Supply Chain Now Episode 531
“I think the tools we are going to use this year and beyond have just gotten sharper and stronger. We’re more enthusiastic and more engaged and more empowered to move forward.”
– Meta Robinson, Business Partner, Sweet Unity Farms Coffee
On January 31, 1919, Jackie Robinson was born. Just over 100 years later, his son and granddaughter are carrying on his legacy of performance and social advocacy with Sweet Unity Farms Coffee, a retail coffee brand founded to have a positive impact on the poverty and underdevelopment faced by rural farmers.
David and Meta Robinson are both part of the leadership team at Sweet Unity Farms Coffee and David is the founder of Up-Country International Products Inc., the sole distributor and marketer of Sweet Unity Farms Coffee. They’ve had as difficult a year as anyone, especially with most of their sales taking place in airports. They have now made the pivot to eCommerce and are leveraging Meta’s digital marketing experience to survive in the new normal.
In this conversation, David and Meta tell Supply Chain Now Co-hosts Greg White and Scott Luton:
· How they have each been inspired by the courage and achievements of Jackie and Rachel Robinson
· The trends they are seeing around corporate and consumer interest in smaller suppliers
· The important role coops play in improving working and living conditions in our global supply chains
It’s time for supply chain. Now broadcasting live from the supply chain capital of the country. Atlanta, Georgia heard around the world supply chain. Now spotlights the best in all things, supply chain, the people, the technologies, the best practices and the critical issues of the day. And now here are your hosts.
Scott Luton (00:00:28):
Good morning, Scott Luton and Greg white was here on supply chain. Now welcome back to the show. Got a really special episode teed up this morning, right, Greg? Yeah, I’m a big fan of four two, and see how it didn’t exactly give it away. And, and of course, really honored to speak to folks who are not only associated with greatness, but creating their own greatness in their own. Right. And of course, part of our logistics with purpose series, which is everybody’s favorite, I couldn’t have put that better. Of course, logistics with purpose here in supply chain. Now PowerBar friends at vector global logistics. And on this series, one of our favorites, we spotlight leaders and organizations that are changing the world in some way, shape or form and say tune as we’re not only going to increase your supply chain IQ, but your leadership IQ and acumen, a quick program in it for we get started.
Scott Luton (00:01:18):
Hey, if you enjoyed today’s conversation and I bet you will, uh, be sure to find instance, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts from. We’d love to, for you not to miss conversations, just like this. Want to welcome in our esteem special co-host here today and Ricky Alvarez and Adrian, [inaudible] both with vector global logistics. Good morning, gentlemen. Good morning, Scott. Greg. It’s. It’s a pleasure being here as always. And uh, yes, this is one of our favorite series and today’s going to be particularly special. I’m very excited about the opportunity to talking to, to our guest of honor. I cannot believe both of y’all have kept everything on the road. I tried my best, you know, what’s funny is they’re both right here. Like we’re hiding anything. So Adrian, good morning. Great to have you back here. We should give a special shout out to our friends at books for Africa, right?
Adrian Purtill (00:02:09):
Yeah, absolutely. Good morning, Scott and Greg and everyone on the call. A pleasure to be here as always. Yes. I’d just like to thank, uh, books for Africa for introducing us to, uh, to David and, and meta books for Africa is our very treasured customer, friend and partner. They do incredible work, uh, on the African continent, uh, sending over many, many thousands, hundreds of thousands of books, almost at the million, uh, at the, uh, 50 million bookmark. Now they do incredible work in Africa. And I know David has had some involvement with books, books for Africa for the last six or seven years. So thank you to them as well on the show as well. Right. That’s right. All right. With no further ado. Let’s welcome in our two guests here today. Uh, we’re so pleased to have both David Robinson, the youngest son of of course the legendary Jackie Robinson.
Scott Luton (00:02:59):
He’s also managing director of the hard ground development corporation serves also with upcountry international products and he’s a coffee farmer and all the extra time he’s got on L on his docket with MSG Kaimana farmers group, David Robinson, good morning honored for you to be with us, looking forward to learning a lot more from you, David. And you’re joined by your daughter, Metta Robinson, who also is it product manager and industry. She also manages the us operations for upcountry international products, which represents the really popular sweet unity farmers. Coffee met a good morning honored to have you both with us here. We’ve got so much. We want to pick your brain on and thanks so much for your time. All right. So Greg, where do we want to start with David and Metta? Well, let’s find out a little bit about him. What did he say first?
Greg White (00:03:54):
It is, it’s really an honor to have you both here. Uh, it’s clear that one job is not enough for either of you, so, uh, really appreciate your ambition, but David let’s, let’s start with you a little bit. Tell us a little bit about yourself. You are clearly something, I mean, clearly I’m sure an honor and I’m sure a real life family, and I bet there are some stories we don’t know, being a sign of the great Jackie Robinson, but you are more than that. And we’d love to hear about that as well. So tell us a little bit about yourself, share that with our community.
David Robinson (00:04:27):
You know, I, I, I think I was fortunate to have been born in an era in American society and certainly within a family wherein social, social purpose, social mission, challenging, critical issues was the, the message and meaning of the time, really what people did was measured by it, how it impacted on social development. And so I have been involved with my family, with my community in, in efforts, in social development, almost organically from childhood genetically organically. Absolutely. We were, we were raising money for the freedom whites in the 1960s when I was nine, 10, 11 years old. And, um, being part of the Robinson family, it really was all about social development. And I didn’t come along in 1947. I was not born at that time. So all of the excitement about baseball was not really the focus when I was beginning to be conscious. What I was conscious of was the impact that baseball ad on American society.
