From Making Coffee To Saving The World

INTERVIEWS | 5 minute read | | 0 Comments | 168 Likes

In a world of startups where success and failure is an everyday phenomenon, we’ve uncovered a man’s journey into the world of coffee, who offers a creative solution to ending the global water crisis.

In conversation with Joe Koenig, Founder of Three Avocados, about his tale of resilience for chasing his dream and saving the world one tiny step at a time.

Joe Koenig in Uganda

Could you tell us the story behind Three Avocados and how it started?

Absolutely. I first visited Uganda in 2010 with a group from my church. While on that trip, we were visiting a church in the small, remote village of Bulopa. While the offering basket was being passed around, an elderly widow placed virtually all she had – three avocados – in the offering basket.

In Uganda, the pastors aren’t paid and completely rely on what they are given by the community. That widow literally gave almost all she had so that someone else could eat. I started Three Avocados with her gift in mind and with the goal of someday being able to match her generosity…though I’m not sure we ever will.

Get started! Moving forward is better than standing still!

The story of your company began with a visit to Africa - could you tell us what drove you to that part of the world?

I was at a pretty difficult spot in my life. I was battling depression and not sure what to make of my life. I was having a beer with my pastor one night talking about life and he challenged me to raise money to build a school in Uganda. I said sure, and asked him for some marketing materials (photos, stories, etc) so that I could get started. He said the best way to get those would be for me to go. So I agreed to go.

Woman storing water in Uganda

How did the locals react to your project? Did you receive any negative feedback?

The people in Uganda are extremely generous, kind and grateful. They’re beyond appreciative for any help. We’ve not received any negative feedback. Part of that, though, is involving the community. We work with partners, who implement the projects, that invest the time to understand the needs in the community and involve the community in the process.

What was the most challenging aspect of starting your company and how did you overcome them?

I think the most challenging aspect is just how crowded the coffee market is. There are so many companies and choices out there for consumers. It’s difficult to break through the noise. We are still figuring out how to overcome it, but I’m convinced it involves telling our story, delivering amazing coffee and funding projects. I believe that, with time, our story will be told.

Tell us a bit more about the countries you work with to source your coffee and how do you help them?

So far, we’ve worked with Nicaragua and Uganda. Both are beautiful countries with amazing coffee and even more amazing people. Both are also stricken by extreme poverty due to political instability over the years. On the front-side of the transaction, farmers benefit by having access to a larger market. On the back side, we’re funding clean water projects, which impacts health, access to education, and ultimately, allows for a step up out of the poverty cycle.

“100% of our net proceeds provide clean drinking water”

Why did you chose to work so closely with Uganda and what made you choose a wateraid project?

During my first trip to Uganda, I was just amazed at the people that I met and the level of poverty that I saw all around. I absolutely fell in love with Uganda and left my heart there. I truly think it’s the most beautiful place in the world. When I returned to the states, I began researching how to make a meaningful difference in Uganda. My research led me to the fact that water really is the cornerstone to improving the quality of life and breaking the poverty cycle. At that point, it became clear what we should focus on.

Girl pumping water in Uganda

What are your plans for the future? Will we be seeing this unique blend of coffee in the global market?

This year we’ll be introducing decaf, as well as rotating in some other coffees from around the world. We’d love to be able to branch out at some point with roasting and distribution facilities throughout the world, allowing us to get the coffee on every continent.

“It's my goal to create something bigger than myself...something that can have a lasting impact on the poor, the homeless, the addicted, the less fortunate. And I ask you to join me. I can't do it alone, but together...together we can.”

Three Avocados has impacted more than 20,000 lives through its coffee sales. Do you have any advice for start-up companies who wish to support different causes throughout the world?

Get started! Moving forward is better than standing still!

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