Philanthropy at The Roasterie

Danny O’Neil’s interest in philanthropy started early. As a kid in Iowa, he knocked on doors to sell everything from magazines to pizza dough mix to raise money for his school. Fast forward several decades to founding The Roasterie and his interest in giving back had turned into a passion that burns as bright as his love of sharing the world’s best coffees with his customers.

Over the years Danny realized that the two concepts—helping others and providing an excellent service or good—are not mutually exclusive. In terms of business practices, excellence wielded deftly can sustain and grow much more support than a good cause on its own. In practical terms, Danny wanted to make sure that it’s as easy as possible to do the right thing.

Here’s just one example. After a Herculean effort to find the greatest coffees in Brazil, Danny finally found ‘the one.’ While it was, undoubtedly in Danny’s opinion, the best Brazilian coffee, the price was simply beyond his price range. So he put his instincts for giving back to work. He asked the community about its needs; how could he help make a difference? “Daycare,” they said.

For an extra $.15 per pound, the coffee went from being a high-cost commodity to an investment with a tangible, smiling return. He was investing in humans. Before long about 60 children were enjoying their new day-care facility.

Call it serendipity, divine providence or just the immutable law of unintended consequences, but at the time there was a shortage of coffee pickers in that particular region. Now that someone in the village could provide care, education and a watchful eye over children, a number of women were now available to help pick coffee. They suddenly transformed their finances into a double-income household.

Not only does The Roasterie get a fantastic coffee, but the communities from which those coffees originate are teeming with benefits wrought from a touch of foresight.

Before long coffee buyers and producers started following Danny’s example. When workers feel fondness and gratitude—however minute or overwhelming—the quality of work improves. And not only had the quality of life improved, but the care for the product improved also. Eventually coffee companies from Italy, Germany and Japan started following Danny’s example in the areas they sourced from.

Soon a kitchen, showers and computers along with satellites for the Internet were added. Having ready access to these amenities benefited the children, families and ultimately the community as a whole. Everything from a hot meal to a modern education was provided, or at least available, at the daycare. A school here in Kansas City got the opportunity to Skype with the school in Brazil for an E-foreign exchange.

Admittedly, there were some selfish interests in doing all this. Danny’s goal was to create a stable community that could ensure such superb coffee would be there next year. Danny also changed how business was conducted by suggesting a multi-year contract agreement. With a three-year contract in place, Marcelo, the farmer, could invest in proper care of his crops even in bad years.

Danny altruistic journey has come full circle—from helping his school in Iowa to helping to build a school in Brazil. At The Roasterie we leap at the opportunity to help others. While we want to give back and improve the quality of life for all who interact with our company, we also want to make sure that such improvements aren’t just flashes in a philanthropic pan. And the best way to do that is to align our philanthropy with our own goals. By innovating in our operations, investing in human beings and helping communities we’re able to improve our own business.