by Kristina Morris Heredia, communications and marketing coordinator at Coffee Kids
While this article is seemingly about five reasons your nonprofit should attend the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s annual Exposition, The Event, it really comes down to one reason: community. The Event is a wonderland of coffee paraphernalia, businesses, producers, connoisseurs, as well as nonprofit organizations that are dedicated to improving the sustainability of the coffee industry, whether by supporting coffee producers, coffee cultivation, or any other area that affects or is affected by this industry we all love. It is a time when coffee professionals from around the world get together to celebrate what we hold dear, what we rely on for our sustenance and daily operations.
Coffee Kids has attended The Event since its inception in 1988. During this past show, we celebrated our shared 25th anniversary. Our histories are intertwined; we’ve watched each other grow. In that time, we’ve learned a lot about the benefits that attending The Event can have for a nonprofit’s growth and image within the wider coffee industry. Here are just five:
1. Become a voice in the coffee industry: The Event is the perfect setting to share your stories and expertise. From the show floor to events and lectures, there are numerous opportunities to share your nonprofit’s work with attendees. If you have a booth, invite passersby to learn about your work. Don’t be afraid to walk out into the flow of traffic to extend this invitation. Most people are there to learn and to meet others in the coffee industry.
It is also highly valuable to attend lectures and workshops relevant to your work. This not only gives you the opportunity to network, it also gives you a space to both ask the hard questions, and share your expertise with a whole new crowd. You can participate in panel discussions with those who are working closest to origin on issues such as farmer well- being and sustainability. You can learn more about issues of immediate importance to coffee farming, and to the farmers themselves, or share your nonprofit’s work and let people know what they can do to make a difference. This is where discussion sparks true and lasting change.
2. Introduce those you serve to those who make your work possible: The Event is the single most widely attended specialty coffee event in the world. It is a meeting point for all of the people along the way, from crop to cup. Coffee Kids makes every effort to bring a producer to The Event each year to speak at our reception. This gives our producing partners a chance to see the specialty coffee industry in its shining magnificence. It also gives our donors and supporters a chance to meet not only the partner we invite, but also those who attend on their own accord. No doubt everyone is very busy during these few days; it’s a good idea to plan ahead and schedule as many meetings in advance as possible.
The Coffee Kids program department, based in Oaxaca, Mexico, visits our partner organizations frequently and is inextricably connected to issues at origin. When program personnel are so immersed in projects at origin, they may become distanced from the wider industry, the business side of specialty coffee. The Event gives them a chance to meet face-to- face with donors and not only explain Coffee Kids’ projects, but also to get a feel for what kind of information and projects are of interest. Additionally, they are able to stay in touch with industry trends and better gauge the world coffee scene from multiple perspectives.
3. Ignite new relationships: In a recent survey, we found that the majority of Coffee Kids supporters had first heard about us at tradeshows, the most prominent by far being The Event. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this tradeshow is only for U.S.-based businesses. According to The Event’s website, 29 percent of attendees are from outside the United States. Because this event is a meeting place for coffee professionals from around the world, we’ve been able to establish new relationships in Europe, Australia, and Asia, leading to new funding opportunities and a presence at tradeshows in these regions as well.
These new connections are not limited to new donors. Our program department estimates that somewhere around 35 percent of our partner organizations first approached us at The Event. It’s one of the few places that representatives from countries throughout the world find themselves in the same place at the same time — an excellent opportunity to schedule meetings and spontaneously meet new cooperatives and organizations.
In addition to scheduled meetings, there are also many other opportunities to mingle and meet. There are more social events and parties than you can possibly attend. Plan ahead and carefully choose those where you either already have a donor base, or would like to establish one. Some parties, such as Green Mountain Coffee Roasters’s party at last year’s show, are mingling grounds for all members of the industry, from producers to buyers, roasters, baristas, sellers and consumers. How often do you have so many people representing so many aspects of the coffee industry in one room? It’s a networking goldmine.
4. Strengthen existing relationships: Nonprofits often don’t have the budget to visit donors spread across the country, much less across the globe. The Event provides the perfect setting to visit longtime friends and business partners. It’s the only time of the year when we have most of our supporters in one place. We use this opportunity to visit their booths and take photos with company representatives. This allows us to meet new reps from longtime supporting businesses, and to have a memento to use in social media and publicity materials in the future. It serves as a testimony to the relationship we’ve established with these friends and supporters. After all, our work would not be possible without them. Of course, the social events are another fabulous way to get caught up with people you may not have seen since last year’s show. You may not believe it if you haven’t attended The Event, but genuine friendships are formed around the annual tradeshow.
5. Enjoy the show! Don’t be fooled by all of this talk of scheduling and networking. The Event is also a lot of fun. You are surrounded by people with similar interests and passions. Social activities abound, as do educational workshops and classes. The Event only lasts a few days and there is so much to do; be sure to take time to enjoy the show. You won’t get this chance again for another year.
Additional Info: Get connected at social events taking place at The Event! Visit scaaevent.org/specialevents
Kristina Morris Heredia is the communications and marketing coordinator at Coffee Kids. She joined the organization after having lived in a coffee-growing region of Veracruz for nearly five years. Her interest in coffee, coffee-growing communities, and her never-ending desire to make the world a more just place — she is a Libra after all — are what attracted her to the position. While her academic background is in anthropology and Spanish, her professional experience has been in writing, Web work and marketing. She is certain that Coffee Kids is the meeting point of all her interests.