"Never watch another man work," my Uncle Frank tells me while wiping sweat from his face. I was just a young boy at the time, but those words stuck with me ever since. My father, whether he knew it or not, never had to ask me to cut the grass with him. If I saw him working outside, I knew I needed to be out there. The voice inside my head wouldn't allow otherwise..
Fast forward a decade, and I'm hiring my first workers in Ecuador. I need them to pick out the defected beans from the various quintals of natural coffee that we plan to import into The States.
Their hiring agent tells me, "No more than $20 per day for each of them. You'll have a husband and a wife, and they will each work 8 hours." [I found out that the minimum wage in Ecuador is $400 per month, which explains the $20 per day. 20 workdays in a month * $20 per day = $400 monthly.]
They arrive to the peeling facility, shake my hand, and thank me for the opportunity. I explain to them what they will be doing, set up their station, and allow them to get to work. I leave the coffee on the picking table and walk away.
I return to my station that I have set up in Caffe Marie [Our processing facility] and continue working on my computer. I can see the husband and wife picking out the defects, one after another. They are focused on the task at hand - not saying a word.
An hour in, I see the woman stand up and arch her back, as if it's bothering her from hunching over. Immediately, it hits me - The same feeling I had watching my father laboriously swing the weed-eater in the back yard, while I sat in my room playing video games. The feeling of watching another person work, while I sat idle.
I close my computer and head outside. I begin working with the pickers, one by one, sorting out the defected beans from the good ones. None of us say a word, we work in silence. Thirty minutes in, I experience a calmness that I had never felt before - a simplicity that all lives should have. There was no overthinking, no worry - just a simple task - repeated over and over again.
The workers and I would pick through over 450 pounds of coffee that day. Never in my life had I experienced such simplicity, such harmony. The workers would work three more days, picking beans and completing other various jobs. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to work with them again, as I had other tasks. But, they left their mark upon me and Z Beans.
While Z Beans will inevitably become more complex as we continue to grow, I will always keep the pickers in mind. The simpler we keep our mission the more we will grow. God willing, Z Beans will one day have many, many sales channels. We may even have shops internationally. But, no matter how big we become, our mission will never change. Put simply, we create opportunities for the people of Ecuador by connecting them with people willing to help - people like you.