Greg White (00:05:53):
That’s powerful stuff. I got to tell you, you know, so many of us in the States
Greg White (00:05:58):
Of course grew up with that as one of our biggest history lessons, not just a sports lesson, but a big history lesson. I got to tell you, it was encouraging for me to understand that those kinds of things that were were happening and truly your father was just a hell of a ballplayer who at the time happened to be black. And I mean that, you know, there’s no way to really give that justice, but you know, the perspective as I had as a child, studying it in history was, you know, he deserved to be there and people thought alongside him to get him there. And, and that made a I’m sure a great found that foundation for what you all have done. So tell us a little bit about, maybe a little bit about any impactful anecdotes, but also a little bit about how that’s led you to do what you’re doing today. Dave,
David Robinson (00:06:47):
In our family, the first in an industry baseball, the first and most recognized as my father, my uncle was the first executive in a, in a law, in a major corporation. Another uncle was a first African-American in the post office. So again, and no one talked about money, really, you know, I mean, my uncle was in the post office, my father, who was a major league baseball, they were both first and barrier breakers to social integration and social development and the betterment of, of American society. And, and almost in my family, see, you know, as equals in terms of, of what they did was impacting society. Baseball was a great vehicle because it was the national sport, the sport that held the heart of the nation. And if you could show how that’s morphed and that nation were really cheating themselves in terms of talent and excitement and, and great play in a game by segregating, uh, members of the American society, you know, that, that translates to all of American history.
David Robinson (00:08:08):
And in my case, you know, in 1947, cars were made in Detroit radio’s evening, you know, everything was American issues or American we’ve gone from, from that domestic platform to really a global platform today. And it’s what my parents, I think set their children’s lives up for was to look where the big issues and where the big platforms were and, you know, do what you can. And, uh, I was given the opportunity to travel the world when I was young, went to Africa when I was 14 and 15 and uh, with my parents. And so that exposure took me to understanding or looking at the same inequalities and the same flaws that we had as a domestic society, where we segregated our population and segregated our ability to, to produce, uh, to be part of a global society and limited to that ability, those, the benefits.
David Robinson (00:09:20):
I was able to see that on a global basis. And I was able to see a continent of a billion people in Africa who were producers, but also segregated from the global economy and really excluded from the developmental relationships of their industry. And coffee’s a great example of that. That’s the industry that I’ve been in for the last 30 years in Tanzania, 90%, 95% of our farms have family owned, small scale farms, but we feed into a huge global industry. So I work in the global coffee industry is able to take back global benefits, right to the core of society, which is the family.
Greg White (00:10:09):
That’s powerful stuff. We’re going to dig more into some of that in the rest of the interview, but I appreciate you publishing that as a foundation for us, because I think that’s powerful that it was an entire family of world changers, really. And it sounds to me like you continue to do that. So Metta, tell us a little bit about what you’re doing. You literally have a day job and also you’re participating in what David’s doing as well. So share with us a little bit about that, a little bit about your upbringing. And
Meta Robinson (00:10:38):
So I, I was actually born in Kenya and I lived in Namibia for most of my life. I, um, came to the U S about 15 years ago, I came here for college and have them upstairs. I studied business. I remember during the early years of college working with my dad and he would send, you know, invoices for some framework, long emails about all of the different coffee work he was doing. And at the time you’re like, okay, got it. That has since grown into, what is it, dad? Eight, 10 years of us working full time.
David Robinson (00:11:17):
I, I was, I was saying a decade, yes. With a growing involvement.
Meta Robinson (00:11:24):
Yeah. And so we started off with, you know, here’s a lot of stuff for you to read and now I am recording my dad and the family on us operations of what is up country to national, which is our parent company. And the brand is what you need to farm. So I did, um, marketing in school. I started in tech about 10 years ago. Um, so I work now as a product manager for Revlon that my full time job. And I continue to support the business and both my worlds, which is my full-time work at Revlon and the coffee business. They work together in a way, in a powerful way, really, because I get to work at a great company in it, really pushing and pulling all of these different innovative projects. And then I get to scale that down to what is our family’s small family business, right? So it’s really learning from the big and applying it to the small and vice versa. So that’s what I’ve been doing. And we’re continuing to push forward with our e-commerce. So that’s my baby in terms of the business. I, you know, we love to work on our side trying to improve it. And again, just bringing both of my worlds together for my it world work at Revlon and the work I’m doing with my dad
Greg White (00:12:50):
E-commerce is a challenge unto itself. Isn’t it?
Meta Robinson (00:12:52):
It is so exciting too right now. Yeah,
Greg White (00:12:55):
Yeah, yeah, no doubt. Well, I, I got to tell you, it’s meta, it’s interesting how sneaky intentional parents can be in building culture and responsibility and knowledge. Just a few emails here and there. Right. And slowly building it over time. That’s really impressive. And clearly it’s part of your maybe literally part of your DNA, get intentional about these things.
Meta Robinson (00:13:21):
Yeah. I consider it to be one of my greater passions and the privilege, and honor, to be able to be something greater than myself and just earning an income. Right. So that’s, that’s, that’s been a great joy.
Scott Luton (00:13:35):
Hey man, love that David and Metta, we want to learn a little bit more. I appreciate what you all have shared already. And in terms of perspective and, and both family and business, I want to dive in a little bit deeper to not just Jackie Robinson, but also Rachel Robinson. You know, Rachel arguably gets overlooked because Jack has made such a big impact, but Rachel was a dynamo and I’d love to circle them back to you. David, maybe we focus on Rachel. What’s one key. You you’ve shared a few that lessons learned that that not only you garnered from your family, and it sounds like your uncles and other family members, but your journey, but what’s, when you think back to your father and your mother, what’s one key life lesson that you see play out every day that maybe you haven’t shared yet.
David Robinson (00:14:19):
My mother was also a professional woman. She worked, uh, she, uh, was involved with Yale university as a nurse and a professor. She was director of the Connecticut state mental health department, but she also had time to support and nurture her children. And from bedtime stories where, you know, I was part of King Arthur’s round table when trying to deal with the kingdom’s issues to traveling with her solo to Africa in 1965, she has been a huge impact. And I tell you, Scott, even before I never got to the level where I could read my mother’s professional books in clinical psychology, even with my limited capacity, when I saw your book titled group dynamics and human development, you know, that all impacted in terms of, uh, there are issues beyond the obvious. And so she definitely represented, she loved classical music, operas and symphonies. And those were wonderful for me as a kid, because there was no language involved or no language that I could understand involved in Bob breeze, but there was, there was emotion and that was in kind of an international, uh, and human dynamic, which, which, which, which goes across race, religion, nationality.
