START SMALL . DREAM BIG
I taste Burundian coffee for the first time and I fall in love (and so begins my journey to becoming a coffee snob). I bring it home for all my family and friends and they agree that it is the best coffee in the world.
I found myself at the bottom of a prayer mountain in Uganda, weeping alone in my friend’s apartment over a story about a girl who’d been horribly used and abused and died on the doorstep the next morning. (Judges 19 if you want to give it a read). “What kind of hell is this?” I heard myself mouthing at the ceiling. The response undid me. “What you are feeling for this girl you’ve never met is a fraction of what I feel for my daughters all over the world who are experiencing this, right now. It breaks my heart and now it has broken yours … and I want you to do something.”
I had just moved home from Africa and I found myself dreaming about what to do with my life, all the while with this mandate to do something for women who have been trafficked, not really knowing what that meant. Since June I had been researching the issue to try and figure out what would be most needed. My heart settled on employment — at least in the African context — much of the prostitution was driven by desperation. “I’ll open a coffee shop!” The idea hit me straight in the heart and I immediately spilled out my dream onto several typed pages and then I tucked them away because coffee shops are expensive. I hear “start smaller” — whatever that means.
I start working as a painter for my dad’s construction company … totally on track, obviously. In the meantime I try to google organizations near me who are already involved in fighting human trafficking. I kid you not, nothing came up. Nothing.
I win a contest out of nowhere that a friend told me to enter and got to attend a training course in LA for working with women in the industry. Day 1, I sit next to two ladies from Canada who run large anti-human trafficking organizations in the country. How did they not show up on google?
A friend randomly drives down a street named Wild Ginger Ave and I think to myself, “What an awesome Coffee Company name!” -- Especially considering I'm a bit of a wild ginger myself. -- This prompts the dream once again and I begin looking into getting coffee from Burundi in time for my upcoming book launch. Nothing but horrific dead ends and frustration … Again I hear “start smaller” and I just give up.
I am chatting with a friend in Burundi and find out that he knows someone who is in the coffee industry — turns out it’s his brother — and he puts us in contact right away. Within a couple months I have a sample of his coffee on my door. I communicate my suggestions for tweaking the roast to my preference.
Overwhelmed by the pressure of writing and publishing a book and also trying to start a coffee company, I had sort of pushed back the idea of ever finding a place to volunteer with women in the industry. At this time, a friend approached me and mentioned that she knew a lady at her church that actually had a church in a strip club and that I should talk to her. Of course, being in the emotional and mental state I was in, I would not contact her for almost a year.
I receive my first sample shipment from Burundi roasted to my specifications and I am elated! Maybe we can actually launch Wild Ginger Coffee at the book launch. So, contrary to what my body was telling me — you are too stressed trying to publish a book to also start a coffee company — I got to work designing logos and registering the business, even taking coffee orders for when it would arrive.
My book launch is one month away and literally everything that could go wrong has gone wrong — on both book and coffee front. I have to retract all pre-orders and inform people that I had failed, once again, and would be lucky if I even had enough coffee to serve at the launch, let alone sell. Very disappointing.
A few kgs of coffee arrive only THREE DAYS before the book launch. At this point I am completely exhausted and discouraged. By the time the launch is over I am done. Again the dream died and I entered into a season of intense burn out.
After finally meeting with the leader of the Manor Strip Club Church at some point in all this craziness, I joined the team and went into the club for the first time a few days before Christmas. The church in the Manor in Guelph was not really happening anymore and instead we were just spending time in the club with the dancers and growing together as a team.
Not over my obsession with great coffee, I purchase my first espresso machine and promptly pack it up and take it to the cottage for a week to practice. The drinks tasted good but the milk frothing was meh, and the latte art was clouds - on a good day.
I become the mad coffee scientist and start making my own syrups and drinks for the holidays. Also, the Manor Team hosts a couple from Brazil who are reaching out to women prostituting themselves on the streets of Joao Pessoa, Brazil. We watch their documentary and they instantly become like family to us.
