Ones to Watch: Whitney Stacey and Matt Teluk
19 December 2017 at 8:31 am
Whitney Stacey and Matt Teluk are the co-directors of Monochrome Coffee Co which aims to transform developing communities through the education and empowerment of youth. They are Ones to Watch.
A total of 60 of Australia’s brightest young changemakers have been selected by the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) to take part in the 2017 Young Social Pioneers (YSP) program. It is Australia’s first, and only, national youth entrepreneurship incubator designed exclusively for young people leading initiatives that respond to society’s most pressing challenges. In this mini-series Pro Bono News speaks to pioneers from each of the nine categories across the program about the differences they are hoping to make.
Stacey, a 24-year-old social entrepreneur based in Melbourne, founded her first organisation when she was 19.
Monochrome International supports 26 children to attend primary school in Tanzania and has worked with 400 parents throughout East Africa.
In a bid to grow Monochrome International’s impact, Stacey and her partner Teluk, have since founded Monochrome Coffee Co.
Monochrome Coffee Co, which has been certified by the non-profit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency, aims to educate, connect and mobilise people through the experience of great coffee.
According to their website, they’re socially-minded coffee snobs, out to empower people to change the world now.
Here the pair talk to Pro Bono News about their shared passion for education, using business as a force for good and what their plans are for the next five years.
What motivated you to start Monochrome Coffee Co?
WS: Monochrome Coffee Co came about over 12 months ago now. Really where it all started was off the back of a volunteer trip that I did to Tanzania in 2011. What I saw when I was there was that the awesome communities that I was working with they really wanted a hand up instead of a hand out and so I came back to Australia and started Monochrome International which is a ACNC endorsed not for profit. We started two programs in Tanzania, one is our Equip program where we work with young people to put them in really great schools in Tanzania, and then the other is our Empower program where we work with parents who have children in schools but the parents haven’t been to school.
And then Monochrome Coffee Co came about as a way to grow the impact we were having. So the idea is that we would bring this awesome Tanzanian coffee over to Australia and then use the profits from the coffee company to expand our education program in Tanzania.
MT: Whitney has been running Monochrom International for a number of years and we’re both extremely passionate about using business as a force for good, reimagining how social impact ventures look. So Whitney and I are in a relationship, and we had this shared passion for education, a shared passion for reimagining how social impact could work and so the natural progression then was to work on Monochrome Coffee Co together and launch the business.
Who are you hoping to help with this?
WS: So the main focus at the moment is on primary school aged children, with the Equip program. There’s a big problem in Tanzania where 80 per cent of people attend primary school but then only 25 per cent attend secondary school and that’s mainly because the majority of people are attending government primary schools and all classes are taught in Swahili, then all secondary schools in Tanzania are private and all of those schools are taught in English. So it is difficult for them to transition. So we work with primary aged school children to get them into really great English medium schools in Tanzania so they can get into secondary school and complete their school education. So that is really our focus.
And then the idea is that once they are grown up we want to work with young social entrepreneurs as well, so that we are working with awesome young Tanzanians who will be the ones that will provide jobs for these kids that we’re working with.
MT: We see that the way that we can have the biggest impact on developing communities is through the education and empowerment of youth, and having identified that real gap in education within Tanzania, we saw that funding education and working with parents and eventually working with young social entrepreneurs would be the way that we can have the greatest net impact on developing communities.
When you were looking to grow your impact, what made you look to coffee as a way to do that?
WS: That came out of a conversation with a guy called Hendry who is our East Africa lead, so he manages all our stakeholder relations with the impact work that we do in Tanzania. I was talking to him about growing the work and he suggested that we start selling coffee. He has a background in coffee and has worked in the Tanzanian coffee industry for about six years. So originally he was the one that suggested it, and I thought it was a cool idea. Tanzania produces amazing coffee and we are in a city especially, where people love their coffee, and they love the story behind the coffee more and more so, so that’s really how it started.
Do you think it works particularly well because you are in Melbourne?
