Fueled by coffee and finding printing businesses

I am choosing two micro-goals that will serve our partners whether or not we move forward with a CPA cooperative.

Goal One: Get to know 3-5 local print shops owned by people of color or women. Learn about their services, capacity and reputation.

Goal Two: Find a source of ethically grown and produced coffee, ideally available through a locally owned business, preferably owned by people of color or women.

1. Printer Goal: Being able to respond to an anchor partner request for recommendations of local printers that embody community wealth building principles. In addition, we recently learned that printing services are a common expenditure that staff at one of our higher education anchors charge on their employer-issued credit card. The bulk of their business is currently going to corporate printers. The on-campus corporate print shop closed recently, so staff are receptive to recommendations right now.

In addition to meeting an anchor partner request, accomplishing this goal will allow us to address another low-hanging fruit when it comes to shifting the buying practices of our institutional partners, plus we will drive new business to locally-owned shops.

[Aside: Sadly, P&L Printing, Denver’s only worker-owned, union print shop went out of business a few years ago. It had been our number one choice of print shops for a number of years. If P&L were still in existence today, it is very likely that through the Center for Community Wealth Building and the Colorado Solidarity Fund, they could have accessed the support they needed to keep their business viable. Their closure was a big blow to the very nascent community wealth building movement in Denver, not to mention the young worker owners of the company.]

2. Coffee Goal: The Colorado Episcopal Church has started gathering data on common purchases across parishes and has been promoting the idea of aligning church purchases with their social and economic justice values. It turns out that most of their 104 parishes host regular Coffee Hours, consuming a considerable amount of coffee while enjoying time for fellowship. Starting with a well-established and fun Church tradition seems like an ideal way to connect a lot of parishioners to what this effort is about.

1. Competing demands on my time
2. My distaste for getting in my car and dealing with traffic
3. My lack of knowledge about either of these industries
4. Getting solid information on quality of printing companies’ services
5. Needing to get data from the Church on pounds of coffee required, price point, number of shipping locations, etc.

1. Research skills
2. Knowledge about the coffee industry
3. Knowledge about current coffee demand and requirements of parishes (identify # of parishes)
4. Cold calling skills

1. Metropolitan State University – get info on printing businesses frequented by staff.
2. Good Business Colorado, Small Business Majority, Colorado Minority Business Office, Black Chamber, Hispanic Chamber, Women’s Chamber, B Lab – identifying printers or coffee roasters
3. Episcopal Church of Colorado, Paul Alexander – specifics on current coffee purchasing practices
4. Center for Community Wealth Building interns or VISTA volunteer – maybe some help with the research
5. Colleagues in the nonprofit sector – printer recommendations


1. During 10/10/19 Denver Anchor Network procurement check-in call, ask participants where they take their printing business
2. Develop matrix to collect information on printers
3. Follow-up on three leads that Yessica provided
4. Contact Chambers of Commerce and small business partner organizations for referrals
5. Investigate specific print shops (prioritizing based on community wealth building priorities) to learn about the services they provide; price points; and reputation.
6. Visit shops of interest and meet the owners
7. Develop list of “preferred” printers
Note: If appropriate, we will continue to build a relationship with these printers to explore their engagement as a preferred co-op vendor.


  1. See if Paul thinks it is a good idea to see if any parishioners are interested in joining this fun project to align the Church’s coffee supplier with Church values. If that seems like a good idea, get the word out over the next couple of months through Church communication channels. Plan to meet with interested individuals in mid-January. If this isn’t a good approach, then I will start working on my own in December. I like the idea of engaging volunteers to ignite their imaginations and to potentially build a core group that is interested in helping advance this agenda.
    2. Learn about the different factors important to consider in terms of aligning coffee purchases with values of racial equity, social and economic justice, environmental sustainability
    3. Learn about Church’s coffee consumption and current purchasing practices
    4. Research local bulk coffee providers
    5. Identify 1-4 to visit, based on community wealth building priorities
    6. If there are good local options, discuss bulk purchasing options/requirements
    7. If local options don’t exist, research Equal Exchange, Pachamama Coffee Cooperative, Just Coffee Co-op, etc.

Printing business identification: end of January 2020
Coffee vendor identification: end of February 2020, if working alone. April 1, 2020 if working with a volunteer committee.

