Ethical entrepreneur helps female coffee growers earn a decent living and help communities here and abroad.
Growing up in Jamaica, Lauren Le Franc often visited her godfather’s coffee farm. On finishing her A-levels and returning, she realised she wanted to learn about the process of coffee. She set up her own business and realised how difficult it was for female coffee growers to make a decent living.
Coming back to the UK to study a Law and Business degree, then training to become a barrister at City, University of London provided Lauren her biggest opportunity. Given the chance to pitch for City’s Launch Lab, this was the start of her business journey.
“I wanted the Little Coffee Company to be a social enterprise and started to research why coffee farmers were always in debt. I realised that they used expensive pesticides and that the Fairtrade model didn’t work for these farmers, so I wanted to make sure that their earnings impacted their households.”
According to the World Food Programme gender inequality is a major cause and effect of hunger and poverty: it is estimated that 60 per cent of chronically hungry people are women and girls.
Lauren decided early on that she wanted to help female coffee farmers who are often the sole breadwinner and the backbone of their community. She calculated what each farmer would need to earn to benefit her family.
She was also concerned about how coffee farmers were represented. “You always see images of poor farmers looking sad and this is just not the reality, I find this quite offensive and want to show a true reflection of the communities”.
Connecting with her customers is also important and winning the CitySpark award for green and ethical businesses as well as the Inspiring Innovator of the Year, gave Lauren the next step up. Forbes Magazine also named her as one of the Top 10 Women in Sustainability.
Being based at the City Launch Lab gives Lauren the opportunity to work alongside other entrepreneurs in the heart of London.
“City has given me so many opportunities and allowed me to take my business forward quite quickly,” she explains.
Lauren spends a lot of her time travelling to different coffee farms to source new coffees. The stability of having a base at the City Launch Lab means she can travel and organically grow her business.
Many farms lack electricity and use dangerous kerosene lamps and candles, so Lauren has recently partner with SolarAid.
“I know what it is like not having electricity. In Jamaica we have power-cuts often and living in remote areas it is extremely dangerous not to have access to light”.
Working with SolarAid Lauren donates £5 of their revenue on every £25 spent which equals:
- 1 solar light
- saving a family £159
- allowing a child 1,006 extra hours of study
- C02 emissions reduced
- 3 members of the household experience better health.
Future plans and benefits
Poverty is the first problem most of the farming communities face and Lauren and her team will continue to advocate for better pay for women farmers.
“We can only change this ourselves and look holistically at the issues that prevent women growing and flourishing in rural communities. That was one of the driving factors for us donating to SolarAid. ‘Light’ is such as scarce commodity but such a basic necessity for improving the overall quality of a person’s life.”
Future plans include sourcing from other regions, continuing to find amazing communities with high quality beans and sharing the farmer’s stories with their customers.
Closer to home, Lauren wants to develop their roasting facility and expand her product range. “City, University of London has given us the opportunity to develop new packaging for our customers for at home delivery and our sales on our website increased because of this. We may be small, but we have big dreams.”