entrepreneur

HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD :: WITH COFFEE COLLECTIVE

photos by Jack Fussell

photos by Jack Fussell

What if someone were to tell you that you could change the world?  Would you want to do it?  Klaus Thomsen is a man who visited coffee farms after winning a barista championship and saw the destitute situation in which the farmers were living.  Compelled by their need, he decided to try to change the world of coffee beans. 

The Coffee Collective is one of Copenhagen's top cafes, but it isn't just famous to Denmark.  World renowned among coffee lovers, The Coffee Collective, is beloved because of it's initiative to change the lives of coffee farmers and the relationship between roasting and the consumer.  We recently sat down with Klaus Thomsen, one of the owners of Coffee Collective and shared a cup of coffee (of course) and heard more about this amazing company.

It’s difficult to talk about the Coffee Collective without talking about our focus on the farmers.
— Klaus Thomsen

What inspired you to start The Coffee Collective? "In 2006, I won the Barista world championship.  As a result of this I was able to travel to origin farms and was deeply moved by the lives and struggles that these farmers live with. I was able to leverage this influence to begin giving talks on the coffee industry, particularly how it relates to the life of the coffee farmers."

How did you to start The Coffee Collective? "During this time, three of my good friends and I were all working for the same coffee company.  We were all deeply involved in coffee with various levels of experience.  I was giving talks as a coffee expert but I was no longer growing as a barista and coffee lover. Soon after, the four of us began to talk and dream up a new company.  In 2007, we started the Coffee Collective roastery in a little shed near the airport. Then in early 2008, we opened our first Coffee Collective Cafe in Nørrebro." 

We also saw that something was fundamentally broken with the sourcing of coffee. The system is not beneficial to most farmers and we wanted to change this process with our company.

Klaus, what is the Coffee Collective? "We are a roastery, have three coffee shop locations, a wholesale business and also offer coffee education. Our purpose is to share our coffee experience with others in a way that increases income for our farmers." 

Our passion for the farmer is at the center of everything we do.

What is the strongest distinctive of The Coffee Collective? "Our goal is to move beyond fair-trade, cut out the middle man, and establish direct trade with the farmers we work with. We do pay a substantially higher price for the beans that we purchase but we’re also able to ensure that the quality is higher and that the money is going directly to the farmers. A vital part of this process is to establish a relationship with the farmers, so once a year we visit the farms and spend time with the farmers. We also post our purchase price on the consumer bags so that there’s accountability in our pricing. Our hope is that we can not only offer great coffee but also change the world. The majority of the coffee farms lie within the world’s poorest nations."

By utilizing direct trade we can directly influence some of the poorest economies globally. This is why we all look forward to work each day.

How has your story prepared you for this? "I grew up in the countryside on a family farm and have always appreciated the agricultural side of things.  I love seeing the connection between soil and table and how the two are truly interconnected.  When we came together to form the Coffee Collective it was vital that we shared these values and they are at the core of our business.  I have visited over 40 coffee farms since we started and each visit reaffirms that the soil side of coffee is just as important as the table or cafe side."

So, the real question that some of you may be asking now is, "Has he done it?  Has Klaus changed the world?"  The answer is yes.  By joining with three friends who shared his passion, Klaus has begun a revolution within the coffee world.  Not only have his farmers' lives been transformed by the increase in wages and education, but Klaus' passion is so great that is has spread among the coffee industry globally.  

We are absolutely encouraged by Klaus' initiative and passion.  Klaus came from a family of farmers and he has used his knowledge to make the world a better place.  That is pretty awesome. 

follow Coffee Collective here...

Trust your Instinct with Mikael Colville-Andersen

Mikael Colville-Andersen is one of the world’s leading experts on global urbanism.  He’s a photographer, cyclist and urbanite who travels the world delivering keynote addresses and consulting with cities all over the globe.  We became acquainted with Mikael a few years ago when we were researching what life is like in Copenhagen prior to our own move to the city and found his blog, Copenhagen Cycle Chic.  In addition to this blog he also leads the Copenhagenize Design Company, which consults with cities around the world about creating a cycling culture.

I didn’t start off wanting to launch a bicycle culture, I simply posted photos of normal life here in Copenhagen.

Where did Copenhagenize begin?  "To be honest it all started with one photo.  I took a photo one morning of an elegantly dressed woman on a bike in Copenhagen.  I didn’t think much about it but posted it to Flickr and the response was great.  People were intrigued with what a true cycling culture looked like.  A few months later I launched Copenhagen Cycle Chic just to post photos of people on their bikes.  The blog took off and has been named one of the top fashion and street style blogs. I didn’t start off wanting to launch a bicycle culture, I simply posted photos of normal life here in Copenhagen." 

"Soon after this I realized that people were talking about the cycling culture and it made me wonder, 'What makes a cycling culture?'" I did a few photo exhibitions around the world showing bicycles and this turned into keynote addresses.  Then our consulting firm, Copenhagenize Design Co., evolved as a way of helping other cities design their spaces for bicycles.  

Why do you think you’ve been so successful?  "I think it’s because I’m not an expert and I don’t approach it that way.  I’m trained as a film maker, not an engineer or urban planner.  My approach is simple, I live in a city that is bike friendly and it’s awesome.  I can speak to cities in a way that’s more approachable and is real.  I don’t care about arguing about bike rack design or boring details, I export and expose people to the beauty of a cycling culture."  