David Robinson (00:16:09):
And I was exposed to that as a, as a kid and the way an orchestra works together with the various component, the wins and the questions and the strings very much also a human dynamic of, of our different human personalities and cultures needing to work together in order to come up with a great final product.
Scott Luton (00:16:36):
Mm love that there’s a synchronicity. I can’t believe I said that word. Right. You know, we’re big supply chain dorks here, and it’s very meaningful in global supply chain, but to your point, David is meaningful across society. And there’s so much there that you shared. And, and I really appreciate you sharing some of Rachel’s accomplishments as a professional, as a, a nurse, a director of nursing or a researcher at these procedures, institutions all wow. You know, supporting her husband and those efforts and founding the, the Jackie Robinson foundation, uh, in 1973 and all, all of that program. And it’s helped so many people since. So just a tremendous it one hour, and even some change does not give this justice, but thanks so much for sharing that. David met up same question to you, whether it’s in the vein of your grandparents or whether it’s in the vein of your parents or your greater family. And what’s a key life lesson that that’s front and center view in day in day out,
Meta Robinson (00:17:34):
There is a dedication to work and community that I have observed in my own family, whether it’s my parents or my grandparents, my family, when I first came
Meta Robinson (00:17:50):
Here for school, my goal was you need to graduate college and that’s at the, at the top of your class. And so I committed myself for those four years to getting that done. There was a goal to be mad. And so I was goal-oriented and I pushed forward with that. The output of that was not so much about having a degree, but what do you do with the education that you have gotten? What do you do with the skills that you have gotten to improve your life, but, but also hopefully beyond your own life, right? The goal has always been to do beyond your own. So I think that that’s seen in, in the strength it takes to accomplish that has been a big part of what I’ve taken away from my family, starting with the work of my grandfather and the work of my grandmother, who I didn’t get to meet my grandfather’s. So my understanding of my grandfather, other than what you’ve read and hear about him is through the lens of my grandmother, right? So I’ve seen her live her life a certain way, and you cannot help, but appreciate and know that there is a continuation and a partnership that she had with my grandfather. So it’s not like she’s just continuing his legacy, something that they built together. So seeing her and she grandma’s 98. Now, I would say, I don’t know if she’s officially retired.
Meta Robinson (00:19:24):
No, I got to see her well into her, you know, eighties and nineties working, you know, continuing to part of the Jackie Robinson foundation gave me to be a part of other initiatives, you know, in education and beyond her, you know, her own, her own family. So I think it’s, it’s really that strength and, and just commitment and dedication to serving others and working hard to support yourself, but extending that beyond, you know, your own needs. And so that’s something I draw from my family. My aunt is a writer and you know, does look for children that, you know, you get to, you see her extending herself, even in the lives of young children. And, you know, I take my technology self and try to use that to, you know, have somewhat of an impact, take the work we’re doing with farmers in Tanzania and connect them to the site of the world. I love getting emails from customers, you know, saying I was on your website and I read this about your farm. To me, it feels like we’ve made the connection between the farmers. Some of whom I have met many years ago, right. And the people who are buying our coffee today and the people who are posting on our Instagram today, it’s beautiful for me to see
Meta Robinson (00:20:48):
The connection of those two
Scott Luton (00:20:50):
Completely agree. Well, very well stated to you both. I really appreciate your worldview and point of view that that work continued learned more and more about. So, you know, there’s no finish line in the journey continues. There’s always need as David put it in kind of in the family, one of the family models, it sounds like is look where big issues are and then go out and do what you can. And I, and I hear so much of that and how you both are, um, sharing your perspective here. All right. So to our audience for our baseball, uh, geeks like me, maybe this next question too, is going to be manna from heaven. So David, thanks for indulging us here. As Greg pointed out, look Jackie Robinson while he was a huge shade JAG. He was one, the heck of a ballplayer goes out saying six time.
Scott Luton (00:21:35):
All-star a major league national league MVP. He was rookie of the year, the year he broke the color barrier. I mean, that’s just how good he was. Change the game on a number of different facets. And of course, uh, elected to the hall of fame in 1962. And one final tidbit for David. I asked you to weigh in and maybe share an anecdote or two, uh, is number 42. And I’ve seen Metta some of your pictures at belt ballparks on Jackie Robinson day, where all major league baseball players were number 42 on April 15th of each year, which is we should have been doing that the year he left the sport. I mean, I mean, it’s such a overdue, but now how the appreciated a move by major league baseball. So, David, as you mentioned, you weren’t born when he broke just yet when he broke the color line and boy, those would be some incredible experiences. But talk to us, if you could, when he was elected into the sports, one of the sport’s greatest honors, any, any anecdotes or experiences that really stick out in your day
David Robinson (00:22:37):
One, thing’s got that, that my father told me in terms of his reflection on that moment, he was walking to his office in the streets of New York sometime before they announced his induction into the hall of fame, African American man walks up to him and says, Jackie, when you get elected into the hall of fame, that’s going to be the happiest day of my life. And my father thanked him and went on. But as he was walking away from the man and thought about what the man said, that when he, Jackie Robinson got elected to the hall of fame, that was going to be the happiest day in that man’s life. It impacted him in terms of his relationship with people, with the African-American community, with the sports community, with, with, with all of the, the change elements, uh, in America, um, that he was not just himself for himself, but he was this man. This man
David Robinson (00:23:46):
Was going to be his happiest day. And I think he felt hugely appreciative of what she was able to do for his family. Yes, of course. From the sport of baseball. Yes, but basically for across the board American society, I mean, she got into people’s lives and they were able to stand up and work a little harder to walk a little taller because of what he had done.
Scott Luton (00:24:15):
Wow. Such a powerful anecdote there, David Metta, I know you didn’t get a chance to meet your grandfather, but, uh, in, in talking with your grandmother and learning some of these experiences for that, that legendary on the field success and beyond what any experiences you’d like to share,
Meta Robinson (00:24:32):
Perhaps one of the things that stand out for me, I think of when I think of my grandfather and what he’s accomplished is the discipline. It took to do what he did or as long as he did. And under the circumstances, I stuck it as another discipline in too. And so I think I tried to think of what he has accomplished and what he went through and kind of bring it into the context of my own daily challenges and problems today. And try to dig a little bit deeper so that I’m not just looking at a problem at a surface level, I’m trying to understand something deeper about it and looking for a strength within me that is gone.
