Features June 2017 Special Section

Making an Impact with a Mission Statement

Written By: Caroline Redmond

Known nationwide as the Gator Nation, Gainesville is your typical college town. And like any college town, it’s a progressive city teeming with small businesses offering innovative services spearheaded by bright minds. Sound business philosophy and ethical standards are fueling so many of these local businesses and contributing greatly to their successes.

Companies are now turning their focus on enriching the community around them, those who work for them and those who buy their products or use their services. More time, energy and resources are being funneled into efforts to make the companies as progressive as the community that they serve.

Sweetwater Organic Coffee Co. is a shining example of philosophy and ethics driving its business. A local roaster, importer, wholesaler and retailer of organic coffee, the company strives to partner with small scale coffee farmers, connect communities and inspire conscious consumption, one cup of coffee at a time.

The company is not driven by the desire to generate huge sales but instead focuses on elevating and enriching those that they buy from. Sweetwater treats small-scale farmers with respect and considers themselves to be working in solidarity with them, because Sweetwater knows that how it buys its coffee matters.

Tripp Pomeroy, the co-owner of Sweetwater, described the company’s ethical standards and its relationship to fair trade. “One thing that drives our company is our principled approach to fair trade,” Pomeroy explained. “We are members of the Fair Trade Federation, which holds us to certain standards from how you price and buy your coffee to making sure you are buying from democratically run cooperatives, buying from co-ops where women are properly represented in leadership and those who are environmentally sustainable.”

Another essential element of Sweetwater’s business ethics model is direct contact. It strives to connect the consumers who drink their coffee to those who grow it. Already in 2017 Sweetwater organized two trips to the countries where its trading partners are located and hosted a partner from Guatemala here in the United States.

“Human contact and relationships really do matter and they matter as little or as much as you want,” Pomeroy said. “Sweetwater places a high premium on face-to-face relationships and focuses on making them meaningful instead of transactional.”

The ethical practices and philosophy of Sweetwater have one simple end goal: to do the right thing. “Building community is very hard, and it’s not always profitable, but that’s the investment you make in doing the right thing,” Pomeroy said. “Most people, especially those in Gainesville, want to do the right thing so our mission is to work with people to find the best methods to accomplish that.”

Another company making waves with its ethical business practices is Fracture. Fracture is a local business revolutionizing the way its customers display their photographs and memories. Photographs are printed on glass, eradicating the need for a picture frame. The company is making great strides in the customer service realm creating titles such as Director of Customer Happiness. One of the primary missions of the company is to have second-to-none customer service that starts at the top.

Abhi Lokesh, the CEO and co-founder of Fracture, said a key motivating factor of the company is to be as authentic and genuine as possible.

“At Fracture, we talk to our customers like we are talking to ‘real’ people, not just customers,” Lokesh said. “It’s important to not talk circles around people or bludgeon them to death with customer service speak. Just empathize with them and connect.”

On top of its customer service, Fracture also places a focus on impacting the community in a positive way, and Fracture believes the best way to do that is with its employees. At Fracture, they foster a “flat culture” meaning that everyone is equal in the workplace as they achieve toward the same goal. The CEO doesn’t have the proverbial corner office and all employees work together as teammates.  It is one of their goals to employ a diverse workplace and lift up as many people as possible.

“We try and be the rising tide that lifts all ships,” Lokesh explained. “The better the company we are, the more people we can employ and, in that way, the more we can give back to the community.”

Numerous companies, in addition to Sweetwater and Fracture, across the Greater Gainesville area are becoming more conscious of its business practices and their effects on the community. While Gainesville is known for many things, one of our best-kept secrets is the strong ethical principles working behind the scenes to make the community, state and beyond a better place. 

Caroline Redmond is a recent graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in telecommunications. In her spare time, Caroline enjoys reading, spending time outdoors and yelling at contestants on Chopped who try to make last-minute vinaigrettes. She also considers herself an amateur cat photographer — her muse is her cat, Snoop Dogg.

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