Two years ago, I founded a two-pronged enterprise with goals to be a successful coffee retailer and an entity that used our economic engine for the benefit of the people of Yemen. We call ourselves Al Mokha, Public Benefit Corp. and we source and market Yemen's World’s First Coffee™.
It has taken me two years to wrap my head around Al Mokha’s identity. Was I a coffee company? A development organization for a third world country? The reality is we are both, a startup with two faces; just like the Roman god Janus.
Let me illuminate.
We have two customers. The first is you, the consumer, and our product is our World’s First Coffee™. Our second customer is implied, and that’s the people of Yemen. If you turn our World’s First Coffee™ inside out, our product is life changing jobs. And here we can disappear down an academic rabbit hole.
A few years ago I read a fascinating study of poverty and decision fatigue in India. In the study researchers offered poor and wealthy buyers name-brand soap at a steep discount. The wealthy buyers made the purchase without second thought. It was a great deal. The poor buyers, however, agonized over the decision. The name-brand soap was truly a good deal but the soap still exceeded the price of generic. For those poor buyers the deal became a conundrum of brand-name prestige against money for food. The decision was tiring. But not only that, it left less energy for other decisions. Aha! Decision fatigue.
I shortly applied this decision lens to my own behavior. I observed how navigating life with little income was tiring. Every decision takes energy. Take the bus or walk or take a cab. Purchase name brand OJ on sale for $2.50 or store brand OJ slightly cheaper at $2.29? Should I buy a subscription to the Economist? These conundrums may appear petty but I began to realize their cost. Lack of resources meant less time and energy for bigger decisions.
Two years ago I had $500 and an idea to change the world. Today I have a $5000 hole, the website and branding you're looking at now, and the same idea to change the world. Speaking to my younger sister in regards to my progress, she said, "previously there was nothing and now there is something. That's pretty cool. I'll send your web address to my friends."
In her casual comment, she hit on two remarkable aspects of entrepreneurship: one, I had created something out of thin air; and two, in doing so, I had created a company that we could call my child. I've often heard that no one cares more about a company than the founder.
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