Meta Robinson (00:25:24):
So I, I I’ve, I’ve heard and seen, you know, different articles and movies and films about making him father. And I see this, I see this man who I deleted, she moved, I didn’t get to meet here. It’s kinda like, you know, someone that you’re like, Oh, I relate it to this person, but you’ve not met them. You’ve not had conversation with them, but you’re getting so much from who they are and what they have accomplished. And so really when I’m going through something or trying to sell something, I just write to the discipline and the courage it took for him to overcome what he did. And I tried to apply it to my own life and just constantly digging deeper and trying to move beyond, you know, what is the problem at hand? And that’s one thing that I look for for strength, but I’m also working on, um, cause they don’t always get it right.
Scott Luton (00:26:29):
That, uh, thanks so much. Uh, Rick, I know we’re, we’re shedding some light on your next question, but really quick for context for our listeners, you know, Jackie Robinson in, in the family, the impact didn’t stop obviously when he left the ball and he became
Scott Luton (00:26:44):
The first African-American TV analyst for major league baseball, I became the first African-American vice president of a major corporation, which sock full of nuts. I mean, he continued to break barriers just as a machine in that, in that fashion. It was just amazing. And as you both were speaking to, it was a team effort between Jackie and Rachel Robinson and just the immense change agents they were for, for not just a sport, but you know, as, as David, as you put it, baseball is like the microcosm of American society. And so what happens in baseball has that tremendous spillover effect. And that’s what we’ve seen thankfully. So Enrique, turn it over to you here. I know that there’s so much to ask David and Metta. Uh, what’s next. So again, Metta and David, this is, uh, an incredible credible interview. And thank you so much for sharing all this personal stories about you and your life and Metta in particular, you, I wanted to point out to a specific picture and I might actually go a little bit off of a script here. Uh, but in your website, uh, sweet unity, coffee.com, uh, under the, our story. There’s like, I believe a picture of your, I believe it’s your dad at the very top. I know if you know which picture I’m talking about, but, uh, it’s
Meta Robinson (00:28:01):
Farm and holding a little girl’s hand.
Enrique Alvarez (00:28:04):
There’s that one. And then there’s another one, uh, as well, similar to that. And so I just wanted to see if, uh, those were actual your pictures and your felony pictures. They looked like they could be,
Meta Robinson (00:28:16):
They are, but I don’t think I’m in any of them.
Enrique Alvarez (00:28:19):
That was gonna be, that was gonna be my next picture because they’re, uh, incredibly beautiful and they, they really portray what, everything that you guys have been saying about what you do and how you do it. So, uh, I was going to ask you about that. I said relates to the purpose that you have right now, you have a successful career. You’re helping your dad, you’re following on the footsteps of incredibly accomplished individuals on both sides of the family. It sounds like. How do you, especially in this year with coronavirus and everything we were struggling with, how do you take all that in and what would be your, your purpose, uh, going forward? What drives you to kind of, uh, accomplish what you want to accomplish? And if you could share a little bit more of your goal and your vision for the future.
Meta Robinson (00:29:09):
Um, my thing this year was, you know, it was a, uh, um, a curve ball for all of us. I started up the year with big plans, you know, resolution, all of the many things I wanted to accomplish. A lot of that has shifted for, for, for all of us. Our goals for the business has always been to continue to produce a good coffee, to continue to have the work that we do contribute to the producers and the farmers of our coffee. Um, my work has been focused on branding and marketing our coffee here in the U S so the goals have been the same. The drive has been the same and probably more so now this year, because of all of the many different challenges we’ve had, um, what was unique about this year and forever will be what’s that it changed. It changed the way we did business, right?
Meta Robinson (00:30:09):
Our, our business was primarily in the airport industry. We partnered with some great brands, um, you know, providing them a coffee in the airport and some streets, site locations with the impacts of COVID-19 a lot of that change. So all of the plans that we started off with, we needed to realign, like most things, I think businesses and individuals, you have the necessary tools to realign yourself this year. I don’t know. I didn’t know what tools to use to realign because everything was so unique about what was happening. We found ourselves in a position where you can do business, but you can really only do it online because people are not leaving home speed. People are not traveling. And so we had to look at our business structure and see how we survive for what we didn’t know. And maybe starting to feel a little bit more confident now, but what we didn’t know the duration, like we didn’t know how long this.
Meta Robinson (00:31:15):
So we’ve continued to invest in our, you know, our e-commerce business. We’ve continued to look at how we can reach more. People looked into ads. What we haven’t done and are still working on is not just reaching anybody. We wanted our message to, to reach. You don’t know if somebody is the right person until you reach them, right? And then until they resonated with your message, but to reach people with a message that we felt strongly about, our mission has always been, you know, sell a good product, bring it to this market, tell people about our story, tell people about the story of sweet unity farms, coffee, and the impact that it has in our local communities. Tell that story in the most authentic way to an audience that is dealing with bigger problems, right? That’s dealing with a pandemic that is dealing with, you know, economic crisis. How do we do that in a way that is still a Fentech that is still, you know, respectful, that it, and still has a place in people’s homes in people’s hearts. So our online business has, and is continuing to go through this realignment of like, who are we in? Who are we, but who are we also in this context? Right. So I feel like I’ve probably not answered a lot
Enrique Alvarez (00:32:40):
Of, no, no, no. I know.
Meta Robinson (00:32:43):
Um, so it’s just, it’s it, and that’s just from a business perspective, but I think even from a personal perspective, right, we’ve had to deal with so much in these last few months and, and the tools that used to work before weren’t exactly working this time or needed to even be realigned. You know, the things that grounded us, you know, we needed to dig a little bit deeper into that, whether it’s, you know, your faith and your family, you know, what are the things that are going to allow you to stay grounded while you wait out this very difficult period in, in, in our time and how do you set yourself up so that when this is over God-willing, you will be in a position where you can stand up and do more and be agile in, in, in this environment. So that’s how I’m rolling.
