100% of profits support orphan education in Kenya
Sara and I have been finalists in five startup competitions, looking to raise capital for Ajiri Tea. Most of the time we are beat out by someone promising change driven by "cutting-edge" technology and huge growth projections. Employing women to handcraft the packaging, supporting small tea farmers, and sending orphans to school---why, there wasn't anything new about that. Time and time again it seemed like potential grant givers were so blinded by the idea of newness and disruptive change that they couldn't see the value in something tried-and-true. Or maybe they couldn't see the value in something handcrafted in "Africa." Or maybe it all just seemed like women's work.
Making it to the finals but never winning is starting to feel like "always a bridesmaid, never a bride." But we now know that a marriage to these good-looking grants isn't our destiny. While others are reaching up to catch buzzing flies, we are reaching down planting seeds.
Thirteen years later, these seeds are pushing through the red clay ground of generational poverty. Reuben is employed as a secretary in a hospital because of his computer skills learned through Ajiri. Christine is using her Ajiri earnings to send her children to school and started a hair salon.
So here is my pitch to you. Stop thinking about value. We both know that a life worth living isn't based on ROI. Maybe our company is revolutionary. Or maybe our company is ordinary. But we know that a good life is made up of kindness and risks and sunrises and energizing growth and the sound of cicadas in the afternoon and a shared pot of tea.
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