Student Tea Company Cobats World Poverty



Since its inception three years ago, “Making dreams come true” has been the motto of the Shapna Project, a tea and coffee company whose mission is to eradicate pov­erty through the sale of sustainably grown products.

The Project began as a student-led initiative at Howard University School of Business and School of Law in Washington, D.C. to cre­ate a business model that used a 40 percent reinvestment strategy to initiate social and economic change. Among these students was Shapna’s President, CEO and co-founder Johny Chaklader ’03. Chaklader, whose family origi­nates from Bangladesh, was fa­miliar with the plight of indepen­dent small-scale tea farmers in the country who are forced to work under a form of indentured servi­tude on large corporate tea estates. Shapna works with these kinds of tea farmers in Bangladesh as well as coffee bean farmers in Uganda in a similar situation.

“When Johny and members of our team traveled to Bangla­desh in 2009 to approach the independent farmers with this idea, the word they used most frequently was ‘shapna’, which is a Bengali word for ‘dream,’ to de­scribe what they wanted for their families and future generations, and so it seemed appropriate that “Shapna” become the name of the project,” Sales Coordinator Michael Tringali ’04 said.

Shapna reinvests 40 percent of their net profits to community de­velopment projects, 20 percent to the originating farming communi­ties and 20 percent to communities in the U.S. where Shapna tea and coffee is consumed.

Despite its large commitment to humanitarian aid in Bangladesh and Uganda, Shapna is also giving back to the Colgate community.

“As Colgate alumni,” Tringali said, “we’re seeking ways to give back to our alma mater, as it has given us so much.”

Thanks to their partnership with Sodexo, Shapna tea and coffee is offered at the Barge Canal Cof­fee Company as well as Frank Din­ing Hall. These revenues have al­lowed Shapna to support the work of the Upstate Institute, Center for Outreach, Volunteerism and Education (COVE), the Office of Sustainability, as well as local com­munity initiatives including the Hamilton Film Festival and the Hamilton Food Cupboard.

Shapna has also supported several Colgate student’s research on envi­ronmental and sustainability issues in the Central New York area. This summer, Shapna plans to support junior and President of the Shapna Project at Colgate Caroline Ander­son’s field research in Mbale, Uganda on the humanitarian and sustainable development issues facing Shapna-affiliated coffee growers.

“I want to understand the needs of the coffee-growing villages and in turn help the villagers improve their livelihoods by making the best use of the 20 percent of net profits which Shapna gives back to them,” Anderson said.

Supporting Shapna’s mission, the Colgate chapter seeks to raise awareness about issues that coffee and tea farmers in these countries face daily.

“We want to inform and empow­er students to choose to purchase socially conscious products which support small-scale independent farmers who use sustainable agricul­tural practices,” Anderson said. “I’m excited to be part of a project that gives these farmers a voice in the way their villages develop.”