Enrique Alvarez (00:33:40):
No, that’s thank you very much for sharing. And you’re absolutely right. I mean, there’s, no, I never learned any of this at school, right? There’s no like a chapter on how to deal with global pandemics that I learned about. So, uh, how’s, how’s this whole change and adjustments made you and your company stronger you feel, and how are you better suited to handle the future?
Meta Robinson (00:34:02):
We learned a lot more this year than we did, maybe in any other year. My dad does a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of making sure we have coffee to sell. Um, you know, he does a lot of the work in Tanzania. I get the sweet job of, you know, getting to sell the coffee. That’s already here in America. My job has gotten my, the, the, the objectives have gotten clearer. I think I have a better sense of what we need to do. I think there are many examples of companies that are thriving in this time. So I, I’m a big, uh, I love workshops. I love things like LinkedIn learning and, and I take different courses. I love podcasts. So I’m always trying to figure out what other people are doing to survive the times. And so I think if anything, we’re, we’re stronger than we were at the beginning of this year. And, and we’re stronger going into a new year because of the challenges and, and some of the things cause, cause it, it really also highlighted some of our areas of, you know, mint or opportunity, right? Like maybe we’ve just gotten used to doing something a certain way. So now we know that that certain way will not allow us to bounce back when something else happens. And I think we should always remember that, you know, there are external things that happen that you won’t be able to control, but that will, you know,
Greg White (00:35:38):
You, and about 90% of the supply chain, that don’t feel like the lone ranger, because this whole situation has rocked company after company, even the ones who are, or in the press appear to be thriving were knocked backwards. That’s right. Large number of steps. Let’s bring in Adrian, Adrian. You’ve been so patient. We, we, we uncovered so much good stuff already. And now we want to go back Adrian to the Jackie Robinson foundation, right? Kristen, to you, David, you’ve been involved with the, uh, with the foundation now, since it formed in 1973. And, uh, we’d love to hear about it’s about its mission and some of its programming.
David Robinson (00:36:19):
It all flows off of the theme and the chairman Jews of my father’s baseball involvement and sort of development of, of, of people in any society education and an ability and the skill to compete and participate is coming to the success of integrating into a sport or a society. So, uh, my mother, my uncles, a very tight group of family, friends sat down in the living room and talked about how to continue the legacy and the opportunity that Jackie Robinson developed. And they chose style and ships for people of color who had great academic potential, but financial need. So over the years, thousands of students have been educated based on the contributions of individuals and corporations and institutions into that mission of preparing our youth. I’ve been living in Tanzania for the last 30 years. So I’ve never been able to be involved as much as I would like to, but in 2018, again, based on my mother’s particular, uh, history and vision, the foundation created a Rachel Robinson international fellowship, 12 grand, and the first year was 2018.
David Robinson (00:37:56):
And we, I, I, and one of my sons who live here with us and Tanzania, we’re extremely happy to welcome about 30 Jackie Robinson scholars who were studying at universities across America, into Tanzania for two weeks, for them to be involved in a work study program. That program carried on into 2019 and was discontinued this year, not discontinued, but put on hold this year because of the coronavirus. But basically it’s about the foundation has been about preparing people who have ability, but financial need to be able to get in and participate to their maximum in society.
Adrian Purtill (00:38:44):
Wonderful. Thank you for sharing that. Are there any programs that you, that you foresee that you’d like to, uh, to kick off, you know, in 2021 and beyond to add to what’s already been being done.
David Robinson (00:38:55):
Technology is an incredible tool, which I’m blessed to have them 10 children and they are my future. They are my life everlasting. Uh, Metta is our first graduate and she’s taken the, taking the role in the flow in the coffee industry, in terms of marketing and developing the finished product. She works with green coffee, taking it from green coffee to being roasted coffee, to be presented to the consumer community, delivered to the community, the consumer community, and the co and the consumer community paying back for their coffee and seeing that those funds go back to the producers, but her sisters and brothers, we spent 10 years starting a coffee farm and being part of a collective of coffee farmers and started a cooperative. We’re now both on the Jackie Robinson foundation level and on a level of cooperative coffee farmers using technology in order to enhance our educational offerings.
David Robinson (00:40:06):
The foundation is reaching out to thousands of more students who are not necessarily able to get scholarships, but who are able to benefit from what the information that will all of a thousands of scholars have had from the past that they can give to students who want to, who are embarking on going to college in our cooperative, we are now filming all of our educational presentations. So when you have a presentation to a hundred co-op members and you filmed it, now you’re able to welcome another hundred and another hundred, that same experience. And just this zoom experience we’re having. Now, we have members of our community who had never been to the Capitol city of Doris law, but through this technology where in 2021, bringing experts health experts, for example, for around women’s health, all women’s organization in the village will come together in an educational and a multimedia educational center that our co-op do and sit and have a zoom communication with a female doctor in the capital city of Dallas alarm to talk about health issues. So potential in terms of technology, huge potential in terms of bringing intellectual resources together. And, um, I’m extremely grateful in our family. We have worked from picking coffee, planting, coffee, seedlings, nurturing seedlings for four years, to up being able to process invoices, orders, customer service, making roasters, you know, I’ll producing an excellent coffee for, for a consumer who are our partners and, you know, esteemed clients,
Scott Luton (00:42:10):
Right. I love how David, you know, access to technology. If we’ve learned, if anything has really smacked us in the face here in 2020, it’s how we’ve got a lot more heavy lifting to do, to make sure and ensure that the rest of the globe has got access to technology. And I love what you’re doing there, David, through your efforts to, um, use and harness technology to help in the healthcare arena and beyond. So really admire that. I tell you, you and you and your family and Mehta and Dave and your family keep on giving and, and giving so much and, and such a heartwarming story. Greg, I know we’re kind of, we’ve touched on so much. So this point, and, and I kinda, I, I gotta keep fighting myself to go dive deeper on this and dive deeper on that. Cause it’d be an eight hour all day interview, but Greg, where are we going next? I mean, I think we’ve heard a lot about what you’ve experienced this year and in the past years, I’d love to get your perspective on, you know, what you have your eyes on or what you potentially see coming in the future. Is there a particular issue or a topic or a challenge or an opportunity that you is really got your attention right now that is in the forefront of your mind that you feel like acting on or following even closer. And I’m going to swap it up a little bit. Metta, let’s start with you.
