"A Serial Do-gooder"

I'm honored to have been featured in Boston Business Journal, for the latest "Partners with a Purpose" special. Here is the link to the full article! If you can't access it, it's written out here below as well. 


By Jim Morrison – Special to the Journal

September 8, 2020

Years in business: 27

Employees: 15

Number of school districts supported: 10

Amount donated to date: $101,000

Length of relationship: 5 months

Pounds of coffee donated to food service workers: 191

Dean Cycon is a serial do-gooder. He started Dean’s Beans in 1993 after about a 10-year career as an environmental and indigenous-rights lawyer along with a stint at a nonprofit he co-founded called Coffee Kids. He said he wanted to see if it was possible to do well by doing good. With $7,000 and a hatful of good intentions, he set out to do it.

“I wanted to see if it was possible for a company to pay a fair money to the farmers, engage the economic and social issues, and still be profitable,” Cycon said. “If it wasn’t, I’d be a nonprofit again. If it was profitable, then I’d have a business model. We’ve been at it for 27 years, and we’ve been profitable and growing every year, including this year.”

Things were humming right along for Dean when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Sales to cafés and restaurants had made up 80 percent of his business. When the governor ordered those establishments to close in March, that revenue all but vanished.

“In the first week of the lockdown, I didn’t know what would happen to Dean’s Beans,” he said. “I figured the lockdown would last a month or two at the most. I promised the employees nobody would lose their jobs or their benefits. We had a couple months of cash to carry on, and I thought we’d just get through it.”

Then, out of the blue, his (more profitable) online retail sales tripled. People weren’t getting their coffee from cafés anymore, but they still wanted their coffee. The company started making more money than before the pandemic. That’s when Cycon noticed the communities that had been supporting him for nearly three decades were suffering.

“I saw a news story about school feeding programs and learned that child hunger exploded because of Covid,” he said “The schools are really front-line workers in getting food to hungry kids. So we started contacting schools to see how we could help.”

That was in March. Since then, Dean’s Beans, which is based in the Franklin County town of Orange, has donated more than $100,000 to nine school districts to help feed students in need. Greenfield Public Schools Food Service director Eliza Calkins said the company’s donation covered the cost of 4,000 meals for food-insecure kids. “They contacted us in April with some questions about our operations,” she said. “Then they sent a $5,000 donation, which was very generous. Then in May, they sent us another check for $5,000, unexpectedly. Then in June, they surprised us with a third check for $5,000.”

Calkins said the food-service team in Greenfield has fed more than four times the kids they would normally feed this summer. “We’ll always give schools money, but that’s not enough,” Cycon said. “We want to use everything we’ve got. ... This isn’t a one-off.”


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