The thesis selection results are in. And the winner is…
Fortunately, you all agreed with my gut instinct here, so it’s official, I’m writing about the equity plan behind door #2! And as a little teaser, here’s the working title and abstract I submitted to Illy:
“International Expansion of Professional Smallholder Coffee Farms:
A Dynamic Financial Model for Entering Consumer Markets”
ABSTRACT: In a word, the goal of this thesis is disintermediation. For the individual farmer, the supply chain is nearly incomprehensible. It’s length, costs, and sheer geographical width are immensely complex and diverse. To address this issue, I am proposing a new business model that will unite farmer and roaster in a dynamic equity, joint business venture, with the objective of increasing profits, building equity, and stabilizing future revenue forecasts. Furthermore, this shared equity mechanism will bridge the information gap between farm and cup by directly aligning the business interests of both entities, creating a direct connection to the consumer never before seen in the coffee industry.
For posterity’s sake, here are the three final topics you all voted on. The two “losers” will still likely happen someday, so stay tuned!
1. Designs for a Carbon Negative Coffee Roaster
ABSTRACT: Can roasting coffee actually help the environment? I think so. There are already a handful of coffee roasters that have gone old school and use wood to power their roasters instead of gas. But I’d like to research the possibility of using a process called pyrolysis to roast the coffee instead. Because the by-product of pyrolysis is bio-char, a material used for both agricultural fertilizer and carbon sequestration. A coffee roaster that is carbon negative would also have a competitive advantage for marketing their product.
2. A Business Model for Enabling Farmers to Build Equity in Foreign Markets
ABSTRACT: In a word, the goal of this study is disintermediation. Coffee commodity markets are notoriously complex and undifferentiated, not to mention volatile. The coffee farmer is forced to be a “price-taker” based on the markets, and is generally underpaid. But what if a farmer could invest directly into consuming countries? For a group project this semester, we envisioned a joint venture model to address this exact question (and you can see our highly amateur video below), but for my thesis, it’s possible for me to take this idea further. Perhaps even creating an operational plan for starting such an idea.
3. Marketing to Millennials through Interactive Experiences
ABSTRACT: Millennials are the first generation to be raised on the internet. Their interests therefore, have deviated from the predecessors, and their attention has been saturated. The limits of technology to inspire millennial consumer behavior have been reached, so a new strategy will need to be developed to stand out from the crowd. The company that offers experiences that are both interactive and accessible, will capture the generation’s fascination. There is a business case for being their daily digital retreat, and Illy can capitalize on this opening because coffee is inherently an interactive, physical experience.
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