Meta Robinson (00:43:34):
Um, yeah, I think when it comes to the work we’re doing, I think I touched on this a little earlier, just about looking a little closer at our, you know, e-commerce business and investing a little bit more into that. We’ve seen a trend where consumers are not just interested in buying from the companies, you know, they’re invested in buying and supporting small businesses, right? They’re, they’re, you know, there’s this big movement to merged supporting small businesses, supporting and supporting family owned and minority businesses right. To, to be Frank. So we have a unique product. We have a unique story. I don’t know of another family or a brand that can truly take the position or claim to be and distributors and marketers of their own product. So that is a unique feature that we have. It’s something that we want to continue to talk more about. We want to continue to let our customers understand the relationship that they get to have with coffee producers simply by buying this product and not just buying directly from farmers, but also the impact that they’re making. Right? What does your coffee sale mean to suit unity farms, coffee? So my, my goal and the issue that we want to tackle and that I’m, I don’t know if you guys can see my board, I have this board and another one.
Meta Robinson (00:45:21):
Yeah. You know, sometimes you write things in there all over the place, but I’d like to be able to bring that together so that we are coming out with a stronger position on how we engage with our customers. We are sharpening our narrative about who we are. We continue to tell the same story, but in a more powerful way. So, because the audience has also changed our customers that changed and good Lord this year will have changed. How, you know, people are looking at the world and how people are looking at businesses, right between the pandemic and the social unrest in this country and the world. It’s highlighted some big issues. It’s given people a chance to look deeper into how they want to participate in this economy, how they want to participate in this, um, society and, and, and who they get to see right through the work that is being done.
Meta Robinson (00:46:21):
So I think, you know, I’m proud of the work that my dad has done. I’m proud that he’s, you know, he started this 30, some odd years ago. I just got to join, um, you know, 10, 10 years earlier or 10 years ago. Um, so I’m proud that, you know, we already have this strong foundation that suite unity forums as a brand already has this strong foundation. This initiative is work that I know is not just a job to my dad. It is his life. It is the life of our family. It is not just sweet unity farms, coffee, coffee. It is the name of our farm. It means the world to us. And so the responsibility I feel, and the honor that I feel to be able to even be on this podcast purely because of the work that I’m doing. Right. And to be able to, as little as it may sound, have a website and an Instagram where we’re telling the story that, you know, that I’m proud of at the core of who I am, I am, and that I know means a lot others and has a greater impact on, on, you know, the lives of like the coffee farmers in Tanzania.
Meta Robinson (00:47:36):
So I think that the goal remained the same, but I think the, the tools we are going to use this year and beyond have just gotten sharper and like, you know, stronger. And we’re just sort of, you know, more enthusiastic and more engaged and more empowered, um, to move forward. And I don’t know if was, I think I read a question about predictions for 2021, or should I wait,
Greg White (00:48:06):
Go for it. Yeah.
Meta Robinson (00:48:08):
And the respond to that written down was like, I would not dare.
Greg White (00:48:13):
Yeah. Probably wise
Meta Robinson (00:48:16):
You, um, think 2020 for all of its lessons. And I look forward to 2021 in whatever shape it comes in,
Greg White (00:48:24):
David, same to you. I mean, what do you see? What kind of challenges or opportunities issues, you know, are in the forefront of your mind? And if you dare any thoughts on 2021,
David Robinson (00:48:36):
I would like to support and maybe expand a bit on what Metta was saying. I think people have seen, particularly in this last year, we have to become involved as individuals, as private companies, as organizations to impact our condition. Can’t depend on government, can’t depend on world organizations. And so we all will be looking for ways that we can impact social injustice is a disease worse than Corona. It’s been around longer than Corona, that we all want to see addressed the same way. We want to see a vaccination for Corona. We want to see social injustice because we’re seeing it creates turmoil in our lives, both domestically and internationally, and in the, in the international industry and in our own lives, we have to be prepared. So one of the things that I’m, I’m always excited about for our own cooperative phone producer group is that we are always educating ourselves.
David Robinson (00:49:54):
And the whole function of a co-op is to take a coffee farmer and turn him into and shooting into a supply chain partner wherein we can not just get the inequity and the, the donkey portion of the coffee, uh, economy, but really can become partners where we have the money to be able to develop our communities and continue to be global partners and citizens. And I think in countries like North America, I think people, companies, organizations are all ready for that because I think we see more. And in 2021, it was a great year to teach us both politics. So to conflict and health wise to teach us, we have got to be prepared and working on ourselves. So I’m looking for grateful. I’m looking forward to joining with people in 2021. Our co-op has developed a capacity. We’ve got millions of pounds of coffee grown by small scale family owned farms who are looking for partners who will provide a developmental relationship for our economy and our communities. And I believe that more and more they’re out there today in the American society, as I say, on an individual cooperated organizational basis. And we’re looking forward to joining with all of those parties to really come together just the way baseball came together in 1947 and make this globe a better circumstance and a better performer for all of our benefits
Scott Luton (00:51:43):
And Enrique. I don’t know about Jenna we’re. We want to finish on good news. I think this whole hour has been chocked full of good news about, you know, it has been great. And just that analogy and how powerful it is to realize that in this case, uh, as David put it, baseball is just a game. It’s an amazing, beautiful game for a lot of people, but we have to think and use it to, to resolve the bigger, bigger issues that are we’re facing as a society. So, David, thank you very much for that. Not only comment that you made, but just the call for action. It felt a little bit more like a call to action for people and everyone listening to us to really, really think about what we’re doing and try to improve rapidly for the benefit of the world and the communities.
