Mission Arabica is the shared vision of three friends on a mission to take our business skills and combine them with our passion to make a difference in the world.
All For One, One For All
It all started in the summer of 2012. Gabe and I had been school friends since kindergarten and had recently been throwing around possible ideas for a business to make some extra cash outside of their full time jobs. A short while later, Adam (my former youth pastor) called me up and we also started discussing possible business ideas. Because of the similar timing, I proposed to combine both ventures and the three of us decided to go into business together.
The only problem was that we didn’t really know what sort of business to start. Ideas were widespread from starting an app, to building a product, internet marketing, etc, but none of the ideas seemed to fit. We wanted to do something bigger. Something greater. Not just a business for the sake of making money, but a business that impacts lives for the better. Something we could look back on and be proud of. Where we were initially focused on what could create the greatest profit, our outlook soon became what can create the greatest impact.
Deeper Down The Rabbit Hole
Zach is another close friend of ours and he had been running an English school in Laos for the past several years. Through that time we have each individually kept in close contact with him and began to share in Zach’s passion for the Lao people.
One of the main things that became apparent was that the the Lao people were in need. According to the CIA world factbook, over 75% of Lao people are farmers and the average income per year is about $3,000. Over 30% of Lao children are considered underweight and more than 25% of adults are illiterate. There is poor access to medical facilities and anything more than basic medical procedures must be done in neighboring Thailand. According to WHO (World Health Organization) the “health status remains one of the lowest in the WHO Western Pacific Region. The relatively poor health infrastructure and inaccessible terrain in the poorest parts of the country pose significant challenges to effective health services delivery.”
More specifically to Northern Laos, when opium cultivation was outlawed by the Lao government and measures were taken to curb its production, tribes like the Hmong, Yao (Mien) and Khmu had little choice but to engage in slash-and-burn agriculture in order to survive. In this practice, entire mountainsides are cleared of natural growth and burned off. These upland fields are planted for one season and then abandoned the following year as a new mountainside is cleared, cut and burned. A new field is cut each year for up to 15 years before the original field is replanted. Planting upland rice and corn, the harvest is often barely enough to sustain the life of a mountain family. Without a replacement cash crop for opium, the mountain tribes have succumbed to extreme poverty.
What to do?
In looking for a way to help, we discovered that Laos’s other neighbor, Vietnam, is the 2nd largest coffee producing country in the world and Laos actually has better growing conditions. Additionally, we found out that pound for pound coffee is typically more than 4 times as profitable as the other crops being produced in Laos at this time.
So we decided if we could help Lao villages plant coffee in some of their fields we could then purchase the crop from them which would result in a much higher income for the Lao people. We will then roast, package, and sell the coffee in the U.S.
I Am Serious… And Don’t Call Me Shirley
In many ways, we know this is a crazy idea. Although we each have years of business experience, none of us know anything about agriculture or international business. Yet the vision of helping the Lao people is reason enough for us to push through the difficulty and learn all we can to help them. But it doesn’t stop there. Really in our minds Laos is just the beginning. As we continue to establish coffee farms, we would love to push into other developing nations to continue the work.
How Do You Eat An Elephant?
So the question then comes, “Where do we even begin?” We know one of our first priorities has to be to continue to learn about coffee, agriculture, and international business. At first we were just going to start doing this on our own, but then we realized that what we are embarking on is a pretty cool journey and we would love for you to join us. So if you want to join the journey with us, let us know by signing up for our email list below and encourage your friends to do the same on your social media outlets of choice. Also, if you are new to the site, I would recommend you check out our Start Here page for more information about Mission Arabica.
With that said, thanks for checking out our site. I hope you join the journey with us and on behalf of Gabe, Adam, and myself we all look forward to seeing you along the way!