I had the pleasure of interviewing Tyson Adams, the visionary, founder and philanthroper behind Jhai Coffee House, in Laos.
Jhai Coffee House is the world’s first completely philanthropic coffee roaster & café, located at the source. Jhai educates farmers on specialty coffee practices, purchases directly from farmers & invests 100% of net profits into water & hygiene solutions at schools within the community. They believe access to clean water is a fundamental human right; their mission is to bring 63 schools on the Bolaven Plateau hygiene education and clean water by the end of 2015.
I was first introduced to Tyson’s work at Misfit Conference 2014 in Fargo, ND. I have since then been following his journey and have been blown away. Check out the interview below to learn why:
What is one of the toughest lessons you’ve learned in your experience with your current venture/project?
‘Saving face’ in Asian culture is a huge part of how they exist. This often permits the unloving to lie, cheat and steal, without anyone stopping or condemning their behavior. When they are caught in the wrong, they just stop their behavior and everyone still smiles and accepts them to be around. In my western mind, I feel that these people need to be stopped. Called out. Confronted. My ways use to collide regularly but little by little I’ve adapted over living here for 16 months.
Who is someone you look up to and why?
I look up to Paul Katzeff, Founder of Thanksgiving Coffee. He began his company when he was my age and he is now 73. He pioneered Fair Trade and has empowered many coffee communities around the world. We also sell Jhai coffee at Thanksgivingcoffee.com through the friendship and partnership that he and I have formed over the past six years.
What makes Jhai Coffee House unique?
So many things. But the most important is that because Jackie (Country Manager, Roast Manager) and my salaries are covered by an NGO in Portland, called Vibrant Village, 100% of Jhai profits are reinvested back into the community. To put this in perspective, we purchase a $6 kilo of coffee from the cooperative, roast it and brew it for tourists and it becomes $60. That means a 10x increase in value by us being here. This money is invested into clean water wells and hygiene education for the kids who grow up in this coffee community.
What’s your “go-to” place for inspiration?
What advice would you give someone just starting out on their own path?
[Tweet “You must step into the unknown in order for anything to happen. @jhaicoffeehouse”]
When you begin on a path, you will only be able to see about 25-30%, so stop trying to have the stars aligned before you begin or take your next step. You must step into the unknown in order for anything to happen. Before something is known, it first was unknown and I like to embrace this mentality regularly. I’ve never built a school before. However, I’m sure that in a few weeks, I’ll learn. And through that experience, the 25% of foresight will become more clear and likely will reach 100% at the completion of the school.
What dreams and passions are you focusing on for the future?
Right now my view of the future is quite tunnel vision. Jhai’s first school in March and then 5 more water wells and 20 hygiene programs before Fargo. I’m also starting a side business building my own brand of coconut oil where I will be importing it from Thailand and selling it on Amazon. That is a passive income business that will help me pay my bills so I can continue working at Jhai and seeing the world without worrying about a paycheck.
More about Tyson: Combining his passion for philanthropy and entrepreneurship, Tyson began working to solve education and clean water projects in Laos three years ago. Today, he continues to remind himself and others that clean water and education are human rights, not privileges.
All images courtesy of Jhai Coffee House. All rights reserved.