6 thoughts on “Fueled by coffee and finding printing businesses”

  1. Thanks for sharing, Michelle! These are very clear goals, easy to understand. My question is about strategy. I’m curious about your decision to pick goals that focus on the supply side, rather than the demand side of the CPA equation. Why’d you decide to focus there?

    It strikes me that the power of CPA, much like the work I understand you do you through CCWB, is in organizing institutions that buy stuff. Once those institutions trust one another and have a structure for working together, they’re quite easily able to divert spent to local companies that align with their values, such as companies that source coffee in an ethical way, or print shops with strong values (e.g., worker-owned, union-affiliated, Black-owned). In 2018 $10M of the $17M baseline spend of CPA members in DC went to minority-owned businesses. That’s awesome, and a big inspiration for me to try to find a way to make that work here in CLE.

    I see why building relationships with folks in Paul’s network, and at State U, is essential to progress on either supply or demand questions; that seems like a no-regrets move, if I’m correct to assume you have aspirations of building a CPA-style org in Denver. Excited to explore this more with you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Michelle! These are awesome goals! I see so much opportunity for you not only to do a great service cataloging local printing shops and coffee businesses owned by POC, but also in planting the seed to grow this list to cover other purchasing categories/commodities. You mention engaging volunteers for your coffee goal to “ignite their imaginations” (such energizing word choice!); do you see value in establishing a group of volunteers to help you achieve both goals, with potential to continue this due diligence of POC-owned businesses in town from whom to source other items? You could start with your volunteers’ imaginations to select items beyond printing and coffee. In fact, Yessica indicates in her post that she will be seeking POC vendors to accomplish her personal goal. Could you reference the list she develops to bundle in with what you/volunteers find?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Michelle, congrats on shipping your first post! I’m glad you’re here. Who makes the coffee purchasing decisions at the churches? Is it a staff person? Is it the Junior Warden? Is it another volunteer?
    Who else influences the coffee buying decision-maker?
    What leads them to buy from the folks they’re buying from now? (i.e. convenience)
    What might convince them to change while still getting their key need met? (i.e. convenience) Who would do the work to organize the coffee buying?
    Who might know much of this and have organized this or something very similar before? (i.e I’m thinking of Equal Exchange and how I know a very meaningful portion of their sales are to and through churches… I think they have dedicated faith-based reps — who may know other diocesan folks in other regions — who could advice on how other groups of churches have made similar changes.).
    I’m excited that you’ve taken up this project — because I’d love to implement it in DC & Durham as well. It’s a discrete project so it feels very feasible. One area to push you on: Why didn’t you set a goal for number of churches switched? Or thousands of dollars in coffee purchased switched to a locally owned / ethically sourced provider?
    It seems like the long time horizon you gave yourself just to identify one provider… gave me the sense that you’re not writing about a goal that’s really that important to you.
    Might there be another goal that’s more personally relevant to you?
    For example, if I might reflect something back to you that I picked up in your writing….
    The way you described the P&L printer closing felt more meaningful and important to you than other things you wrote about. I felt your sense of grief and loss. The sense that had you been around a few years earlier you could have done something…
    What else do you feel that deep sense of grief and loss about? Might there be something more personally meaningful to you to dive into deeper and connect to what your next goal might be for yourself?
    Thanks again for being here.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Michelle!

    I love how concrete and to the point you are with your goals. I also understand the motivation to work on a goal that will be meaningful regardless of whether it ends up leading to CPA or not.

    In a way, you have a lot of the groundwork already in place in Denver. You have an anchor network that has experience working with each other and understands the value of this work.

    On the other hand, I’d like to read more of you and not just the next steps. Regardless of how much deeper or broader, we could go on the next steps you could take, I think it’s also important to share what calls you into this work, what are your struggles, and how you’d like us to support you, if at all.

    I think we’d all be happy to contribute not just to your planning, but also to you as a whole!