We’re showing how a 19th century invention solves a 21st century problem.

"We’re not selling the subculture side of cycling.  We show real people, wearing real clothes moving around the city on their bikes.  It’s about cycling but not about the cycling subculture.  It’s also about the environment but not in some facts and figures type of way that most people don’t connect to.  We’re showing how a 19th century invention solves a 21st century problem."

I’m able to present my ideas and thoughts without taking their response personally, and afterwards I hop on my bike and ride home.

How do you think you’re story has prepared you for this?  "I’ve always been allowed to think freely and I have a strong hunger for knowledge.  I’ve also always had a distrust of authority, not in like an illegal mugshot of way, but more like I’ll respect your authority as long as you can teach me something. I was raised to be curious and question things and to not really care what other people think about me. All of this has helped me.  Because I’m not trained as an urban planner, I don’t care if people don’t like my ideas.  I may not have all of the education of an urban planner but I join thousands of Copenhageners on their bikes daily, and it's awesome. I’m able to present my ideas and thoughts without taking their response personally, and afterwards I hop on my bike and ride home."

We are super grateful for Mikael's honesty.  It is so inspiring to hear from someone doing such amazing, globe-changing things who is still so incredibly down to earth about himself and his mission.  Sometimes we take ourselves far too seriously.  We must be mindful of who we allow to speak into our lives, realizing that someone with a big title doesn't always know better than us.  We must trust our instinct, and believe that when we are passionate about something, people will listen.  

You may not have all the education in the world, but when something is important to you, it is vital to be honest and vulnerable, and then be willing to simply ride away without looking back for the approval of others.

we need original stories

We as humans love a good story and proof of this is never far away.  It’s common to leave a movie theater and hear people say….”The effects were great, the actors were some of my favorites and the soundtrack was epic but the story was weak.”  No amount of fluff or hype can make up for a lack of story. And at the same time we can forgive much in presentation if the story is engaging.

No amount of great animation will save a bad story.
— John Lasseter

The TV and movie industry has engaged a new way of creating shows and films over the last few years.  We’ve entered into the world of franchise movies.  If the first movie is successful, we can be nearly assured that sequels will follow, usually using a similar formula.  This sometimes results in several great films or shows, but oftentimes, the greatness of the original story gets watered down and is lost as the franchise becomes more important than story.  

The franchise demands that the same actors, composers, and director are involved and while more money may be poured into the project, the result is still an uncompelling story.  The audience suffers and is ultimately turned off by one simple fact- people long for an original story.  This world aches for better stories.  It is an inalienable compulsion in human nature to live out the greatest story possible and we are always on the hunt for inspiration.

Our lives can play out like a cheap sequel or they can be an original, inspiring epic.  It’s so easy to live a life that conforms and imitates those around us.  Our family, friends, religion, and environment, at times tells us that conformity is preferred and that trying something new or different is evil.

We believe that those who see the world differently should be celebrated, and those who see possibilities should be encouraged.  Creativity and imagination are beautiful gifts that help stir the deepest places of our souls and help us live our greatest story. 

Which stories have inspired you?  Are you living your greatest story?

Takaokami rain gear with Emma Jorn

Emma Jorn is a fashion designer based in Copenhagen, Denmark.  She’s got a very unique clothing line and is gaining a lot of attention all around the world.  Emma and I recently sat down to talk about her company Takaokami.

Emma, tell me about Takaokami….Takaokami is my collection of feminine inspired bike-friendly rain wear. Not only is the line designed with feminine elements but is also practical,  for example the riding skirt is longer in the front than in the back so it will cover the legs but not get caught in the chain.

What inspired you to create your rain gear? I had an internship for about 6 months and needed to ride my bike about 45 minutes one way through the rain and winter weather. Each day after my ride I spoke with other designers about the fact that there was no rain wear that had a feminine look and design to it. We were all getting wet and not looking feminine at the same time. So I decided that I would create some feminine bike-friendly rain wear.
I often think that the road to creative ideas is found in our own frustration. I was frustrated with the lack of feminine bike-friendly rain wear while at the same time trying to come up with my final project for design school. The answer was combining the two and creating my own clothing line.

I often think that the road to creative ideas is found in our own frustration.
— Emma Jorn

How were your designs inspired? I spent some time in Japan and was truly inspired by the way they design their rain wear. It rains quite a bit there and the first time it rained I was amazed at what people were wearing. I didn’t just see utilitarian style rain wear but a wide range of styles including feminine designs. They truly embraced beauty and style in both their rain gear and umbrellas.
When I returned from Japan I was determined to make better rain gear for women so I started studying what people’s pain points were. I watched where the rain was hitting as I rode my bike. I thought through all of the different aspects of what it means to cycle in the rain and tried to design rain gear with this in mind. I then added simple details to the gear to make it more fashionable.

How did your background prepare you for this? I grew up drawing and my home was always filled with art and crafts. We were encouraged as children to create with our hands. As I got older this turned into a love for art and costume design. I truly love fashion, I love a good pair of high heels but I also love the practical side of clothing. The rain wear is a great combination of fashion and practicality.

Emma is selling her rain gear on her website Takaokami.

MODEL CATHARINA BERMAN, PHOTOGRAPHER JACK FUSSELL, ALL PHOTOS