As a Global Studies major in college, I (Emily) needed to do an internship abroad (how terrible). My primary interests were a hybrid cross between coffee and economic development. Almost immediately, I found a small fair trade certified coffee growing community in the Western highlands of Guatemala who welcomed me with open arms. My mission was to write a thesis paper on applied Fair Trade Certification and the resulting effects.Living there gave me an entirely new perspective on development. It isn’tgiving money to “charity” without due diligence. It is committing to a small group of people for the long run, working to understand the culture, and training them and encouraging them to pull themselves out of poverty.
The community I lived at was comprised of 36 inspired families who have worked together to build a school, a garden, a van, a building for ecotourism, a better system for processing coffee, and a democratic ideology.
I came home inspired but not equipped. So I spent a few years in the working world: roasting coffee, being a barista, doing non-profit community development in Haiti, etc. In 2011, my coworker at the non-profit organization, Matt, told me about his new entrepreneurial idea: starting a coffee shop in the cities that operated as a non-profit to help coffee farmers. Wow. Talk about right place, right time. Magic happened and From the Ground Up was up and running in a matter of months.