing out on small farms in Costa Rica.
The company was started on Earlham’s campus in 2014 by a team that included Khanal, Sunghee Tark ’16, Sohrab Amiri ’16, Bryan Tipton ’16, and Victor Zuniga ’17. Khanal and Tark are currently leading the venture along with a team of five part-time staff members based in the U.S., Costa Rica and Germany.
In winning this international competition, Bean Voyage (which represented Central and South America) bested entries from Africa, Asia and North America.
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Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success.
Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and firstname.lastname@example.org.