Java Hope Project: Training Women Entrepreneurs

By Noelle Sciarini on August 5th, 2013 / Comments

As the owner of a coffee roasting company, it’s safe to say that Brenda Moore spends a great deal of time thinking about coffee. It wasn’t until she took a trip to Ethiopia a few years ago, that she realized she might be able to use it to help others.

“When we were on the trip, we came across a mother with a five-year-old that was supposed to have had surgery,” Moore said. “It was clear however, that her child had not had the surgery. The money had been taken to pay for liquor instead.”

Moore was inspired to find a way to help women and children right in her backyard. She gathered a group of fellow business owners and community members and pitched her idea: “What if we trained women to work their own coffee carts?”

Everyone loved the idea — and before Moore knew it, she had started the Java Hope Project, training marginalized women to run their own coffee business. Moore will be the first to tell you that the road to a successful project was not an easy one.

“I remember getting a call that one of our carts had a long line and no one was there,” Moore said. “The woman working at the cart had gotten tired and just left!”

It soon became clear that more work would need to go into this venture, so Moore went back to school and got a Master’s from the University of Michigan, focusing on non-profit management.

She used this time to also put together a board of directors and set about creating a business plan. The result was a program consisting of six months of basic training followed by 18 months of apprenticeship, with a maximum of three excused absences. Only those who completed the entire process are then given a micro-loan and coffee cart.

“We made the training part a bit rigorous because we want women to be in this for the long haul,” Moore said. “We also consulted with social workers and psychologists, and they’ve found that the longer the training, the more time there is to get a routine established.”

The first class is set to graduate this September and Moore couldn’t be more excited. It was in the midst of working with this flagship group that she heard word of the Pure Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge led by Michigan Corps.

“I don’t remember who told me about it, but I figured we didn’t have anything to lose,” Moore said. She entered Java Hope into the New Enterprise Idea category, and won first place along with a $5,000 prize. In the future, Moore plans to continue developing the Java Hope Project and is currently recruiting the next class.

“I hope we can make an impact on local women,” Moore said. “And that in turn they can pass this onto to their children. There’s a study that says entrepreneurial kids get that spirit from their parents, so hopefully we can contribute to that.”

For more information on the Java Hope Project, please visit their website.

Also, check out the full list of Michigan’s social entrepreneurship challenge winners, and our profile on Digital Inclusion’s work bridging the digital divide one computer at a time.

About the Author

Noelle Sciarini

Noelle Sciarini is a recent graduate from Michigan State University. Now an Ann Arbor resident, she fills her spare time with reading, writing, and the occasional road race. Find her on Twitter: @NoelleSci.