Enrique Alvarez (00:52:27):
So thank you once again, without said and something that I think Scott does very well with his own team, he usually finishes with like a good news. Like he asked every single person in his team to share like good news. And just one piece of information short, sweet is something that has happened to you guys, maybe in the last couple of weeks that, uh, that you for you. It’s good news. So I’ll start with, uh, with you met, uh, some good news that, that you want to share with everyone to end up with a positive note
Meta Robinson (00:52:59):
For me, this is, um, waking up, getting to hear from my family. I think we are living in times where that is. We’ve always lived at times, forget we’re living in times. You’ve always lived in, you know, we’re aware that’s not always going to happen, right? So I find a lot of joy and pleasure in having some kind of connection with the people that I love at the top of the
Meta Robinson (00:53:26):
Morning. So this right now is good news. I’m seeing my dad all the way in Tanzania. I get to talk to you. Wonderful people. My mother was just calling in. So good news for me is connection with the people that I love and I’ll leave it at that.
Enrique Alvarez (00:53:49):
Excellent. No, that’s definitely agree with that. And David, for you, any good news in the last couple of weeks, something that you want to share, I’ll make it a little harder because I’m sure you’re going to at least try to say the same thing, cause I’m sure the feeling is mutual, but you can’t copy Matt on this, a new piece of good news that you might have other than your family, which I’m sure it’s very important as well.
David Robinson (00:54:11):
Can I talk about my grandchildren or you’re just cheating now you can talk about whatever you want. So coincidentally, I commit two years, I said for 30 years, a good, a piece of good news that has just come to me over the last couple of weeks is the existence of a program called supply chain. Now working in the supply chain, the, the dynamics of a supply chain are critical. And to learn that there is an organization or the program that you’re talking about, supply chain issues. That’s great news for me because you can talk about a system, a mechanism, procedures, partners, chips that can impact the world. Nothing is made domestically now. So you’re talking about the global supply chain. You know, if you can bring that to the consumer’s attention in terms of where the consumer can really benefit the global community, as well as themselves, I think that’s fantastic and I never knew that you all existed. So congratulations and keep up the good work.
Enrique Alvarez (00:55:27):
Thank you so much. And I think, uh, this is basically just a warm up, cause we should definitely schedule a couple more interviews with you to go even deeper, not only into, uh, your family’s history and your personal story, but I think we should talk a little more about supply chain. What do you, what do you think, Scott? I think this could probably be a couple more interviews in the future, easy question, but, and the good news is there’s so much good news and thanks Mehta and David for your con comments and just all that you’ve shared here today. One observation, you know, with sweet unity farms, coffee, if you listen to this conversation and you can’t really feel in a very meaningful way while they deliberately chose that name, you’re not listening and maybe you need to check your pulse because there’s so much passion behind really that global unity and bringing people together. And, and, and I admire that, that, that came out in all of your answers and to different questions
Scott Luton (00:56:24):
And, and on behalf of our community here at supply chain. Now, thank you so much. Uh, Metta and David Robinson, that means a lot to us and we’re we’re coming. Uh, David UN being in Tanzania in 2021, working with our partners at vector in it, a group called St. Picks. We’re going to be highlighting the spotlight and more of the supply chain community in Africa. And some of the outstanding things are doing there, the successes, the challenges, and really create more awareness because it is indeed a global community. So thanks so much for those, those comments, Adrian and Rica. And Greg, I had a high bar for this conversation because I’ve jumped out of bed this morning and excited to learn from David and Metta. And it far exceeded even that high bar. What about y’all Enrique?
Enrique Alvarez (00:57:10):
Yeah, no, for me it was very, uh, refreshing, definitely a good thing to have early in the morning, getting ready for the day. I think this is very exciting and I kind of leave very, uh, motivated to interview more energized. That’s the word I was looking for? Yeah, this is great.
Scott Luton (00:57:27):
In, in David’s words, you know, look where big issues are and do what you can. I mean, and, and, and I couldn’t, I’ve got about 18 pages of notes by the way. Uh, but thank you for that. Greg, give me one quick takeaway from this outstanding conversation.
Greg White (00:57:41):
This family is the vaccine for social injustice. It is my opinion. I would love Metta to meet your great grandparents. Imagine the people that raised your grandparents to be who they are to create the intentionality of this family. It’s a little dusty in here, frankly, truly this, this is one of the great global families I’ve ever met set 70 plus years. And that’s just what we know of, right. That’s just from 1947, right. But imagine what this family was doing before that. So it’s truly inspirational. And, and, uh, you know, I think regardless of baseball or coffee or whatever it is, this is a very intentional family with us with a real purpose.
Scott Luton (00:58:29):
And, and, and we couldn’t do it justice even in the, in the hour and some change today. And we’re just scratching the tip of the tip of iceberg in terms of the impact. So we’ll set Greg Adrian, we’ll wrap up with you once. What’s your favorite part about today’s conversation? I just wanted to say echo Greg’s sentiments, wholeheartedly agree with that. It’s just wonderful to hear David and David had made a story and how they’ve taken the legacy of the granddad and grandfather and grandmother, and just pushed it forward and made such a success of, of their lives, uh, and, and continue to have that mentality of, uh, you know, giving forward, uh, pushing things forward really inspirational completely. I agree. All right. So to our listeners, we’re going to add David and his contact information and organizations in the show notes, but circling back, final question we promise and metals start with you. How can folks connect with you and the
Meta Robinson (00:59:22):
Sure you can more about our brand, but you need the farm stock cough. So Jesus sweet unity farms, coffee.
Greg White (00:59:34):
There will be a.coffee before long. I guarantee it
Meta Robinson (00:59:37):
Surely we’re ahead of that unity.coffee. You can also find us there and then Instagram sweet unity coffee. I think you’ll find us. You learn about our history. There’s a contact page there. So you can reach out to us with questions and, and we are happy to serve and be a part of this. So thank you for having us. I have a quick question as a potential client, I guess a medical company
Enrique Alvarez (01:00:04):
Was going to reach out to you and, uh, now the holidays are coming. Some companies sexually want to maybe gift some coffee, especially if the coffee has a lot of purpose. Is it something that they can reach out to you and ask about it?
