In January, Lennart Clerkx, owner of This Side Up (TSU), pledged to sign all their coffee contracts in 2020 on Beyco – a global coffee connection and trading platform based on blockchain technology. In an interview with Lennart, Beyco learned more about the mission of TSU and the reasons for making this pledge.
This Side Up
In 2013, Lennart did an internship with a wealthy Danish coffee entrepreneur in Tanzania. Though he was buying coffee from other producers at high prices, and providing schooling for their children, healthcare and other services, Lennart realised that the neighbouring producers were not doing that well. He was selling the coffee through direct trade relations in Denmark. Even if producing the same quality coffee, the other farmers in the area could not find the right market and often were stuck with their product.
After trying for one year of trying to convince coffee importers and roasters of the benefits of direct trade and even an attempt to building an online direct trading platform, Lennart decided he could make the most impact by buying the coffee himself, paying a fair price to the producers, bringing the coffee to Rotterdam and selling it to roasters in the Netherlands directly, taking a small but fair margin for TSU.
“Our chain is more like a shared partnership, we are all responsible for the product.”
This Side Up is committed to long term relationships with their coffee producers. Lennart says: “the coffee must be of good quality, but the quality isn’t the same every year. However, we continue to buy the coffee and find a good solution together with our roasters.” Because of the long term partnerships, with coffee producers and coffee roasters, TSU can share the risk throughout the whole chain.
“We have to strive to make this the industry standard, we should demand transparency on every step of the process.”
For him, the most important aspect of coffee trading was to keep the whole process completely transparent. “The price is the same, so how do I convince [buyers] that I do it differently? Being completely transparent is my only marketing”, Lennart explains. So, one of the reasons for Lennart to make his pledge to Beyco is because; “[Beyco] is a much clearer and easier way for us to prove that we are as transparent as we say. We can, of course, upload our contracts on our website, but I find that verification by a third party, who doesn’t benefit from displaying it differently from what it is, is super powerful.”
“You can be financially rewarded for making the world a little better.”
Also, This Side Up started using Beyco to register their contracts so that their coffee producers could access pre-financing from the Progreso Foundation. While using Beyco, Lennart discovered that registering their contracts on the platform was not only beneficial for the coffee producers, but hopefully also for TSU in the future, as they also often need pre-financing their contracts. By trading on Beyco, TSU and other coffee roasters “could then access financing based on their good buying behaviour.”
But the most important reasons for Lennart to commit to Becyo, he explains, is; “farmers often don’t know how to write a good contract and a roaster interested in direct trade usually has never seen a contract. So by facilitating this on Beyco, you are educating the world in trading coffee differently. I think that is huge and visionary.” Lennart believes that providing coffee producers with access to market and ownership of their contracts, they can set off independently, professionalizing them further and creating a more sustainable livelihood as coffee producers.
Go to the world map on Beyco to see the contracts signed by This Side Up and their long-term partners.
This interview with Lennart Clerkx was originally published by Beyco on Medium.