Real People. Real Struggles. Real Stories. For 33 years, NCC has carried out a variety of projects from coloring books and boardgames to small business consultation and advertising campaigns - all with the mission of providing a hand up rather than a hand out. Below are some of our key projects for the 2019-20 academic year.
Helping coffee farmers form self-sustainable business practices through a direct trade relationship
We are currently partnered with a farmers' association in San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala. On average, it takes 300 lbs of coffee beans purchased to support one farming family. This year, the volume of beans we purchased had a direct impact of being able to support 14 families. Since we pay a fair price which is set by the farmers for their product, they are able to use that income for education, medicine, and to reinvest in their business. This rate is almost double what they would get through other means.
Our team travels to Guatemala twice a year to consult with the farmers as well as do research. It truly is a mutually beneficial partnership. It is one founded on business principals and not charity.
A little bit about the coffee: The coffee our partners provide us is all shade grown, arabica, and strictly hard bean coffee. Shade grown coffee requires minimal irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides and promotes erosion control compared to traditional sun-grown coffee. This means that you can enjoy every cup of exceptional quality coffee while also knowing you are doing your part to help the environment. The coffee has notes of blueberry, brown sugar, citrus, cocoa, and cream. The farmers' methods of processing the strictly hard bean coffee are very meticulous. They use a wet processing method to remove the pulp and a sun drying method to turn it into the bean we roast.
Our coffee bags and our single serving cups are fully compostable! For the packaging of our single serving cups, we partner with Community Access Naperville, an organization that helps young adults with developmental disabilities build skills through being involved in their community.
Our coffee is roasted and packaged by our team in our own coffee lab! To order, visit our Coffee Lab website.
CoffeeLab Collaborative learning through coffee
As a result of our 15 year direct trade partnership with our farmers in Guatemala, the project has now since expanded beyond what we could ever do alone. With the support of the college, the coffee lab was launched in May of 2019! This space benefits students on campus with learning through the medium of coffee. However, it also provides a space to expand the project’s operations with roasting, packaging, sales, and coffee events with collaboration from other student organizations on campus. This opportunity is decreasing another middleman in the direct trade path and leaving plenty of room for growth and more business for our Guatemalan partners. For more information on the lab and our online store, please click here.
Collaborating with a culturally sustainable enterprise while preserving cultural traditions of our partners through consultation on rebranding efforts within the United States to expand sales.
Through our network of farmers in Guatemala, we have been introduced to Mirna Rojas, a seventh generation chocolatier. In connecting with Mirna, we have been given the opportunity to partner with her in exporting her chocolates as well as bringing a part of the Guatemalan culture and tradition to the United States. Helping to sell her chocolates in the US. provides her community another source of income while also providing our students with hands on sales and cultural experiences.
This year, we rebranded the chocolates for the US market and added more sales events leading to a 500% increase in sales. Our biggest event was the Morton Arboretum Chocolate weekend where we had $3,000 in sales and were able to share Mirna's story with over 7,000 attendees. We also did special bar makeups for Halloween and Valentine's Day.
This project also provided us the opportunity to partner with a student entrepreneur, Megan Vogel, who used our chocolates in her baking business. We also worked with a student graphic designer to redo the product labels for the US market.
Once Covid-19 safety protocols are lifted, chocolates will once again be available through our online store.
Community Access Naperville partnership: Helping differently-abled adults gain workplace skills through coffee packaging.
Each month our team works alongside C.A.N members as they package our single serving cups. This partnership provides the opportunity to gain both soft and hard skills for these young adults. Students have been able to take these skills gained and transfer them to future employment. One recent participant beamed with pride when he shared with us how he got a job at the local grocery store stocking shelves.
In addition, this year C.A.N. was our first partner to utilize our new coffee fundraising program for their organization. Packaging was designed specifically for C.A.N. and then sold by participants raising over $250.
Assisting Guatemalan artisans in creating sustainable businesses
We are proud to partner with the following Guatemalan artisans. Our students consult with the artisans while in Guatemala and then also educate consumers in the United States during sales events.
Campana Ab’aj is a family business located in Totonicapán, Guatemala. The products that they make are all hand weaved scarves, table runners and other table items. The way these products are produced is by a Spanish “Foot Loom”, which is all human powered. These weavers have a special hexagonal pattern signature. When weaving these products, it is extremely complex and time-consuming and requires all the weaver to have a mental inventory of all the pattern in their head to make the weaving process go faster.
It has been in the family for seven generations and the different weavers are Miguel, Juan, Francisca, and Josue Hernandez Tax.
Escudo Textiles is located in Chimaltenango, Guatemala. The women who weave are named Eluvia, Inocenta, Lesbia and Olga. These weavers use a pre-Columbian, backstrap weaving technique. Traditionally, backstrap weaving is a female's domain since the creation of textiles is a metaphor for the creation of new life. The women who do this weaving, produce items like wall hangings, scarves, table runners and various types of bags.
Ajkem Textiles in located in Totonicapán, Guatemala and the main weaver is Pablo Chuc, occasionally his daughter Paola helps in weaving. They use a smaller loom that mixes techniques of a Spanish Foot loom and a traditional back strap loom. The types of products that they focus on are small items like earrings, ties, bracelets, dog collars and Sientas, which are traditional hair and head wrap like items that are worn by some Mayan women.
We also source our textiles from the Ajpu Association in Totonicapán, Guatemala. The association uses a Spanish foot loom and a Jaspe technique. In this technique they use thread that has been pre-dyed in a patterned way to make their textiles. Though we have a textile partnership with the Ajpu Association we are more involved with them when it comes to their Credit Union, Water Filter and Wooden Stove business. The Ajpu Association’s biggest mission is to strive for socially sustainable development and focus a lot on environmentally sustainable projects that can help the quality of life in Guatemala
Sweaters by Esau
Sweaters by Esau is a family business run by Esau and his wife Olga in Chimaltenango, Guatemala. Esau learned how to make sweaters and other various knitted items from his father. Each pattern on the sweaters were hand programmed and made by Esau. He uses various types of thread like cotton, wool, and acrylic. Esau uses a knitting machine that he slides by hand to make his products. Most of Esau’s orders are custom made to the consumer, we are able to take your desired measurement's and send them to Esau so he can make a unique piece just for you.
Maya Heritage Pottery
We have had a relationship with Julio Lopez for many years. He uses a traditional kick-wheel for his pottery. Maya Heritage emphasizes custom orders for buyers willing to pay a premium for quality hand-made products. This year we placed an order over the summer for ceramic pour overs and picked them up in December.
St. Francis Pottery Shop
Proprietor Santos Gutierrez is also a ceramicist but focuses on small scale items including ocarinas which are popular at our sales events. He is also an excellent storyteller and our students always enjoy visiting with him.
In San Lucas, we partner with Toribio and Andres Chajil who oversee a reforestation project. Part of their work includes repurposing fallen trees into wooden spoons. These products are a favorite at our sales event back in the United States.