In 2009, a trip to the city of Axum, Ethiopia, inspired Renaut and Brooke van der Riet to dream of affecting positive change in hard places and inviting others into that redemptive story.
Nonprofits, they knew from experience, can be challenging and expensive to start and fund. In many cases, it can take years and years of fundraising and developing relationships to make the sort of impact they hoped for. For-profit businesses, on the other hand, are often able to generate capital faster than nonprofits, and on a larger scale, once word gets out about their product. What would it look like, they asked, to combine the best qualities of both types of organizations? They talked and researched over cup after cup of coffee, and then it dawned on them: What if the answer was in their hand—or rather, their cup—all along?
Just like that, their dream crystallized into a plan: to open a coffee shop that could provide exceptional coffee, serve the community well by giving them a gathering place to develop and deepen relationships, and invite people everywhere to be a part of something bigger than themselves. With these goals in mind, Axum Coffee opened its doors in December 2010.
For the last ten years, we have worked hard to create coffee products that can compete well in a competitive industry. We have spent countless hours honing our unique roasting profile and ensuring we are able to serve the best quality coffee possible, and we are proud of our product.
In the years since we opened, we have gotten to know our customers well. We’ve been privileged to be a part of engagements and milestone celebrations. Our community and causes we support have invited us to help them set the table for meetings and to bring their loved ones together. They’ve trusted us to be a safe place where hard conversations are made easier. We have asked the people in our area to come have a cup of coffee with us, and in doing so, we have found out what’s important to them. We know what coffee they like, and we know what they are passionate about.
While we were working diligently to earn the right to invite our customers into Axum’s bigger story, we discovered their desire to help others is as big as our own. Because of their decision to buy our coffee drinks and coffee beans, we have been able to support the work of farmers around the world, both through our bulk bean supplier and direct-trade purchases from coffee farmers themselves. Together, we have been able to make a positive impact even in communities half a world away.
We consider it an honor to walk arm-in-arm with our customers into the next decade and beyond so that we can affect even more change. Every day, from the time we turn on the lights, fire up the espresso machines, and put our pastries in the oven to the moment we lock up and go home, we remember that we can only carry out our mission with their help. Their choice to come into our coffeehouses, drink our coffee, and buy our beans to brew at home allows us to continue striving to make the most change possible in any many places as we can.
And we are just getting started.
As we look toward the future, we are excited to continue offering our customers their old favorites, along with some new beans and drinks to choose from. But we are even more excited to extend to them the opportunity to partner with us in novel ways, such as through our Axum Serve program, where we’ll sit our coffee cups down for a moment to work together side-by-side in our local area.