Andy+ is a social enterprise startup based in Montreal. The concept is simple. They sell travel mugs that reduce waste created by un-recyclable styrofoam and waxed paper cups served in coffee shops. Then 10% of the sales help develop education in the underdeveloped rural coffee communities of Latin America. By using Andy+ you’re sharing the message and growing a movement for our planet and society.
Andy+ will be using the first 500 mugs to commit to education in Latin America. With the help of their first two partners, Cup For Education and Pueblo a Pueblo, they will be giving back 10% of sales to benefit a Literacy Program in Guatemala. The current efforts will aid the La Cumbre School Library project. This support will help keep the library open during the afternoons and possibly transform it into a community library. Additional resources will also enable support of fellow rural schools located in remote towns where access to school supplies and books is difficult.
Below is a quick Q&A with Nicholas Dion, founder of Andy+
What was/is the motivation behind Andy+
Andy+ was heavily inspired by the book “Let my people go Surfing” by Yvon Chouinard. That book taught me that a business didn’t have to be out only for itself. It could be creating products and movements that were needed in the world.
As stupid as that sound, at the time of reading the book, I was in business school and I saw very little potential in businesses actually helping out their communities. It was about marketing anything and being able to grow indefinitely. I clearly remember one of my marketing professors telling our class that it would become our job to make toothbrushes interesting. Ugh!
Growth, and the reasons behind it, seemed like another problem in itself. If you’re constantly trying to grow for financial reasons (and that’s usually the case if you have investors), it’s almost certain that you will end up with a product that has little-to-no added value for the world. To sell it, you’ll have to develop exciting marketing that will lead to overconsumption and ultimately a whole lot waste. It’s a big misuse of resources, even if you end up selling it.
The motivation behind Andy+ was to build a company that was able to help grow the community instead of leaching off it. If your community is growing, your business will be able to strive with it too. Andy+ had to be about something else than only money; it had to be about helping our community and our planet. There were values that I truly cared about through my childhood but that I was scared I was losing while growing up. Andy+ force me not to forget.
Tell us about the mug itself and what you want it to represent?
The mug represents a conscious effort to help out the world around us. By buying this mug instead of another, you’re not only getting a high quality product, you’re also donating money to help the poor rural coffee communities of Latin America.
Then, by using the mug, you’re helping to reduce the waste that comes from throwing away non-recyclable Styrofoam and waxed paper cups (over 25 billion each year). By talking about the mug and its story, you’re spreading an environmental message and participating in a movement to create less waste.
Finally, I’m really hoping to let people know how easy it is to make a difference. You don’t have to be mother Theresa to help out. Everything counts. Andy+ isn’t meant to be preachy, it is meant to be fun, easy and lighthearted. It’s fun to do good.
Tell us about the commitment to Guatemala and the Literacy Program?
The funds generated from our first 500 mugs will help Pathway to literacy in Guatemala. More specifically, we will be supporting a new library built with La Cumbre School in Cerro de Oro.
The funds will help keep the library open into the afternoon and hopefully transform the school library into a community library so even more people can access it to learn how to read and write. Additional resources will also be given to nearby schools such as the Nueva Providencia School with the intent of developing similar programs to help combat illiteracy.
What do you like about social enterprise and how do you think it will impact a new generation of consumers?
I think social entrepreneurship has to become an important part of the future. Businesses will always outweigh NPOs. That means that we need businesses to start doing their part in the world and expand their bottom line to include people and the planet alongside profits to balance the waste and the overconsumption generated by other companies. NPOs alone will not be able to make the required changes in our society in order for us to start living a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
With the growing popularity of social enterprises, it will become easier for the consumers to do good which is awesome. I would love to see a future where companies are now competing more heavily on the amount of good they do, instead of the actual product itself. I love imaging Pepsi and Coke battling for market share through positive change and social initiatives instead of what is “cool” and who has the better cola recipe.
There are so many different products you could have created… Why a coffee mug?
I went through many product ideas before settling on travel mugs. Wallets, socks and hats were the three more prominent products that almost came to be.
As I was researching products ideas, I was also on an unrelated quest to become a coffee snob. I was learning about the different brewing styles, the difference between blends and single origin, the countries where coffee comes from and about the coffee industry itself. And that industry sucked.
On the production side we have under paid laborers and harmful harvesting practices (see sun-cultivated coffee). On the consumption side things aren’t much better. We drink coffee on the go from Styrofoam cups (probably the worst disposal cup ever) or paper cups which are lined with plastic resin to keep the coffee warm and prevent leaks. Unfortunately, that also leads to these cups not being recyclable.
And that’s when I saw the opportunity to not only to have a product that could give back to people in need (in this case certain people of the coffee industry) but also to have a product that had a reason to exist and a story to tell. Every time you use this mug, you’re preventing the waste of an additional non-recyclable cup
Do you plan on extending the coffee line mug to different colors and combinations or create some sort of other product around coffee?
Absolutely. We have ideas for both new colors and new products. We will have to narrow it down in the following months to make sure are offering stays simple, focused and useful.