Wize Monkey Coffee Leaf tea started as two students’ final project and is now creating jobs around the world.
Max Rivest and Arnaud Petitvallet were assigned to come with a new business idea, and they came across a study praising the health benefits of coffee leaves. Not only that, but in Nicaragua, where they harvest their leaves, there is wide-spread unemployment for most of the year. This gave them the opportunity to not only have a unique product, but also create year-round sustainable employment.
“When we put those two things together, we knew we had a good idea,” said Petitvallet. “While the traditional coffee harvest last only three months, we learned that coffee leaves can be harvested at any time in the year. The chance to give people year-round employment and build a sustainable business is rewarding on a very different level.”
Wize Monkey currently employs three people full-time, and another five part-time demo-representatives in B.C., but the impressive numbers are south of the equator. The third member of Wize Monkey is Enrique Ferrufino, and he runs the coffee farm in Nicaragua, where they have 70 employees picking, processing and shipping their product year-round.
“We started out with 30 employees,” said Petitvallet. “But we have a five-year goal of employing 1,000. We’re building slowly to ensure we have a demand for the product.”
And that demand is coming from a wide range of places. Through their website, Wize Monkey ships their teas to 35 countries, and they have started a partnership with UBC to maximize the medicinal properties of the coffee leaves.
“The leaves can be used as an antioxidant, reduce inflammation, help combat diabetes, and help lower cholesterol too,” said Petitvallet. “It all depends on how you process the leaves, and we are looking to expand into using the leaves as food additives, supplements, and cosmetic uses too.”
“We’ve been getting great feedback, and the government has been very helpful at exporting our product and qualifying our leaves.”
Wize Monkey gained assistance in marketing their product through the BC Buy Local program. The program helped cover the costs of packaging and printing promotional flyers. They’re also looking to use funds from the BC Agri Marketing grant to fund booths at international tradeshows.
“We are the only ones in this market with a good product,” said Petitvallet. “We want to keep growing, and we’re looking forward to having a positive effect on a lot of peoples’ lives.”