Magazine Feature / People

Business perking up for a team of DU students

Nichole Parker

No one told University of Denver first-year business students Nichole Parker and Jake Sager they couldn’t go toe-to-toe with experienced business professionals in a business plan competition in 2009. So they entered and walked away with $2,000 in prize money for their plan to help coffee farmers in Tanzania.

No one told the pair — now sophomores — that they couldn’t implement the plan, learn about coffee processing and marketing and incorporate and create a company called Global CafeNation. So they did that. Now, customers can go online and shop at their business,

There’s no telling what no one won’t tell them they can’t do next.

Sager, 20, freely admits the team, which now includes fellow DU students Kailee Milon and Cailyn Kilcup, is still learning and growing the business. Working while in business school has its advantages, he says, as students have been connected with business gurus and master’s students who have helped them along the way.

Global CafeNation is starting small, with a website that markets certified fair trade coffee under the brand Sweet Unity Farms. The coffee is grown by Tanzanian farming cooperatives, assuring growers get fairly paid for their work. Global CafeNation profits go to the charity Peace House Africa, which operates a secondary school in Tanzania.

The farmers get paid a fair wage and the money from the sales goes right back to the country.

“It’s starting slowly, but we want to expand,” says Parker, also 20. “We actively went out to bring new people aboard, and we hope we can expand again.”

The next challenge they face is developing the product while building their relationship with roasters who treat farmers fairly and use only organic, sustainably grown beans.

“We’ve got a lot to learn,” Parker says.

Jake Sager

But learning they are. Sager says he does all he can to incorporate parts of the business development plans into his classes at DU’s Daniels College of Business, where he’s pursuing a bachelor’s degree in international business.

“That way I can get class time to work on the business and get some extra help,” Sager adds.

Sager, who has traveled from his suburban Minneapolis home to Tanzania on church trips, learned about the poverty that plagues the country. Parker, from rural Arapahoe County in Colorado, is majoring in accounting and Spanish. Both are seeking minors in leadership through DU’s Pioneer Leadership Program, living in a community of like-minded students.

Looking ahead, the two want to raise enough money — $1,200 — to pay for at least one Tanzanian student to go to the boarding school supported by Peace House completely tuition free.

Both students plan to study abroad in the fall, leaving the fledgling business in the hands of their new teammates.

“We hope we really make a difference, not just for the farmers by paying them fairly, but also for the next generation by helping them go to school,” Sager says. “That will teach them how to develop their own resources and break out of the poverty in their country.”

Global CafeNation is on Twitter at and on Facebook.

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