Manumit Coffee Roasters: Supporting survivors of modern slavery

Esther Gibbs
March 21, 2023
An image for Roasterpreneur MTPak Coffee series featuring Manumit Coffee Roasters, the roasters fighting against modern slavery

The Roasterpreneur Series focuses on inspiring up-and-coming roasters and offers advice on running a successful roastery. This week, we speak with Dai Hankey and Nick Davis, directors at Manumit Coffee Roasters, where all the beans are roasted by survivors of modern slavery.

An estimated 2 million cups of coffee are consumed worldwide every day.

Despite these numbers, the majority of consumers spend little time wondering what has to take place in order for the coffee to end up in their cups. Many consider it a daily ritual, a quick pick-me-up.

For Manumit Coffee Roasters, based in Wales, UK, coffee means so much more. Having launched in 2017, the brand uses coffee as a vehicle to help survivors of modern slavery.

Shockingly, at least 49.6 million people live in modern slavery, having been forced into hard labour or marriage. More so, roughly a quarter of those in modern slavery are children.

Unsettled by these statistics, owners Dai Hankey and Nick Davis founded Manumit Coffee Roasters. For the last six years, each bean sold by the brand has contributed to positive change for modern day slavery survivors.

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Providing slavery survivors with an opportunity to learn

Originally, the project began as Red Community: a group of locals who would meet for prayer and to raise awareness about modern slavery.

It soon developed into creating emergency funds for survivors of modern slavery and their support workers. These funds help them apply to receive necessities such as clothing, transportation, and school books for their children.

The project further developed, leading to the development of Embrace – a befriending project that helps survivors build community and reintegrate into society safely.

Reports from both organisations demonstrated a common theme. Once the survivors received asylum and the ability to work within the UK, they often struggled to retain jobs due to various issues.

These include mental and physical health issues or a lack of confidence and skill.

Dai and Nick saw an opportunity for a business that could bridge this gap and employ the survivors. This way, the pair could provide the support needed for the survivors to grow, gain stable employment, and rebuild their lives.

For several reasons, the duo thought a coffee roastery would be the safest space for them to offer the survivors employment.

It was a private address that no one would visit without invitation, and it provided several non-customer-facing roles in a relatively low-stress working environment with several opportunities to learn.

Survivors are able to learn the art of coffee roasting and sourcing green beans, as well as how to process orders and deliveries.

Additionally, it provided them with the chance to learn warehouse management, stock management, accounting, marketing and design, and social media management skills.

An image of a coffee roaster from Manumit Coffee Roasters holding up custom printed coffee bags with gold foil stamping in an article on Roasterpreneurs and Manumit Coffee Roasters

Every coffee bag contributes to the cause

With every bag purchased from Manumit Coffee, either wholesale or retail, customers are contributing to the sustainable employment of survivors of modern slavery.

Additionally, all profits are donated to anti-slavery projects and charities, with neither Dai nor Nick taking a wage from the business.

The coffee is also sourced responsibly using suppliers such as Cals Coffee and Zukuka Bora, who share a vision of human empowerment.

“There is no point in selling a product that helps survivors of slavery if we don’t know the steps that have been taken to get the raw material to us,” Dai explains. “We want it to be slavery-free from seed to cup.”

The beautiful thing about the opportunity is that it is not ‘one size fits all’. To recruit survivors, Manumit has developed relationships with all agencies working to fight human trafficking within their city.

In turn, this is where Manumit receives referrals for employment. When an interview is successful, there is no ‘scheme’ in which the person is placed.

Each‌ employment plan is considered on an individual basis in order to support each staff member with what they might need.

Employees can stay as long or as little as they like, as there is no termination date. Furthermore, if the employee wishes to find other employment, this is often encouraged and supported through the writing of resumes, interview preparation, and transportation.

In six years, Manumit Coffee has employed 13 survivors from 12 different countries and supported countless more.

“Seeing lives change is by far the best part of running Manumit,” Dai explains. “Watching people grow in confidence as they develop new dreams and then chase them is what keeps me going.”

An image of Manumit Coffee Roasters custom printed coffee bags with a custom illustrated coffee bag label in an article on Roasterpreneurs and Manumit Coffee Roasters

Passion displayed through coffee packaging 

Manumit Coffee offerings range from premium, house, dark roast, specialty, and decaf coffees.

This variety of coffees can be identified through the different coloured recyclable coffee bags. Each bag has the logo printed in the middle in a contrasting colour.

For the premium offerings, the logo on the coffee bags has a gold foil finish to add a luxurious feel.

“The new packaging serves several purposes,” Dai explains. “We wanted fully recyclable coffee bags. We wanted packaging that could flatten to fit through letter boxes. Last, we wanted to profile the creative genius of one of our survivors.”

Instead of using labels, Manumit uses paper clips to secure a piece of card on the top of each bag. The artwork featured on these cards is designed by one of their talented employees.

This particular employee, Dai explains, loves coffee but loves art even more, and she is currently the designer of all the labels on Manumit’s coffee bags.

“We are all about creating bespoke opportunities for our survivors to develop their skills and pursue their passions,” Dai adds.

Each design is drawn by hand and then digitised by designer Liz Mosely. Information on each coffee is provided on the back of each card attached to the bags.

For wholesale orders, the coffee packaging follows a similar pattern: unbleached kraft paper bags signify house roasts, while black coffee bags are used for decaf coffees.

“Six years ago, I never imagined Manumit would be what it is today,” Dai says. “Visiting the roastery the other day, I welled up – it is beautiful what happens here each week.”

Setting up a social enterprise takes grit, courage, and creativity, coupled with business acumen.

As Manumit has grown, there has been a need for greater flexibility in order to navigate the problems a usual business would face.

Additionally, they must consider how to support and sustain people who have overcome incredible challenges in their lives and are still fighting the aftermath.

Dai shares his key to success. “Don’t let anyone or anything stop you from pursuing what you set out to do.”

“Surround yourself with people who know why you started and will help you to stay focused, stay on track, and encourage you when you feel like throwing in the towel,” he adds.  

Did you enjoy this edition of our Roasterpreneur Series? Learn more about running a successful coffee roastery by reading our interview with Owen’s Organic Coffee.

Or dive into articles that revolve around our coffee community, with exclusive interviews with roasters, importers, and coffee shop owners.

Photo credits: Manumit Coffee Roasters

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