Be the change — the GOOD food and drink guide

by Erik Schmidt,

Owen Carver ’03 advocates for sustainable practices and social equity in the coffee industry.

Blueberry. That’s it.

The blueberry notes linger on the tip of your tongue, followed by the earthiness you’d expect of a high-quality coffee. These beans aren’t quite like what you’d find at your regular cafes or stores, and that’s exactly the point.

Owen Carver ’03 will tell you he wasn’t destined to become a coffee roaster and seller. That came after a chance experience, when a friend from Brazil asked him about importing quality Brazilian coffees to the U.S.

It was an interesting entrepreneurial idea, but Carver’s imagination really took off when he considered that coffee importing and selling could be his way of making an impact in the world.

“I’ve always been passionate about social impact and social responsibility,” he says. “Every company and retail store I see, I think of ways they can serve the planet and our society better.”

As the quote goes, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Carver is utterly committed to putting those words into action. And the fruits of his labor taste really, really good.

Cafe, translated

Despite the English implications of the name (which is Portuguese for “Coffee from Paradise”), Café do Paraíso isn’t a storefront cafe in the traditional sense. It’s a Las Vegas-based online retailer of whole and ground beans that Carver has converted into quite the marketing machine. Aside from promoting and selling his own beans, which have recently won several awards, he offers other socially conscious businesses the opportunity to market his beans under their own labels. This private label program capitalizes on Carver’s expertise as the owner of a digital marketing and design agency called All In Web Pro.

Carver uses Café do Paraíso as an engine for social good in several key ways. First, a dollar from every pound he sells goes to charity — 50 cents to education initiatives in the community where the beans are grown, and 50 cents to local charities wherever they’re sold. The company is also a member of 1% For the Planet, a global initiative comprised of organizations and individuals that commit to supporting environmental causes.

More than anything, Carver seeks to run the business in a way that prioritizes ethical standards across the board. He sources beans from sustainable coffee farms around the world that use organic, fair trade, Rainforest Alliance or other sustainable and ethical certifications. He also uses farms he knows maintain other ethical or sustainable practices, even if they don’t carry the standard certifications.

“I want the global coffee industry to become more sustainable and offer a higher financial return to the communities where coffee is grown and sold,” he says. “I also want Café do Paraíso to become a business model for social impact, ethical supply chains, and consumer education — helping citizens who demand higher ethical standards to consciously vote with their dollars.”

Single origin: Salem, Oregon

Much of Carver’s personal philosophy came from his time at Willamette, which he says motivated him to help others through his chosen vocation. He also studied computer science, which gave him the ability to absorb new programming languages and write new technology applications.

He says, “My passion for changing the world through education and communication augmented by technology is a direct result of my time at Willamette.”

Carver is unapologetically mission-driven, and he’s confident that people can do great things for the planet and for each other. As he explains, “Any individual with an idea, a solution, a message, or a cause can now make their voice heard by millions through the internet and social media and create a movement of global change that can alter history.”

This article was originally published in the fall 2018 issue of Willamette magazine as part of a larger article, “The GOOD food and drink guide: Alumni serve up satisfying fare — and solutions for social issues.” Erik Schmidt is a freelance writer in Denver. 

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