By Polly Keary, Editor
It all began in Monroe 23 years ago. That was when Christian Kar built his very first drive-thru coffee stand near the intersection of U.S. 2 and Main. Called The Espresso Connection, it was the first of what became a chain. Then Kar went on to open a roaster called Silver Cup Coffee that supplies many wholesalers and has won significant awards.
Now he wants to change the world one cup of coffee at a time. And he’s starting a project to do just that, beginning at a stand right across the street from the same coffee stand that kicked off his career in caffeine.
Kar had been in the coffee business for many years when, in 2007, he got an opportunity to go on a short mission trip to Kenya.
“It was a world-altering experience,” said Kar. “Everyone knows these conditions exist, but it’s different to see it up front.”
He wanted to do more to help Africa, but the recession struck, and like many business owners, he turned his attention to riding it out. But then a friend gave him a book by the president of international charity World Vision, and it reignited his desire to serve.
“It has a big call to action, that we all need to get moving,” he said. “We all know these problems exist, and we have two hands and interested hearts, so let’s do something.”
Kar answered that call to action by calling World Vision itself, attracted partly because 85 percent of World Vision’s budget goes directly to philanthropic work.
“I said, ‘I’ve got this coffee company and I’d like to help,’” said Kar.
The people at World Vision figured out a plan to make Kar’s coffee company pack a big punch. They are involved with a number of philanthropists and donors who will match funds, and eventually, they worked out a five-to-one grant system such that, for every dollar Kar’s business generated, about 20 cents went to charity and turned into a dollar for World Vision.
So Kar set up a line of coffee called One Cup, and dedicated that line entirely to the charity effort.
“We spent the next few years learning and marketing and we built the website initially to individuals, and for home use, and we set up a subscription, an ongoing shipment that arrives on the doorstep and you can manage it like Netflix,” said Kar. “It didn’t quite catch on fire. We thought like it would be a viral thing, and everyone would tell everyone. Well, it was much slower.”
Kar sold many of the company’s coffee stands and turned most of his attention to the One Cup line. Silver Cup supplies a significant amount of wholesale coffee to coffee stands, so he switched some of them to One Cup.
“They were buying Tully’s and now they are buying One Cup, and they are spending the same amount of money, but now it’s generating money for World Visions’ work,” he said.
Still, Kar wanted to do more. And he wanted to do something for the local community, as well as for Africa. And he still had two coffee stands, including the one in Monroe.
“We thought, ‘well, we’ll make the change so that this place is a One Cup place, as well,’” he said.
The coffee would be One Cup, so that every dollar the stand spent on beans would result in a dollar for World Vision. Also, two percent of the sale of coffee drinks would go to a local charity, a new one each quarter.
The program kicks off Jan. 1, and the Sky Valley Food Bank will benefit the first quarter of 2014; Kar estimates they could get about $1,500.
It’s a fairly new business model for charity funding. Instead of being a non-profit, it’s a more-than-profit enterprise, which is a recent designation in the state of Washington.
“At the time we signed up there were only 40 entities in the state with the new designation,” said Kar. “All it means is that the ownership has decided to bake this into the charter. We exist for the shareholders and we exist for this mission.”
Kar hopes the mission will grow, and eventually could do more for both the community and other countries.
“We’d like to provide aid all over the world if it grew that way,” he said.