The city of Holland is filled with coffee shops, from Lemonjello’s to Ferris to 205, much to the delight of many Hope College students. However, there is soon-to-be a new contender in the running for most beloved of the bunch. A branch of the chain coffee shop, A Just Brew, is coming to Holland, and it is being opened by one of Hope’s own, junior Grace McConaghie.
A Just Brew isn’t just any old coffee shop—it is a non-profit organization that donates all profits to the International Justice Mission (IJM).
“International Justice Mission is another non-profit organization that works to end human trafficking around the world,” McConaghie said. “So, that can extend from literally rescuing people from wherever they may be kept in modern day slavery, whether that’s sex trafficking or just like being in kind of a working deal that they can’t actually get out of because they’ll never make enough money to be free and be able to work in better conditions,” McConaghie explained.
All of the baristas and various employees work for the shop on a volunteer basis. This means that their only expenses are those which are necessary for running the business, like rent and coffee ingredients. Everything else is donated to IJM.
Not only does AJB act as a continual fundraiser for IJM, but it also spreads awareness about the industry that is human trafficking.
“Beyond the fundraising part, it’s also meant to be for education and advocacy,” McConaghie said. “So, we don’t just want to be a coffee shop and only talk about coffee. We also want to talk about justice and we want people who go to the coffee shop to know when they buy a coffee where that money’s going, because they are a part of that mission as well.”
AJB has multiple tactics for sharing information about human trafficking with their customers. They will have pamphlets available as well as highlights of people’s stories posted around the shop. Additionally, the baristas are trained to know more than just how to make a tasty cup of coffee. They are also taught about the human trafficking industry and kept up to date on the latest available information about it, enabling them to be effective resources for their customers.
McConaghie is following the example of the existing branches of AJB when it comes to implementing these tools to educate their customers. The Holland AJB is the fourth branch in a chain that began as just one individual selling coffee out of his apartment at the University of Washington-Madison to raise money for IJM.
The drive of AJB’s founders to put an end human trafficking is shared by McConaghie. This is something that she found a passion for even before she heard about AJB. During her freshman year of college, McConaghie participated in Dressember, which is another fundraiser created for the purpose of fighting human trafficking.
“My old youth pastor had done that and I thought it was really interesting,” McConaghie said. “Part of it is raising money, but also educating yourself and talking about it. So, when I did that I took a lot of time to learn about modern-day slavery and that’s when I really became aware of how prevalent it was. I didn’t realize that that was something that still went on, let alone something that I could be a part of eradicating.”
This experience with Dressember is what sparked McConaghie’s dedication to this cause that eventually led her to AJB.
McConaghie first came to hear about AJB through an Instagram post made by the president of the Illinois State University branch, Andrea Greening. Greening, who is the sister of one of McConaghie’s old friends, had posted about the organization, and McConaghie was immediately intrigued.
“I literally just DM’d her and was like, ‘Hey Andrea, I’ve seen you post about this, tell me more about it.’ And then she and I had a great FaceTime,” McConaghie said. “She explained it all to me, and I said, ‘Hey, I think Holland and Hope College could get behind this.’”
Greening was able to connect McConaghie with Dan Mackett, the founder of the original A Just Brew at UW Madison. McConaghie was then able to collaborate with Mackett to start the process of figuring out how to make A Just Brew work in Holland.
This is McConaghie’s first time undertaking something as large as starting a business, but she is not doing it all alone. A board made up of the founding members of the UW Madison branch who oversee each AJB has provided McConaghie with immense of support. She says that the guidance she has received from the AJB team has made the job a little less daunting for her.
“I’m starting it from ground zero in this location, but I also have a ton of support from people kind of overseeing me and mentoring me throughout this process,” McConaghie said.
In addition to her mentors from AJB, McConaghie is also working with five other Hope College students. This team of women includes Emma Leudtke, Justine Watson, Maya Hecksel, Taylor Clarke and Valerie Dien. Other students have also already signed up to volunteer as baristas, but these are the women who will be responsible for getting the shop up and running.
McConaghie does not yet have an exact date when the shop will be opening, but she is hoping to have it in operation by the end of the semester, located inside of Boulevard Church.
In the meantime, people can help support the organization by donating to their start-up fund.
“Because everything is donation based, we have to fundraise to get it started,” McConaghie said.
The link to the website can be found in the bio of the shop’s Instagram, @ajb.holland, as well as at the bottom of this page. Along with donating, this is also where supporters can purchase bags of coffee and other AJB merchandise.