Monday, November 4, 2013

Ubuntu Embodied in Business: Brewing Change

I'm back.  Glad to be.  Sorry it's been awhile.

Ubuntu.  It is a proverb from the Xhosa people of South Africa.  Defined, it simply means that my humanity is inextricably linked with your humanity. It declares that we, all of humanity, (and I might add every living thing on the planet), is deeply connected in a symbiotic relationship.  We feed each other and we are fed by each other.  Indeed our very lives depend on each other.

Unfortunately too many of us believe otherwise; we have been socialized to subscribe to idea that each of us should be a self-contained, self-sufficient unit.   This has become the prevailing and ultimate standard for what it means to be human.  It is lie of the worst kind to be sure-- one that undermines community and limits what we are capable of achieving together.

Ahhhhhh, but there is a group of people in our midst who in my humble opinion embody the spirit and practice of Ubuntu.  Ladies and gentlemen please let me present to some and introduce to others, the team-- no!-- the community known as Brewing Change Takoma Park.

Brewing Change Team (Sara in white traditional Ethiopian Dress & Tebabu to her left pointing)

Not one, but two of our own-- Sara Mussie and Tebabu Asseffa-- the dynamic wife and husband team, lead a band humanity loving folks in an effort to build community and catalyze a "force for good" across the entire planet.  How?  One delicious cup of coffee at a time.  Their work is grounded (pun very much intended) in their business-- Blessed Coffee-- a new Benefit Corporation-- as a matter of fact the 2nd such business-- in Takoma Park and the state of Maryland.  It was started and built on the premise that making a profit should not (and will not) happen at the expense making a difference in our communities and the environment.  True to the Benefit Corporation form, they have disrupted the supply chain from the coffee bean growers to the consumer, so much so that more of the profits are going to the growers back in Ethiopia.  Similarly, a portion of profits from the sale of their coffee (did I say it was delicious?) will also go to community building organizations and area PTA's here in Montgomery County. Some call it a type of "conscious capitalism."  By the way, please thank our State Senator, Jamie Raskin for creating the legislative framework for the Benefit Corporation Model.  Some said that it would never happen-- well here we are!!!

Many of you know that Sara and Tebabu, along with several others on their team, have been a part of the IMPACT Network for a long time.  They embody the meaning of Ubuntu and the spirit of IMPACT'S mission:  "building neighborhood based networks that ignite inclusive local economies and vibrant communities."

We are also pleased to report that Brewing Change is one of many Opportunity Circles  emerging at IMPACT's Circle: U The Peoples University.   Not only do they continue to build momentum to make a profit and a difference, but they are also sharing their learnings and model for "virtuous exchange" with other budding entrepreneurs in the Circle U family-- particularly in our School of Economic Momentum.  Can you see it?  An emerging network of small businesses and microenterprises who are as committed to building community as they are to building profits.  Thank you Brewing Change and Blessed Coffee for leading the way.  We are so glad to have your expertise and vision for business as a part of the Circle U: The Peoples University family.  Similarly, yours is a business model that has the potential to grow the legacy of progressive spirit and prosperity (collective if you will) for which Montgomery County is known.

As I said earlier, a portion of the sale of their coffee goes to support local community building organizations (like IMPACT!).  Please allow me to invite and encourage each of you to try their coffee-- I promise you-- you've never tasted anything so delicious!  You can purchase it here:  All proceeds will go to support the development of Circle U: The Peoples University and IMPACT Operations.  Brewing Change has also started their own crowd funding site to help grow their movement.  You can visit it here:

What is the dream that you have for your life?  A dream that if you achieved it, would enrich your own life, your family, and your community?  Sara, Tebabu, and the folks at Brewing Change and Blessed Coffee have answered that question-- and they are pursuing their dream along with other Opportunity Circles at  Circle U: The Peoples University.  We are growing community together and brewing change together.

Join us.  Ubuntu.