A San Diego roasting startup called Talitha Coffee is cranking out colorfully packaged, fresh-roasted, specialty-grade beans. Yet behind each bag is a deeper commitment to creating opportunities and support systems for survivors of sex trafficking.
Talitha Coffee Co-Founder Jenny Barber has been working to combat human trafficking through nonprofit work for more than a decade, witnessing survivors running into similar barriers to education and employment.
At the same time, on a personal level, Jenny and her husband Robert Barber were learning more about coffee, with Robert first browning beans on a popcorn popper about 10 years ago. That passion led to various fundraising for the couples’ nonprofit work, including for their organization called Justice 180.
Now, with a depth of experience in both fields, the Barbers have flipped the model, launching Talitha Coffee as a full-on coffee business while offering programming and career-focused support to survivors of trafficking.
The company has created what it calls the Talitha Survivor Support Network, which involves partnerships with numerous nonprofits. When a position is available within Talitha Coffee, the company will notify the network, then get referrals. Barber said the young company has helped provide career opportunities for three survivors so far, while the goal is to scale bigger to support more people.
“We want to do everything we do really well,” Jenny Barber recently told Daily Coffee News. “With the coffee we are serving, we want to serve an incredible cup of coffee. We want to give the survivors the opportunity to be a part of something that’s amazing, that’s distinct, that they can be proud of.”
Barber added that the work experience is designed to help survivors find employment anywhere in the coffee industry, not just at Talitha.
“We have connections with support groups, counseling, tangible needs, housing, helping with budgeting, medical care, even as far as scholarships, if they want to go down that route to go to school,” she said. “We’re making sure they have a successful support system.”
Robert Barber, an on-staff Q Grader and the rest of a small production team are currently overseeing roasting operations at a roastery near downtown San Diego, according to Jenny Barber. Talitha was just named one of the host venues of the U.S. Coffee Championships preliminary events.
Jenny Barber said the business has focused on teamwork and collaboration, especially given its dual focuses of quality coffee and support services.
“It’s not just about what you bring to the table,” she said. “It’s about surrounding yourself with people who are excellent in what they do who can fill in the gaps where you have weakness.”
Talitha Coffee is launching with multiple core blends, single-origin beans and nitro cold brew kegs. They plan to reach the channels of wholesale, grocery and hospitality, while also offering monthly subscriptions direct to consumers.
“We want to give people an easy way to get involved with combatting trafficking,” Barber said. “It’s as simple as, you can be drinking a cup of coffee and making the difference in the lives of survivors.”
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