Takeaways

1

Jeremy Hardy, executive director of the nonprofit Vigilant Hope, dove into the coffee business as a way to fund the organization’s work in their community.

2

Jeremy says their roasting company’s mission is based on one key tenet: “good coffee, good purpose.”

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3

Jeremy is excited about the opportunity to support both coffee farmers and members of their community facing poverty, empowering customers to be the heroes who facilitate that social change.

Jeremy Hardy

Executive Director, Vigilant Hope Inc

Expertise: brewing, café ownership, nonprofit administration

Coffee insight: Customers are often surprised by the fruity flavor of Vigilant Hope’s roasts, but that’s because coffee beans aren’t really “beans” at all—they’re actually the seeds of coffee cherries, a fruit!

Coffee fun fact: Jeremy credits his wife’s grandfather, who always had a pot of coffee brewing (even when he had to use paper towels for filters), for inspiring his love of coffee.

U3 Top 3 What’s your favorite brewing method? Hario V60 What’s your coffee drink of choice? black How many cups of coffee do you drink a day? 15+

Jeremy’s Coffee Origin Story

When Jeremy took the position as executive director of Vigilant Hope, a nonprofit that works to alleviate poverty in the Wilmington, NC, community, he set to work raising money to launch a shower trailer. But Jeremy admits that he ran into an immediate challenge: “I don’t love asking for money. So I was thinking holistically, how can we really fund what we’re doing just long-term?” His cousin, who was living in Nicaragua at the time, knew a coffee farmer and suggested that Vigilant Hope try selling coffee to raise funds for their shower trailer project.

The initial fundraiser was a success, which piqued Jeremy’s interest in coffee. But if they were going to continue selling coffee to support the organization, Jeremy wanted to make sure that they were selling truly great coffee, which meant roasting their own whole beans. He started doing research and approached his CPA to figure out how they could purchase a roaster under the umbrella of the nonprofit.

It turned out, his accountant not only knew how to make it work from a regulatory perspective, he had an even more important and surprising contribution: a coffee roaster sitting in his garage. The CPA had previously run a coffee business in Wilmington and had been looking for a new home for his roaster. Jeremy moved it into his own garage and started experimenting with roasting. “I always compare us to Apple,” he jokes. “We started in a garage, and now we’ll get there soon to be like Apple.”

Jeremy’s Current Role

Today, Vigilant Hope Roasting is a thriving specialty coffee business under the organization’s nonprofit umbrella, helping to fund Vigilant Hope’s services. They’ve run a successful wholesale business for the past five years, and now manage two café locations in Wilmington. Jeremy says their success hinged on having been embraced by their local community, who are proud to support their mission.

“We’re allowing our customers to be the hero,” Jeremy explains, “and we’re their guide to help them [understand], you’re changing our city by buying coffee.”

Vigilant Hope Roasting’s Esmerelda single-origin roast in the U3 Coffee Exchange.

What Fuels Jeremy’s Work

Jeremy says that he’s honored by the support they’ve received in Wilmington, but he’s cognizant that he doesn’t want their coffee to rest on goodwill alone. “We have a saying. It’s ‘good coffee with good purpose,” he says. “We wanted to be a nonprofit that says, ‘We think the coffee should be good so that we can showcase the mission as well.’”

Jeremy is proud of the way they maintain that balance, delivering an exceptional product in order to fund their important work. As their website puts it, selling great coffee goes beyond a simple exchange, becoming a way for people to connect to the organization’s mission:

“It’s not just a transaction. It’s ending poverty in our city.”

What Jeremy Wants Coffee Drinkers to Know

Vigilant Hope’s mission is about encouraging and creating human connections, and Jeremy hopes that anyone who admires their work will keep in mind that those personal links build to big changes. In spite of Vigilant Hope’s success, Jeremy wants people to remember that you don’t have to have “this big grand coffee business to help your city…just be mindful of those that are in need.”

For Jeremy, that incremental approach is key to social change. “Anybody can start where they’re at,” he says, “whether it’s … looking for outreaches in your city and just going and partnering with them and going to one of their soup kitchens or meals, starting there and creating relationships.”

How Jeremy Cultivates Community through Coffee

Jeremy is inspired by the potential to make a multilayered social impact through their coffee business. First, they’re supporting coffee farmers by working with a like-minded importer who prioritizes relationships with their farmers. That product is a vehicle to introduce Vigilant Hope’s mission to people who might not be familiar with their work, helping people connect to their work through their coffee, and all of that brings more support to the organization itself.

Jeremy says, “I love being this twofold kind of social change…we’re helping these coffee farmers create an excellent business where they’re at” while also making a positive impact on their local community.

Where You Can Find Jeremy

Vigilant Hope Inc: vigilanthope.com

Vigilant Hope Roasting: goodcoffeegoodpurpose.com 

U3 Coffee exists to create the most meaningful coffee experience for millions of mindful, motivated humans like you. Because here, we’re United by Coffee.

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