Impact Coffee student general manager Jataria Hudson, 18, shows off her company’s product – organic Ethiopian coffee beans.
Photo: Courtesy of Urban Youth Impact
Urban Youth Impact
West Palm Beach, Fla.
Objective: To teach youth how to run a business by operating a fair-trade organic coffee company, using profits to fund other projects in the community and in an Ethiopian sister village where the coffee beans are grown.
In a Nutshell: Impact Coffee sponsor and local businessman Robert Craven said the youth benefit by taking an active role in running the company, rather than merely standing back and watching.
“The Impact Coffee [students] are mentored on how to run a business in a real business-building environment,” Craven said. “The kids running this company make all the day-to-day decisions – i.e. sales, marketing, fulfillment, supplier relations, etc. – supported by businesspeople who can share their passion.”
At present, the company is not profitable, but when it is, Craven envisions using the money from coffee sales to cover college scholarships for the students and for other community programs at Impact Coffee’s parent organization, Urban Youth Impact, a faith-based nonprofit for West Palm Beach’s underserved youth population. Already, a portion of sales income is being sent to Ethiopia, Craven said.
Where It Happens: Impact Coffee has a temporary office – with a desk and nearby inventory room – at Urban Youth Impact’s community center while the company waits for the renovation of what will be its permanent location elsewhere in the building.
When It Began: Urban Youth Impact was founded in 1997, and Impact Coffee began in October of last year.
Who Started It and Who Runs It: Former golf pro and present-day minister Bill Hobbs started Urban Youth Impact; Impact Coffee began under the leadership of Craven, who volunteers several hours every week to work with the students.
Overcoming Obstacles: The primary obstacle right now, according to Craven, is a lack of funding to hire a full-time director to oversee Impact Coffee. “The community foundation, which has given us our capital, does not specify a use of funds for that [supervisor] position,” Craven said. “We thought we could do that through volunteers, but what we’ve learned over the past six months is that we really need a dedicated director full-time to really blow it out to the next level. We really need someone with business skills and a real passion for mentoring who can come in and work 40, 50 hours a week.”
Craven said he has reached out to another organization to help develop a long-term business plan, including recruiting other groups to fund a full-time director’s salary. Three or four potential groups have been identified, he said.
Cost: Annual operating budget of roughly $30,000.
Who Pays: The Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties awarded Impact Coffee a $95,000 grant to cover the operating budget for the first three years. Revenue from coffee sales, ideally, would also fund the operation in the future.
Youth Turn-On: For Jataria Hudson, Impact Coffee’s 18-year-old student general manager, the experience gives her training for the real world. “I find it intriguing to be a young GM of a junior company, because I am able to observe a company at work,” Hudson said. “Since my dream is to own my own business, this is a good opportunity to learn firsthand.”
Youth Turn-Off: Though they are showing promise, Craven said his two employees are somewhat hesitant to explain the company’s mission to customers. “We are pushing them a little bit to push out and sell – to push out the message to people,” Craven said.
Research Shows: No research has been conducted to measure Impact Coffee’s results.
What Still Gets in the Way: Craven said the company is not generating enough sales yet to sustain it and cannot afford to hire a full-time adult supervisor to expand the program. “Our main problem would be sales and funding for a full-time operator who can take hold of the business while the young adults are in school – someone to oversee the managers and guide them in this field,” he said.