Growers Alliance: Care Through Coffee
March 16, 2021
With a goal of using “coffee as a weapon to cheer people up,” Purity Gikunju, a Kenyan-born coffee farmer came to the US to sell her family’s coffee.
She wanted to “bring something completely different to the US that the customer would really appreciate.” They carry four major coffees: Kenyan (their most popular choice because of the low acidity), Ethiopian, Costa Rican, and Guatemalan.
She and her partner Martin Kabaki started Growers Alliance in 2008 after realizing how much Americans love coffee. She describes their sales as “slow and steady,” but Gikunju is confident that they have a strong foundation for their business.
During COVID, the store experienced days with no customers. “The storefront was most affected, we went to 10% of usual sales,” Gikunju said.
Growers Alliance emphasizes outreach and giving back to the community. 10% of every bag of coffee sold goes to a variety of causes.
“We are actual coffee farmers, our families are still in Kenya. We wanted to take care of our families and neighboring farmers,” Gikunju said. “They are paid poorly and others take the product and don’t look back, no one takes care of that community.”
So far, they have built 16 water wells that provide 2500 families with clean water daily. In another village, “we were able to buy almost 4 acres of plain land, build a beautiful facility, and add more dialysis machines,” Gikunju said. They added about 16 machines to previous nine that now supply about 150 rounds of dialysis per week to people with no healthcare.
They also host coffee safaris, taking tourists to explore Kenya.
Locally, they partner with charities, Port in the Storm and St. Francis home. Port in the Storm helps homeless kids from the age of 4 months to 21 years old. While St. Francis Home helps homeless adults in St. Augustine. They also provided coffee to teachers and frontline workers during the pandemic.
Gikunju and Kabaki care about the community, “It’s our way of reaching out and saying hey, even if you feel like you are alone just know we are thinking about you, and we are cheering you on.”
With this principle, they have decided to return to our farmers market this year where they will sell coffee by the cup, by the bag, smoothies, and handmade goods such as art, drums, baskets, jewelry, and more.
They are so excited to come and visit us because of the “good participation” and interests that Bolles’s students and faculty have about coffee.
She advises all students, no matter their different goals and aspirations, to “find your passion and go for it.”
And, during this difficult time, Gikunju wants everyone to keep “taking care of each other as neighbors and keep reaching out and loving on each other.”