Where is all started
In 2011 while I was traveling throughout Nepal I found myself in the tea gardens of Ilam. I was looking for a way of connecting people to making an impact through literacy in a sustainable way and didn’t know how. Little did I know that it would take 6 years of research and hard work in order to build a foundation to support my passion for literacy.
I wanted to start a loos leaf tea shop in the U.S to sell Nepali tea. The plan was to 1. Buy a building so I could let people try the tea 2. Figure out how to package and brand the tea for retail 3. Sell online. I loved Teavana and thought I could make something like it but with a focus on giving back. Not much of a plan but I never doubted it.
I quickly ran into an overwhelming mess of problems. How do we clear all of the tea through customs ? How do I pay for rent? How do I fund this? How do I hire staff? How do I balance college and starting something like this? Every step for the next 6 years had 1 end goal, to build a sustainable structure that would make a long term impact in Nepal through literacy projects.
To no surprise this was much more complicated than I thought it would be. In order to fund everything I started a wedding photography businesses called Fox Weddings. It was great, I was able to make enough to pay for school and I had more time to focus on Nepal. All I talked about was starting a tea shop and how it would some day make a major impact in the lives of kids in Nepal. All of that endless talking about making an impact caught the attention of Courtney Pearson, my now amazing wife!
Courtney was studying to be a english teacher. We talked about how we could work together on projects like this. Courtney inspired me to work twice as hard. In the middle of solving the problems with starting a brick and mortar location we wanted to do something that made impact now. I was living really tight and saving everything I made. I was making good money and even took over the compleate product of a larger wedding company, 60 wedding a year whaaa what! But it still was not enough.
I was getting more into design and decided to start a second business that was focused on media design and production. At this point my work life was taking over everything, I was working 80 hours a week while trying to go to school. And as fait has in the heat of the most time consuming time of my life Courtney and I finally came up with what we could do to make an impact before the tea shop.
3,000 hand written letters! That’s what we wanted to do, we set out to collect 3,000 hand written letters of encouragement for students in Nepal. We thought that we could show people that in only 10 minutes they could make a difference. So the idea 1. Convence my friends to help me get 3,000 people to write 3,000 hand written letters of encourgment to students in Nepal. 2. Film everything 3. Take students with the 3,000 letters over to Nepal time of learning how to start and run a business I wanted to do something to show people they could make an impact. I needed to show them that they could make a difference in an easy way.
When John and I finally decided it was time to start this coffeehouse, it was a decision prompted out of both necessity and inspiration. We wanted to create a space for the people of our soybean celebrating small town to come together. A place designed for family, friends, and comfort. But also a space to be a part of a global mission to build libraries in Nepal. It has been our dream to build a system that makes long term sustainable impact in Nepal as easy as drinking coffee.
To learn more about our mission check out our non-profit Letters in Motion!
Courtney Sellers, founder of Martin Coffeehouse