We had the good fortune of connecting with Jaren Mendel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jaren, what do you attribute your success to?
Staying consistent with our values: compassion, empathy, community, generosity. We thrive when people resonate with our purpose, and our purpose is what drives our success—to inspire kindness.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
We are the only brand to accept acts of kindness as payment for our coffee—that’s what sets us apart. By doing so, we not only inspire but we mobilize people to express their kindness.
I’m most proud of our continuity. The number of people who have put hands on this project to ensure its success is beyond what I had imagined. This also was the greatest challenge. Letting other people take control of such a personal project takes much trust, but that is the only way.
The top few lessons I’ve learned are to ask for help/involve others, to be a leader that people can follow, and that reconnecting to purpose is what fuels my fire (and others’ too).
Every business has a purpose that can be as inspiring as a nonprofit. By digging to discover it, connecting to it, and communicating it, people can get fired up about it. The money is secondary.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love going to New Realm at sunset. I would love to go to the aquarium too. The beltline and ponce is so classic. My friends like sports so I’d take them climbing at Stone Summit. We have a great Italian place by our house called East 48th St. So we’d definitely go there!
What Kindfest and Karma Coffee are?
At Karma Coffee, you pay for your coffee with an act of kindness. We specialize in inspiring kindness through this unique exchange. Kindfest inspires similar value by creating an atmosphere of compassion through live local music, community organizations, and acts of kindness you can do on the spot.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I owe tremendous gratitude to my family. They raised me with the values I’ve infused Karma Coffee and Kindfest with along with supporting my ideas. I wouldn’t have the confidence to have developed these programs without them. My grandparents are the roots of such strong values—my grandfather gave me my first coffee machine.
The volunteers in these programs are the brick and mortar. Together, we can attain farther than we alone could reach. The lineage of presidents deserve explicit praise for their commitment to Karma Coffee—Claudia Edgar, Wren Krupczac, Priyanka Gokare, Ben Goldklang, and Linoy Celolichin.
Throughout all stages of growth, Jittery Joe’s, our local coffee shop in Athens, supported our programs with free coffee. UGA’s Office of Sustainability followed shortly after by fully funding most of our programs. These programs literally wouldn’t have been able to run without their generous support.
The first people to support these visions hold a special place in my heart. A freshly planted flower will die without support, all the more so for an idea. Jordan Agolli held me to my word to follow through with Karma Coffee. Corwin Weik is the first person in the coffee industry to see my vision with me. A plethora of volunteers in the first week of inception, during November of 2015, bought into Karma Coffee and the momentum from their excitement drove this program to sustained success. I also owe gratitude to Aspen Anonda who enthusiastically signs up to sing at Kindfest as soon as I mention it. You rock.
There are others who played an indirect role such as Zac Chase. Sharing ideas and synergies kept me inspired.
There’s few people that don’t deserve praise for their involvement in Karma Coffee and Kindfest, but I’ll stop myself here.