Meta Robinson (01:00:17):
Yeah. I mean, we’ve, we’ve partnered with, you know, small and big, you know, initiatives like that. So yeah, absolutely. You know, the contact us page, you know, comes to customer service. So I will, I will. Yeah, I’ll respond. And, and my dad and I would be honored to be a part of anything.
Scott Luton (01:00:38):
Outstanding. Thanks so much Metta and David, what’s the best way to connect with you and your organization? Oh, my daughter farms, coffee.com. Welcome. We look forward to hearing from as many people who want to talk well, huge, thanks to David Robinson and Metta Robinson. What a invigorating conversation here today that really setting the bar for E you know, we, we saw every episode here with, with, you know, do good gift forward and be the change. But Greg, this embodies that, this epitomizes that, and, and, uh, it means so much to, to our listeners. I hope you enjoy this episode as much as we have big thanks to our friends at vector global logistics, which power conversations, just like this. If you like these conversations and enjoy it, and they impart so much wisdom and really challenge to you as it does for our team, Hey, check us email@example.com. And on that note, be like Metta and Dave Robinson do good gift forward, be the change that’s needed. And we’ll see you next time here. Yes. With big dog people here in Loganville. So is that in Rick aides? Dog? Chica is an Instagram star 3.7 million followers. Now a way that’s way more like more like 35. Well, she is. Oh, no, that’s for sure. That’s for sure. More than me for sure.
Would you rather watch the show in action? Watch as Scott and Greg welcome Enrique, Adrian, Meta, and David to Supply Chain Now through our YouTube channel.
Meta Robinson is an IT product manager with over 10 years of experience in e-commerce strategy, systems integrations and digital marketing. She is a business partner at Sweet Unity Coffee for the last 8-10 years; managing US operations for the company.
David Robinson is the founder and managing director of Higher Ground Development, an organization that works directly with coffee cooperatives. In 1998, David also founded Up-Country International Products Inc., the sole distributor and marketer of Sweet Unity Farms Coffee.
Enrique Alvarez serves as Managing Director at Vector Global Logistics and believes we all have a personal responsibility to change the world. He is hard working, relationship minded and pro-active. Enrique trusts that the key to logistics is having a good and responsible team that truly partners with the clients and does whatever is necessary to see them succeed. He is a proud sponsor of Vector’s unique results-based work environment and before venturing into logistics he worked for the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). During his time at BCG, he worked in different industries such as: Telecommunications, Energy, Industrial Goods, Building Materials and Private banking. His main focus was always on the operations, sales and supply chain processes, with case focus on, logistics, growth strategy and cost reduction. Prior to joining BCG, Enrique worked for Grupo Vitro, a Mexican glass manufacturer, for five years holding different positions from sales and logistics manager to supply chain project leader in charge of five warehouses in Colombia.
He has a MBA from The Wharton School of Business and a BS, in Mechanical Engineer from the Technologico de Monterrey in Mexico. Enrique’s passions are soccer and the ocean and also enjoys traveling, getting to know new people and spending time with his wife and two kids Emma and Enrique. Learn more about Vector Global Logistics here: http://vectorgl.com/
Adrian Purtill serves as Business Development Manager at Vector Global Logistics, where he consults with importers and exporters in various industries to match their specific shipping requirements with the most effective supply chain solutions. Vector Global Logistics is an asset-free, multi-modal logistics company that provides exceptional sea freight, air freight, truck, rail, general logistic services and consulting for our clients. Our highly trained and professional team is committed to providing creative and effective solutions, always exceeding our customer’s expectations and fostering long-term relationships. With more than 20+ years of experience in both strategy consulting and logistics, Vector Global Logistics is your best choice to proactively minimize costs while having an exceptional service level. Learn more about Vector Global Logistics here: http://vectorgl.com/
Greg White is principal & host at Supply Chain Now – The Voice of Supply Chain and digital media publisher – where he helps guide the company’s strategic direction, and interviews industry leaders, hosts weekly Livestreams, and is creator, executive producer & host of the TECHquila Sunrise vlog and podcast. Greg is a recognized supply chain practitioner, industry thought-leader, founder, CEO, investor, board director and advisor in B2B technology with multiple successful exits.
Prior to his current initiatives, Greg served as CEO of Curo, a field service management solution most notably used by Amazon to direct their fulfillment center deployment workforce. Previously, Greg founded Blue Ridge Solutions, and as President & CEO, led the bootstrap startup of cloud-native supply chain applications to become a Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader. Greg has also held leadership roles with Servigistics (PTC), and E3 Corporation (JDA/Blue Yonder) where he pioneered cloud supply chain applications in the late nineties.
Today, rapidly-growing tech companies & venture capital, and private equity firms leverage Greg as a partner, board director and advisor for his experience building disruptive B2B technology and supply chain companies that are widely recognized as industry leaders. He’s an insightful visionary who helps companies align vision, team, market, messaging, and product to accelerate value creation. Greg guides founders, investors, and leadership teams to create breakthroughs to gain market exposure and momentum that increase company esteem and valuation.
Scott W. Luton is the founder & CEO of Supply Chain Now, the voice of supply chain. Supply Chain Now digital media brings together thought-leaders, influencers and practitioners to spotlight the people, technology, best practices, critical issues, and new opportunities impacting global supply chain performance today and tomorrow. Our leaders are frequently sourced to provide insights into supply chain news, technology, disruption and innovation, and rank in the top 25 on multiple industry thought-leadership lists. Supply Chain Now digital media content includes podcasts, livestreaming, vlogs, virtual events, and articles that have accumulated millions of views, plays and reads since 2017 and continue to reach a growing global audience.
Scott has worked extensively in the end-to-end Supply Chain industry for more than 15 years, appearing in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and CNN. He’s also been named a top industry influencer by groups such as Thinkers360, ISCEA and others.
Having served as President of APICS Atlanta from 2009 to 2011, Scott has also served on a variety of boards and has led a number of initiatives to support the local business community & global industry. Scott is also a United States Air Force Veteran and has led a variety of efforts to give back to his fellow Veteran community since his departure from active duty in 2002.
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