At zulily, the imaginations of kids inspire us every day. So when we heard about Callie, a little girl who at just 7 years old came up with an idea to start a coffee company to benefit childhood cancer research, we just knew we had to share her story and her coffee with our customers. We spoke with Callie’s dad, Ryan Lentz, about Callie’s Coffee, a Seattle-based company which gives 100% of profits to the Ben Towne Foundation, a cause that we support as a company. You can purchase Callie’s Coffee for a limited time on zuilly. For more about making Callie’s Coffee part of your morning routine see http://vimeo.com/106194338
Tell us about inspiration behind Callie’s Coffee?
Callie’s coffee was inspired by my daughter Callie when she was seven years old. Our very close family friends lost their son Ben to an incurable neuroblastoma. Our family had been witness to this completely unimaginable suffering and loss. And when something that can’t be happening actually happens, it has tremendous ripple effects.
The effect on Callie was that she needed to do something about it. Just like a kid, right. It wasn’t ok to just go forward, she needed to help. So she came to me one day and told me she had this great idea to start a company. She had noticed all adults drink coffee so she thought that would be a pretty good thing to sell. She also said she wasn’t really interested in setting up a stand, like she and her brothers would sometimes do selling lemonade. This time she wanted to start her business on Facebook. Finally, she told me she would take all of the money she made and give it to Ben Towne Foundation, the pediatric cancer research foundation Ben’s parents had started in his honor.
What did you think when Callie first started talking to you about her idea?
At the very beginning I was kind of humoring Callie. We take walks together and Callie likes to talk to me about what’s on her mind. So this time, I thought she was dreaming up some scheme to make money so she could buy a roomful of American Girl dolls. So I asked her what she was going to do with all the money she was going to make. When she told me her plan to give everything to Ben Towne Foundation, it really stopped me in my tracks. Right away, I knew this was something I would help her do. It was the right thing to do.
What has been the most rewarding part of starting Callie’s Coffee?
There have been multiple rewards. We started Callie’s coffee as a family project and Mollie and I have had a lot of fun, and made some great memories with our three kids throughout this whole thing. Then people began to respond to what we were doing, and that includes people we had never met before, living in far away places! It was rewarding to think we might be able to make a real impact with Callie’s idea. If we got enough people to join us, and just change the kind of coffee they drink, together we might be able to create an ongoing, sustainable source of funding for research. Ben Towne Foundation is responsible for bringing some leading doctors to Seattle, and they truly are changing the way pediatric cancers are treated and cured. It is incredibly rewarding to be a small part of their work.
Perhaps most surprising is how personally rewarding this experience has been. I set out to do something with my daughter, hoping we might do some good and teach her a few things at the same time. But working to start Callie’s coffee has ended up changing me. It is the first time I have truly been working for something that matters. That aspect took me completely by surprise.
What makes Callie’s Coffee so unique?
At Callie’s Coffee we work really hard to make sure we deliver a great product that gives to critical research being done right here in our own city (Seattle), and for the benefit of kids everywhere. We know how seriously people take their coffee. It’s a requirement that ours be best in class. At the same time, Callie’s coffee gives people an accessible, everyday way to make an important impact for a cause that truly matters.
Less than 5% of the National Cancer Institute’s budget goes to childhood cancer research. That means funding to change the way pediatric cancers are treated and cured will not happen unless private philanthropy steps in. Callie’s wraps giving into something many people do every day – drink great coffee. By making it a part of that small daily ritual, we hope to invite many, many people in. Together we can impact many lives.
What’s in the future for Callie’s Coffee?
Our primary focus will always be to attract more and more people to Callie’s Circle – the group of people who have chosen to get their coffee delivered to their doorstep every month, so that their daily cup gives. We have also found many businesses interested in switching to Callie’s. It’s a pretty great way to bring giving to the front lines of a company’s culture – where it isn’t about writing a check once a year, or about a decision made behind closed doors. This kind of corporate giving invites all employees, clients and stakeholders in because they literally participate in it.
One of the things we are most excited about this coming year is launching our kids 4 kids program. Callie’s was started by a seven year old to help children with cancer. So it seems natural to open things up so that other kids and their families can get involved. We have started piloting this program and the kids have been amazing. It is very moving to watch a young person take action and then realize that it really is possible for them to make an impact, even as a kid.
Why did you decide to work with zulily?
zulily is a phenomenal company that has obviously been highly successful, broadly disrupting the category. So I admire them as a business. I also believe our brands speak to the same customer. But the primary reason we are so thrilled to work with zulily is their dedication to giving, and in particular, their support of Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research. Like us, zulily has recognized the critical work being pioneered in kids’ cancer research here in Seattle and the imperative to fund this work, so that we might progress toward a world without childhood cancer.
In Callie’s own words, what is your favorite part about Callie’s Coffee?
“My favorite part about doing Callie’s Coffee has been being able to give lots of checks to Mr & Mrs. Towne for the foundation. I also have really liked to do really fun things with my dad and meeting really really nice people”. I really love to get the nice notes and emails from people all over the place who say that they love our coffee and tell their friends about Callie’s. People have been so nice and I think my favorite part about doing Callie’s Coffee is being able to give money to help other kids and the people. Those are my favorite things about Callie’s Coffee”. – Callie