Pura Vida Coffee

Pura Vida Coffee The preferred brew at houses of worship

Pura Vida Coffee counts churches of many denominations among its key clients. Its original slogan – ‘Great coffee, great cause’ – is not only still in use today, but it has also proved to be relevant, more than ever, in the social justice age. ‘Our mission is aligned with their local and global ministries,’ says Jeff Martin, MBA ’93, one of the owners of the specialty coffee business.

How it all started and the business problem that was being addressed

‘Pura Vida Coffee was founded in 1998 as a social venture by John Sage, an early employee of Microsoft, and Chris Dearnley, who founded a church and nonprofit named FundaVida, located in San Jose, Costa Rica. 

John and Chris met at graduate school in Harvard, reconnected at a class reunion, and formed Pura Vida as a vehicle to sell ethically sourced coffee from Costa Rica. The net proceeds would then provide support for FundaVida. 

Today, Pura Vida Coffee is owned by F5 Networks founder Jeff Hussey, Donna Martin, and me. We all met while attending undergraduate school at Seattle Pacific University.  Jeff Hussey retired from F5 Networks and became an investor in Pura Vida Coffee in 2005 to add to his portfolio of caused based businesses. 

In 2012 we formed a business unit to provide office coffee service to organizations throughout Puget Sound where we are headquartered. The business problem/opportunity was that many organizations serve bad coffee for a variety of reasons and we thought we could equip them with the products, equipment and knowhow to improve this.’

How Pura Vida became the coffee of choice at churches and houses of worship

A church‘We ship our coffee to churches across the US and in our home market of Puget Sound. We also install and service brewing equipment. 

Our partnerships with Catholic organizations and other faith-based organizations have basically grown organically. For example, throughout Puget Sound, Dunn Lumber stores serve Pura Vida to their customers. The facility director of a local Catholic church enjoyed our coffee at one store and connected with our brand story, which led to Pura Vida being served at his church.' 

How the coffee business has changed since he started and the impact of COVID

Pura Vida Ethiopian coffee‘The specialty coffee business has grown by leaps and bounds since our founding in 1998.  This has obviously made the business more competitive. Somewhat offsetting this is the trend for consumers to prefer organic products and Pura Vida only roasts ethically sourced organic beans.

Pre-COVID, our business was thriving. We roasted about 600,000 pounds of Fair Trade organic beans in small batches in Burlington, WA and Concord, NC.  From 2012 through 2019 we enjoyed double digit annual growth.

Since the onset of the Delta version of COVID, many of our key customers have delayed reopening their offices of places of worship. Our hope is that in 2022, we will return to some level of normalcy.'

What Pura Vida is working on as it waits out the pandemic 

‘Refreshing our business plan. It is likely we will invest more resources in our web retail business since many coffee drinkers may continue to work from home even after the pandemic passes. Many of them prefer to purchase ethically sourced organic products delivered to their doorstep.’

Learn more about Pura Vida's products and mission at puravidacreategood.com. Photo courtesy of the Seattle Times.

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