Fair Trade and International Partnerships with Paul Bain of JusTea
We knew the minute we saw JusTea on the shelves that we had to meet the founders. Although we're passionate about building our local food community, we know that empowering our global food community is just as important. It helps that it's hands-down the best tea we've ever had.
Paul Bain, one of the co-founders, talked to us about how a local company here in Vancouver with international partnerships came to be and how it differs from other food businesses.
Did you always intend to start or work for a socially conscious company or was it something you just found yourself in?
In 2011, I completed my degree at UBC in Political Science with a focus on International Relations/Development. During my studies, I became very interested in the great lakes region of Africa (Kenya, DRC, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi) and the effects of NGO advocacy and Aid vs Trade in the region. I co-authored a published journal entry that explored these developmental issues in the Journal of Global Citizenship & Equity Education.
After graduation, I knew I wanted to become involved in a social enterprise. I travelled to Kenya with my Dad and we lived with small-scale tea farmers and learned about their joys and struggles from working with tea. We established a direct-fair trade partnership with these farmers and JusTea was created!
How do you think running a company that is founded on fair trade and international partnerships is different than your average food company?
It is more fun and challenging! I travel back and forth from Kenya a couple times each year working with tea farming families. Our Kenyan partners have taught us a lot about the tea industry and the wonderful support Kenyan tea growing communities offer each other. We have also learned that business in Kenya is very different than business here in the West. It is a refreshing lesson that teaches people before profits and relationships before contracts. But Kenyan business is also very complicated and we have had to work closely with our farmers to reach the quality standards of the West and product consistency.
We are trying to connect tea drinkers to the farmer that made it all possible. Unlike other tea companies, we care not only about offering an excellent product, but ensuring that the farmer also earns a sustainable wage from your purchase. We are working to become the first company to create full transparency for your cup of tea…. Search #justeafarmers on Facebook to learn more and tune in to watch our new FB Live videos from our farmers on the ground in Kenya!
What's the most surprising thing you've learned about running a company and being an entrepreneur?
When you are working at a job that you truly believe in, it no longer feels like work.
What have you learned about marketing and branding since starting JusTea? Especially since there are a few messages to convey consumers?
We are story-tellers. We have always invested in the story of the tea farmer. Making this the number one focus has not always led to sales, but we feel the demand for transparency in the tea/food industry will continue to grow. It is difficult to tell a story with so many layers on a small tea tin in your local grocery store but we hope by highlighting the farmer on each package and the hand-carved Kenyan spoon, intrinsically tells the direct-connection story.
What's in the future for JusTea?
PURPLE TEA! Stay tuned for our May 19th launch of our new Purple packaging and tea blends… hello Purple Rain :) For a sneak peek see click here!
Want to read more about local entrepreneurs right here in Vancouver? Read our interview with Rebecca from Be Naturally Fit here!