    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you Alessandra,Jonathan, Felipe, and Juan! I appreciate your thoughtful reflections and questions for me.
    You are right, Felipe …. it is a treat to get feedback.
    And yes, I must confess that it feels nice and tidy to have these very discrete goals. Super tangible and something that I know that when I complete it, there’s the possibility of “instant” gratification. I’m not trying to build a CPA just yet. But these two efforts are CPA-inspired.
    So, Jonathan, this is the reason I started with supply over demand. There’s already some existing demand. It would be great to meet that demand via a minimal viable product, as it were. While we all operate in an obviously extremely complex world and ecosystem, I think I’m always going to be looking for the simplest way through.
    And Felipe, these two goals are absolutely meaningful to me. The time goals I established perhaps don’t reflect enough of a sense of urgency for you. Believe me … I definitely understand that the house is on fire. I also understand that i want to continue to work towards demonstrating and creating a different reality and I am also urgently feeling the need for self-preservation. As Yessica says … we are in a marathon, even though it often feels like we are sprinting. In my view, the time frame I selected is still on the edge of being doable. And no, i’m not a sloth! We have a lot going on with our work to build on and nurture all the sprouts that have been coming up after two years of really meaningfully working the soil here. It doesn’t serve us to abandon what’s already asking for attention to tend to something different. Soon, however, we will have increased capacity at the Center for Community Wealth Building … but until we get there, it’s a different story.
    Additionally, we are living through such dark times in our Republic. It is really hard to grasp the reality of he who should not be named. This heavy darkness that we are now swimming in as a country is taking its toll on many of us. Combined with some heavy things going on in personal life … declining health of my elderly father and commitment to befriending and navigating with an older woman experiencing homelessness whom I met on the street this past May, I definitely feel the need for some self-nurturing. I need some time to myself to just be me. Be in nature, dance, sit in silence. I am not very good at being kind and generous with myself, so choosing to not fill every waking moment being productive, is just important for me right now. And probably will be for the rest of my life. I am aware of my limits and know that my pattern is to fry myself through only focusing on work. I don’t want to fry myself this time. It is so awesome to work with Yessica and we are experiencing some tangible successes. I want to keep doing it!
    I am super grateful for all the questions you posed about my coffee goal, Felipe. Thank you!! All the questions fuel my desire to see where this leads. I’m glad to know that my work might also be of benefit to CPA D.C. That would be super cool! The coffee path also got Yessica wondering if there’s a way to connect with the Nicaraguan coffee farmers that she knows. So it feels like pursuit of this goal could lead to all sorts of new dots to connect.
    Alessandra I appreciate the additional dots you see that could be connected. For now, I think I will just explore engaging volunteers for my coffee goal. Church goers have a culture of volunteering. This might open up a new avenue for the church to engage more people in their quest to live their values. We’ll see. And while I clearly see the value of volunteers for the printing goal, I’m wanting to expedite the matter. Finding these printers and connecting them to our anchor partners means that money could start flowing rather quickly. Right now we have a solid list of small, mostly young catering companies owned by immigrants, people of color and women that has pretty good traction with our anchor partners. The caterers are reporting increased business. So, yes, I absolutely anticipate expanding beyond printers and coffee. And ideally, I hope our success in these two very tangible niches will influence some of our other partners to pick another industry and go for it. Our modus operandi with the Denver Anchor Network and the Center for Community Wealth Building is to demonstrate possibilities — moving beyond the ideas, into action and then hopefully fanning those flames of inspiration and providing open access for others to move into the same space.
    And lastly, Juan, I appreciate your warmth and support. It might take me a little longer to get comfortable asking for help or being more revealing of my whole person. This experience will be a good stretch for me in that direction. Hopefully my reflections provide a bit more glimpse into me as a person.
    And now, I’m going to continue with my weekend in nature. Later I need to spend some time on AirBnB looking for lodging for Yessica and I in D.C. She will be there 3 nights, but I will only be there for one night. If anyone has any recommendations, please share. Our plan now is to hopefully book an AirBnB
    Thank you again, all. I’m genuinely grateful to be here with each of you. Peace out.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Michelle! I’m chiming in, late to the party :). I really appreciate you wanting to balance the need to nurture the work that you’ve already started with the desire to expand the wave of change that you’re already effecting – however ‘micro’ the goals/steps may need to be for now, given your capacity. I love that you also brought in a very important dimension that we sometimes forget as we strive towards our goals re: creating more humane political/social/economic systems and realities: the vital importance of taking care of ourselves!
    My initial question was going to be what are your stretch goals that are just beyond these initial steps, but it sounds like you’re leaving yourself time and space to work that out as you build capacity in your organization.
    I love your idea of galvanizing a core group that wants to advance the agenda that you’re describing. My last point (since a few others have already been covered!) is just an encouragement to think about how/whether you want to articulate a compelling larger vision that could serve as a motivating north star for this group to not only feel good about completing the initial discrete small steps but to keep going, working towards something bigger that they believe in.


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