MT: I think so, we are so spoilt here with such amazing coffee and the coffee appreciation community really values things like traceability and the visibility of the supply chain, and we can really offer a product that not only is responsibly sourced but that has a tangible social impact and particularly our retail clients really love that. But also the other reason it makes sense for us to be in coffee is we can connect large corporates with the ability to have an impact through their procurement function. So whereas to this point, many, many for-purpose ventures put themselves forward or compete for CSR money, which is fantastic, but there is this huge untapped pool, which we see to be the procurement budgets of for-profit companies. They’re all looking to increase their impact and be societally relevant and if we offer an amazing product like coffee that they can purchase and have an impact, it is a win win for everyone.
What is your overall aim?
MT: We want to grow the business to the point where we can employ ourselves full time, to the point where we can have an amazing team. We would love our own roastery and community space where we can host events and invite people into a space where we can talk to them about coffee, talk to them about social impact, and invite them to participate in conversations that maybe they haven’t had before. We would also love to start some new programs as well, some new impact programs, one of them being the program working with young social entrepreneurs in East Africa.
WS: Really we have got our three pronged model for transforming communities, and that’s through getting the kids in to primary school, and then working with parents and the future program is the one with young social entrepreneurs. We don’t know exactly how that looks yet, whether that be a co-working space there or an incubator or something like that, but at the moment that is how we see we can have the biggest impact. So it is really about growing the first two programs and then implementing the third one as soon as we can.
What were you looking to get out of the YSP program?
WS: Definitely learning how to pitch was a big one because I’ve never had to do that before. I had friends that have done the program before so I knew a little bit about it, I knew the process of creating a pitch deck and learning how to communicate in a board room for seven minutes with four judges would be really awesome for us to go through. And really the focus was like how are we going to grow this business so we can have the tangible social impact we are committed to having. So really it was about that, and about having a community as well. Having a whole bunch of friends who had done YSP I saw how incredible the community was and I really wanted to be included, I guess. FYA is an incredible organisation and we really wanted to have a relationship with them.
What did winning the Open Stream in the Young Social Pioneers program mean for you?
WS: Of course we get our $10,000 that we get to do some exciting stuff with that we would not have been able to do otherwise, so that is really exciting. But the biggest thing was having some really smart people say some really great things about our business. That was really humbling and really exciting because this is something that Matt and I work really hard on and to have that validation and that acknowledgement was really amazing. And we are now connected with these awesome people, not only the four judges from the open stream but the rest of the FYA community, which is going to be hugely beneficial in years to come.
MT: It was definitely a really welcome endorsement for what we’ve been doing. We’re two young people with a passion for a particular social issue and we’ve come up with what we saw as being a sensible solution and going through the rigour of the program and putting together the pitch deck and getting the feedback we got, really communicated to us that we are on the right track and that was really pleasing.
How do you find leading an organisation at a relatively young age?
WS: I don’t know. I don’t really know any different. But I think it is good in the sense that people are really willing to help you out because you are young, and we’re very transparent when we don’t know how to do something.
I think it is great to be known in our families and our communities as people who are willing to step up and do something about the issues that we care about. We have people in our lives that have told us we’ve inspired them to do something great as well, which is really awesome and it’s really great to be able to be a demonstration of a young person making a difference now rather than waiting until you’ve had a career and going ok “now I am going to contribute to the world when I’m 50”, because I think that is what a lot of people think they’ll do and they either do or they don’t do it. That’s neither right nor wrong. But certainly when I started Monochrome International at 19, people were like why are you doing this? And it was cool to be that leader.
MT: I think it is so much fun. Because I have otherwise gone through a pretty traditional pathway into a corporate career and there’s a whole bunch of challenges and opportunities that come with that, but it is so fun being able to try and build something really special that is intended to have a really amazing impact. And to be able to be, as Whitney said, a demonstration for our friends who can then see that is accessible for them as well, is really cool. I think the other advantage of doing this and being our age is that we can be really kind of daring, we can have a go, we can fail, we can do all sorts of things and people are pretty willing to support us and come along for the ride because they think that it is great that young people are doing this. And I’m sure it is exactly the same for the rest of the YSP community as well.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
MT: We want to be working full time in the business and have a team around us, we want to have our own roastery, we want to have begun what we call the Enable program, the program with the young social entrepreneurs, we want to be doing direct trade with farmers in East Africa. And I think also we want to be a really prominent voice in Australia both in social impact and education reform, to see that there is a role that we can play by continuing to educate ourselves on this issue and to communicate to the broader public about the power they can have through the products they buy.