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Seattle Coffee Company Uses Profits to Aid Bean Growers

Seattle-based coffee company Pura Vida's core mission is to help its bean growers in Central America improve their lives. NewsHour special correspondent Lee Hochberg reports.

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    Now, another in our series about social entrepreneurship, businesses that do good work. Tonight, a look at a Seattle coffee company that operates solely to help growers in the third world. Special correspondent Lee Hochberg reports.

    LEE HOCHBERG, NewsHour correspondent: Warding off disease is an ongoing struggle in towns like El Salse in Nicaragua. These children have faced stomach ailments throughout their young lives.

    But now a $45,000 project to provide clean water and latrines in six villages is improving health for more than 150 families.

    In the nearby town of Cerro Colorado, the Blanco family said the children and the animals aren't getting sick like they used to. The community recently blessed the latrines in church and gave thanks to the Seattle coffee company that provided them and took these pictures.

    That company is Seattle-based Pura Vida. It not only sells organic fair-trade shade-grown coffee, but it uses its profits to provide health care and education programs to the growers, fulfilling the vision of Pura Vida co-founder John Sage.

    JOHN SAGE, co-founder, Pura Vida Coffee: So we know that Americans spend somewhere between $15 billion and $20 billion every year on coffee, and if there's an opportunity to just get some small piece of that…


    From a liberal background in Berkeley, California, Sage went on to put his MBA to work at Microsoft, becoming one of the company's early millionaires. But he says that money wasn't enough for him.


    I found myself at just a stage of life where I was sort of thinking there had to be more. I'm absolutely bugged. My job is burning me out; I'm not getting enough sleep; I'm not seeing my wife and family. There's got to be more.


    He says he figured out what was missing in 1998 after his brother, a musician, died of AIDS. Sage approached Starbucks and proposed putting a gift box together with a C.D. of his brother's music and four bags of coffee with proceeds to benefit the Northwest AIDS Foundation.


    That was a very, very catalytic experience, because I think it illustrated for me what would happen if you could kind of get everything lined up, if you could deliver something that had functional value and utility, and that also gave — somebody called it a karma hit, you know, just a little bit of an afterglow that said, "Yes, I'm glad to have my coffee, and it's just nice to know that some good is being done."

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