I wasn't in a good place this summer when I returned from Ecuador. For the third consecutive year, I came to Ecuador, purchased coffee, hired temporary workers to help load the coffee, paid them a fair wage to do so - then like that, I left.
But, this past summer, the concept didn't sit well with me. Rather, it hurt, The words and stories Leonardo and Leo, two guys that worked with us this past summer, shared with Carter and me never left. As we were leaving, Leonardo posted a status update on his social media that read:
"These two great countries united as brothers, Venezuela and The United States. I was able to work with Shane and Carter, owners of a renowned company in the United States, Z Beans. Thank you for trusting in us friends. You gave us a great lesson in humility to have left from your great fortune and social status."
When Leonardo sent this to me, I knew these were words that I'd forever remember...
Leonardo had moved from Venezuela to Ecuador a little over two years ago to start fresh. They had left the few things they had in Venezuela behind due to all of the problems the country was facing. Since, Leonardo has not been able to find a stable job here in Ecuador. However, as Arturo said, he's talented and a hard worker.
After the last day Leonardo and Leo worked with us, I remember Leonardo finishing our conversation with "A su orden," which means "At your order."
While I had heard the phrase before, this one hurt.
Why do I have this power? Why does a young man, only three years older than me, with a similar work ethic feel the need to humble himself before me just to get another opportunity to work?
But, the job was complete. The container was packed, the coffee was shipped, and it was time to return home. For me, it was time to return to stability - to return to The States where my daily job awaited. For Leonardo and Leo, it was time to look for something different.
I've never experienced anything but stability. My father has worked for the same company for over 35 years, and my mother has never been unemployed. My mother and father always provided for me and my sister - and they even paid for the majority of our college tuition. Then, as soon as I graduated college, I started to fully focus on Z Beans. While I've had to sacrifice to get Z Beans where it is today, I've never felt unstable. I've been dealt a set of cards that I wish everyone was given, but unfortunately, that's just not the case.
As I returned to The States and once again assumed my stable role, I couldn't help but think about Leonardo, his family, and his daughter.
While I am happy with what we have been able to accomplish with Z Beans Coffee, we are inevitably forced to do all of our production in The States - we need to have the highest quality product possible, thus we need to roast it fresh.
But, what if there was another product we could produce in Ecuador? What if there was chocolate?
Leonardo and I joined forces once again yesterday, January 11, 2020, as we began working on our chocolate processing facility in Zaruma, Ecuador. While Leonardo and I will be working on painting and laying concrete over the next few days, the goal is for this job to never end. The goal is for Z Beans Chocolate to bring stability - For it to be something where Leonardo, and hopefully many other people of Ecuador, can find financial peace.
To high quality chocolate - and to sustainable solutions.
Thank you for your support.