Cura Coffee Co, a San Diego-based startup, sells a direct-trade, premium organic coffee that directly connects coffee lovers with the farmers who produce it. Along with other recent business models to emerge from THRIVE Farmers and TOMS Roasting Company, Cura's goal goes beyond ensuring that the farmers earn a livable wage: In addition to fair trade pricing, 10 percent of sale proceeds go to the company’s primary mission of offering sustainable access to dental care for the remote farming communities who produce the coffee, first in the remote hills of Nicaragua and eventually in other remote communities around the world. We talked with Cura’s founder, Dr. Thomas Fitzpatrick, to learn more.
SB: How does Cura work? What is the revenue model?
Thomas Fitzpatrick: Cura was established to connect coffee lovers with the farmers and families who harvest the coffee beans — we want to create local and global impact through simply enjoying coffee. Cura gives 10 percent of the revenue from sales of coffee to Foundation for Worldwide Health (FWH) to help expand dental care to this remote, coffee-farming community. We also built out an online platform for individuals and organizations to sell Cura Coffee and receive 20 percent of revenue toward their fundraising campaigns. That is in addition to the 10 percent donated to FWH.
SB: How is Cura different from other coffee retailers, or from purchasing fair trade coffee at a grocery store?
TF: Cura is different in that there is a direct relationship in not only paying a fair-trade price but directly opening up access to much-needed dental services to farmers and their families. We are excited to partner with local causes to help empower them to provide greater services and goods to underserved populations.
SB: Tell us about your team.
TF: I am a general dentist in San Diego, CA — I began providing care in Nicaragua as a dental student in 2003 and have been leading the team since graduating from LLU School of Dentistry in 2006. The dental services and training is provided through Foundation for Worldwide Health, which was established in 2005 to focus on helping train and equip locals and empower them to provide care on a regular basis. Dr. Mark Carpenter is a founder of FWH and a general dentist in Redlands, CA. He brought down a small group of students from Loma Linda University School of Dentistry in 2000 and has continued to organize and lead the teams on an annual basis. Dr. Tom Rogers is also a founder of FWH and a professor of restorative dentistry at LLU School of Dentistry and began leading the dental team in 2003.
SB: Why Nicaragua?
TF: The mission is to expand sustainable dental care to remote communities who have little or no access to services both locally and globally. Nicaragua is the 2nd-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere — nearly 70 percent of the population lives on less than $2/day, so many don’t have access or can’t afford dental care.
SB: What impacts have your efforts created to date?
TF: We began providing dental care in a remote community about 1.5 hrs outside the capital city of Managua in 2000. We have expanded into operating five clinics and bringing down a team of nearly 60 dentists and dental students to work side by side Nicaraguans on an annual basis. We have formed multiple collaborations with local providers and the dental school in Managua called Universidad Catholica (UNICA) to sustain the services on a regular basis. Since 2008, we've seen nearly 4,500 patients and performed more than 7,700 procedures through the FWH.
TF: We are currently working with one cooperative called Tierra Nueva Union of Cooperatives, which has 650 families who contribute to the efforts of Tierra Nueva Co-op. The current geographical reach includes the remote coffee-growing communities around the Boaco region of Nicaragua.
SB: You reached your fundraising goal on Indiegogo last year. How else has the company been funded?
TF: We raised slightly over $10,000 through Indiegogo — the funds raised helped to pay for the first shipment of green coffee beans from the Tierra Nueva Cooperative. Part of the proceeds also helped package the roasted coffee into Keurig-compatible single-use cups. The remaining funding has been funded through friends and family.
We are also partnering with local organizations and individuals who are raising money for many different great causes. An organization or individual can enter their name and email address, which will generate a unique link. That link can be broadcasted through social media and email to inform their audience of the opportunity to join in the fundraising campaign by clicking on the link and purchasing coffee. Each purchase can be tracked by that unique link and 20 percent of the revenue will be donated to the fundraising campaign. More information can be found on the fundraising link on our website.
SB: Will Cura be available in stores in future?
TF: We will explore opportunities as they arise.
SB: What’s next for Cura?
TF: The next steps are to continue to partner with local nonprofits and individuals trying to raise money for amazing local charities and cause-related organizations. We have partnered with Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Rady Children’s Hospital, Make a Wish Foundation, and Veterans Village Dental Clinic, and we are discussing opportunities with Arthritis Foundation and Alzheimer’s Foundation. We are also finalizing details to become the campus coffee of Point Loma Nazarene University.
Coffee lovers continue to brag about how much they enjoy the quality of the coffee and are excited to join with our efforts to create sustainable impact both locally and globally.