SOUTH BEND, Indiana (WNDU) — New details on a South Bend company making Michigan the home of Ethiopian coffee.
We first heard about Importin Joes in 2020 when the founder, Joseph Luten, was just getting started.
16 News Now reporter Jack Springgate caught up with him not only to see how much they’re growing, but to learn how he’s helping others make fresh starts with Importin’ Joe’s.
Joe Luten doesn’t mince words about his past and the challenges he faced as a teenager with a crime on his record.
“Starting life at 18, 19 and having two crimes. I wasn’t able to find a job, I couldn’t get housing, I couldn’t get financial aid for school, and I couldn’t get anything. So it was extremely difficult for me to get a foot up,” said the Importin’ Joe founder.
Joe no longer sold his beans door-to-door, but is now stocked on Meijer’s shelves.
He’s also acquired this new space that allows him to scale from around £1,000. coffee a month to £40,000.
With the extra business, he wants to give others with criminal records the same opportunity that has changed his life for the better.
“There are some systemic challenges and barriers that are more focused on relapse and restraint than rehabilitation and reformation, and that’s our focus as an opportunity-providing Importin’ Joe’s,” Luten said.
He said they want to focus on providing opportunities for vulnerable youth and those with criminal convictions to train in entrepreneurship, commercialization and business by working in this new field.
Soma Support Inc. is one of the community partners he works with who share the same vision.
“We are very proud to support this and we love that he continues to pass the buck and help other people,” said Justine Webb, co-founder of Soma Support Inc..
“All of our stories are a little bit different. We all have unique skills to bring to the table – unique services and unique products, so we believe there is simply a great need to reach out to these people and help them,” said Danielle Nyari, co-founder of Soma Support Inc..
Soma Support Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides accounting support to small businesses and entrepreneurs, and Luten says they played a big part in scaling Importin’ Joe.
Luten says their global vision is a big part of their plan, but so is their connection to this community his family has called home for over a century.
While you can now buy bags of Importin’ Joe’s at Meijer, Luten says they still place coffee orders at customers’ doorsteps here locally.
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