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How CoffeePLUG is using technology to support Black and brown communities in the global supply chain

Cofounders Matthew Nam and Nikisha Bailey shared their story on the WURD Radio segment Speaking.

Nikisha Bailey and Matthew Nam. (Courtesy Win Win Coffee)

This story recaps our monthly radio segment on WURD Radio. Speaking airs every fourth Tuesday at 12:25 p.m. on Reality Check with Tonya Pendleton.

When Nikisha Bailey and Matthew Nam traveled to Colombia last May to judge a coffee competition with some of the biggest stakeholders in the industry, they realized they were the only Black and brown people in the group.

The duo, who run Philly-based Win Win Coffee, took the opportunity to encourage these experts to work with more Black and brown coffee farmers. 

Eventually, Nam said, they were able to aggregate 400 Afro-Colombian farmers who had not previously been on the radar for Colombian coffee trade. 

He discussed the situation recently on Speaking, a monthly segment on WURD Radio’s “Reality Check,” hosted by Tonya Pendlton.

“Why is this the first time these farmers were able to create a commercial relationship?” Nam asked. Coffee comes from mostly Black and brown countries, he said, but you often don’t see those people represented in the full supply chain. 

To help solve the disparity, they created the tech platform CoffeePLUG, which connects farmers directly to buyers: “We want to be able to somewhat reclaim coffee.”

The pair originally had a brick and mortar store in Callowhill, which they took over ownership of in 2019. The store closed during the pandemic, but they pivoted to starting a coffee roasting brand. During that process, they realized very little revenue  goes back to coffee farmers, Nam said. 

CoffeePLUG aims to create transparency in the sourcing process and make communication easier between farmers, buyers, manufacturers and other stakeholders. 

The platform digitally maps farmers and cooperatives and gives them access to demand partners. But it’s more than just coffee for Nam and Bailey: the platform also tracks poverty indexes to see if farmers are actually being helped. 

CoffeePLUG uses technology to address systemic issues for communities of color, Nam said, ultimately bringing together global and local economies. 

Listen to the full segment to learn more about CoffeePLUG’s mission to support Black and brown farmers.

Have an idea for someone who should be featured on a future Speaking segment? Let us know.

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: WURD Radio

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