I had lost contact with Cedric from Burundi up until this point and now miraculously find myself back in contact with him and I begin to dream again about starting a coffee company. Starting way smaller. Maybe just for small events and if I’m lucky, to sell locally. And sending part of the proceeds to local organizations like the Manor Ministry as well as global ministries such as our friends in Brazil.
I book my ticket to Brazil for October to scout out sponsoring women to learn how to roast coffee there, so I can bring it here and sell it as well. Starting small but dreaming big. In the meantime, the Manor Ministry decides to host a fundraiser for Jen and Phil in Brazil in March and I start thinking, I could launch Wild Ginger Coffee at this event.
My latte art is still a dismal failure so I take an evening milk frothing and latte art class. I basically don’t sleep for a week. Also, getting the coffee from Burundi and still a gong show, but I am determined to start doing events through Wild Ginger Coffee, even if I have to start with local coffee to do it.
We fail AGAIN to ship a large enough order to sell the coffee, but manage to figure out how to send small amounts to use for events only.
BUT, the Website is live. The brand is launched and we are ready to bring Wild Ginger Coffee to your next event. The dream is still to be able to import and sell Wild Ginger Coffee from Burundi and some day Brazil, but things rarely start how you planned. This is where we find ourselves and we will be faithful in this little while we continue to dream big.
(ALSO) MARCH 2020
In early 2020 the world was hit by the COVID19 pandemic and by the end of March most things were being shut down and cancelled. Knowing many people in our neighbourhood could use a pick-me-up -- and knowing we had coffee to use up -- we offered a one time porch delivery of lattes. It was out of control. In ONE morning we made and delivered 80 hand crafted beverages to our friends around town. (And we vowed never to do delivery again!)
We can't do events so we introduce our tasting program where individuals can sign up to be a taster for free. Every few weeks we develop a new drink we've been dying to try and then we have them taste it (porch-pick up of course) and critique it -- people love it! (It's FREE coffee, what's not to love). In the meantime we keep working on being able to roast locally!
We are miraculously connected to THE BEST, start-up, super local roaster (Small Town Coffee Co.) and he agrees to roast for us. We also make a divine connection with Long Miles Coffee and are able to roast our first samples! BIG MONTH for us!
We open our online store and sell our monthly roasting quota in 24 hours! (WHAT?!). We also give away 20 Wildly Local Boxes that support local businesses we know and love -- spoiler alert: It's a hit!
We have our first pop up cafe open to the public. Our espresso machine dies, our back up expresso machine doesn't work and we have to bring in a regular coffee machine to brew coffee so we can at least serve iced coffee. Disaster. But our people SHOWED UP and were so kind and generous and gracious that we walked away with a lot of disappointment but even more to be thankful for.
We try again. Teaming up with another local business, testing our machine before-hand and having the BEST time with the BEST weather at the BEST location. We realize that while our machine worked it certainly could be faster :)
We DOUBLE our coffee order and bring in two bags instead of one! (You guys really like your coffee -- that first bag lasted half as long as we thought)
We sold our capacity for the year before we even got to December and we were able to make our first annual donation of $489.38 to our sister organizations in Brazil and in Guelph, Ontario. We're blown away!
Last year we prayed for a miracle in order to increase our roasting capacity -- and we got one. (Visit @wildgingercoffee on instagram for the whole story - Whiskey Barrels and Miracles) On January 1st we ordered another roaster ... We are SO grateful!
We start selling FAIR TRADE Merchandise from a miraculous find of a company - The Intersection. They are Canadian and sell ONLY items that are made in fair trade factories around the world with many of their items being made by survivors of Human Trafficking.
We get the wind kicked out of our sales when we find out we need to find a new facility to bag our coffee. The lovely Becca from The86 Restaurant graciously offered us her space so we could keep going and we could have cried (Ok, we cried a little)
WE STARTED A PODCAST!
The Wild And Free Podcast features stories from survivors of human trafficking as well as those involved in the fight in various ways -- and, of course, some coffee talk for good measure.