Thankful Gleaner Case Study: Mad Priest Coffee Roasters

Mad Priest Coffee is a start-up coffee roasting business in Chattanooga. They want to craft excellent coffee, educate the curious and champion the displaced.

We were asked to help Mad Priest Coffee develop longer term solutions for how to champion the displaced while making sure that the business remains viable and committed to its core values. Through a series of discussions, Gleaner discerned that Mad Priest Coffee wants to be relational, local and enhance the status of the refugee and stranger to others, while providing help and encouragement to the displaced in practical and relational ways.

Therefore it seems clear that having a social impact is at the core of their business model. In addition to sourcing their beans ethically and providing the best coffee, their core cause is to champion the displaced and educate the public about refugees. Mad Priest Coffee has done this by seeking to hire refugees resettled in the Chattanooga area. One practical example to illustrate the founder's compassion is that when he employed his first refugee, Mad Priest realized that he needed language training. So he gave him 10 hours paid time each week to learn English as part of his full-time job. He provided the tools to do so while they both were in the shop. Another example is that the founder advocated for the refugee when his bank account was closed without notice. It is clear that his compassion is organic and part of his ethical core.

Through a process of discussion, joint discernment and our research, Gleaner proposed a particular business model that can be implemented by Mad Priest Coffee as a growth strategy immediately. It also fulfills the vision and mission of Mad Priest Coffee. Then we moved to the question of the internal process of discerning core long term commitments and issues of growth structure.

Mad Priest Coffee Club delivery service with an educational twist

Gleaner proposed Mad Priest Coffee implement a subscription based service for coffee, delivered with a short story of a refugee and their family, coupled with a recipe from the refugees home country, and a guide on how to find ingredients to make the recipe in Chattanooga.

Mad Priest Coffee currently has a stable base of wholesale clients and a good amount of regular per bag purchases. But to make Mad Priest Coffee viable sales have to increase. Gleaner found an innovative way to sell more coffee, while also expanding the impact Mad Priest Coffee has on championing the displaced. The market is competitive when it comes to coffee clubs, however Mad Priest can offer an education in coffee while also providing information and hopefully grow compassion and a greater understanding of the displaced community in Chattanooga. This makes the refugee stories all the more real, grounding Mad Priests Coffee’s product in the local community. This also differentiates their product.

The pilot for the coffee club starts in Chattanooga. Mad Priest decided to simplify the offering. They source their beans in areas that host displaced people. The service is a subscription fee-based and will be piloted by Mad Priest Coffee in Q1 of 2017. Mad Priest will offer non-blended coffee from a single region where there are displaced people. They will include an information card that shows statistics from that region on the impact of displaced people in that region.

Gleaner also recommended Mad Priest Coffee include surveys with each subscription to gain feedback on how the story may have influenced a customer's view of refugees in Chattanooga. We also recommended that Mad Priest, with the help of Bridge Refugee services, the group that helps refugees settle in Chattanooga, develop a pathway for further volunteering to help their work. This is coupled by Bi-annual events at Bridge Refugee services to which customers would be invited. We recommended the survey, the volunteering call to action and the bi-annual events so that Mad Priest Coffee and Bridge can facilitate a local conversation, but also to measure a benchmark and the success of the social impact Mad Priest Coffee was having.

Long-term commitment: A document of accountability

Mad Priest is in the startup phase. However, we encouraged the founders to write down core commitments from which they decide now that the business as it is known to its customers and other stakeholders will not veer in the future. We know that over the longer term, founders are sometimes tempted to move away from earlier commitments, particularly if money or unforeseeable future conflict causes a breakdown in the founder's relationships. Being clear from the beginning is a good strategy on how to stay committed. Another reason is customer trust. People who buy Mad Priest Coffee may buy not just the coffee but also because of the social investment they feel they are making in championing refugees.

We also encouraged these core commitments to be realistic in scope because we do not want to encourage the founders to jeopardize their business and by extension the social mission.

While this core commitment document is not a legally binding commitment, it can be used in the future as a basis for a legal document. Should Mad Priest Coffee want to move away from a sole proprietorship or LLC and become a B Corporation to ensure that if the company is sold, the core commitments continue to be part of the brand.

We helped facilitate the process of writing down the core commitments. However, we are not a legal service. Should Mad Priest Coffee want to move towards the B Corporation model, we can facilitate this process with legal advice.

The document is private.

Growth and Responsibility: Developing a strategic plan for growth with mission in mind

In the long run, Mad Priest Coffee has the desire to grow to champion the displaced not just in Chattanooga but other parts of the country.

We suggested a cooperative model of franchising. When the appropriate time comes the legal agreements would have to be written up by lawyers which Gleaner can facilitate.

How could the cooperative franchise be structured? Once an employee has been working at Mad Priest Coffee for long enough to understand how to run the business (following an apprenticeship model) and if the employee desires, they can take the brand to another city and build a Mad Priest Coffee roasting business based on the same principles written up by the founders. Mad Priest Coffee retains ownership of the brand. Each franchise could be owned by a former employee or apprentice, but part of the licensing agreement to the brand is a commitment to the core values of Mad Priest Coffee.

A further requirement of the license is a fee to help support future franchises startup and to pay for Mad Priest Coffee founders time and an appropriately leveraged percentage of profits which would go into a common fund. This cooperative fund would be used to further the mission to champion the displaced. For example, it could be used for employee benefits, such as to support English language education, or as a source to fund other social enterprises and nonprofits with a focus on refugee well-being.

The fund would be owned cooperatively by each franchise owner. The funds would be distributed per agreed upon goals and causes by a majority vote of the franchise owners. Initially, the full ownership of the fund would belong to the founder of Mad Priest Coffee, but as the cooperative expands, responsibility for the fund shifts away from the founder and more responsibility is given to franchise owners cooperative. This will ensure a healthy and timed decrease in the original founder's responsibility and control and will be reflected in vote power distribution.