Creative Giving at the Source

Around this time of year, it’s only natural for us to think a lot about consumerism. Between Black Friday and New Year’s, we have a whole lot of shopping and returning to do. As a businessperson, I’ve long been tuned in to trends, and it delights me that more people are wanting to spend money on something they feel makes the world a better place. Fairs abound where you can spend your dollars on a gift that does a social good, like chocolates from Theo’s Chocolates, or a Mushroom Farm Kit from Back to the Roots. REBBL super herb beverages, the company I run, was born out of wanting to solve a serious problem—that of human trafficking. I wasn’t involved with REBBL at the time of its inception, but I love telling its remarkable story.

The non-profit Not for Sale, with Dave Batstone as its founder and president, has a vision of eradicating human trafficking in our lifetime, including the slave and sex trade. This is an uncomfortable subject to talk about, in part because the problem is so enormous.  Human trafficking impacts thirty million people. That’s just hard to wrap your mind around. Eighty percent of them are women and girls. Human trafficking is the fastest-growing illegal activity in the world.

In 2011, the geographical area of concern for Not for Sale was the Peruvian Amazon. Though rich in natural resources, because the area is so remote, and cut off from basic infrastructure, the communities there were struggling to meet their basic needs, and were vulnerable to exploitation. The problem was clear, but the solution wasn’t immediately so. What could Not for Sale do to help create jobs in this area?

The non-profit convened a summit called the Montara Circle, bringing some of the greatest business minds together to come up with a solution. The diverse group of people in attendance included a professional baseball player, an agronomist, an engineer, and investors. Splitting them into teams, Dave boldly said “we will fund whatever project is voted to be the best one today.” (He prayed that the best idea would actually be a good idea!)  REBBL—a beverage using the native super herbs from the area—was the winning product idea. The concept was that the herbs would be bought directly from the indigenous community, providing them with a living wage for their crops. With the hopeful growth of REBBL, the community would no longer be vulnerable to trafficking.

Next the leaders of Not for Sale needed a brilliant product innovator to create a drink that consumers would flock to—for without customers, there was obviously no point. Palo Hawken, one of the best innovators in the beverage business, agreed to work for REBBL, but only if he could make a drink like no other. And he did. REBBL, which stands for Roots Extracts, Berries, Bark and Leaves, is Righteous Plant Alchemy—a creamy, indulgent coconut milk elixir made from the best of the Plant Queendom. We’re educating people about super herbs like turmeric, with its antioxidant properties; and herbal adaptogens like ashwagandha, which helps your individual body adapt to stress. While Peru was the first vulnerable area for REBBL to source ingredients from, it has since expanded to other corners of the globe, like Sri Lanka and Madagascar.

By supporting a living wage, REBBL is able to help insulate communities against trafficking attempts. REBBL is dedicated to helping our grower communities meet basic needs like health care, clean water, and education (especially girls’ education). And REBBL also gives 2.5% of its net sales back to Not for Sale, so that the non-profit’s great work can continue. Every bottle makes a difference. That’s why we like to say that REBBL is more than a drink—it’s really a movement. It goes without saying that I’m proud to be a part of it. But just as exciting is that I increasingly learn of founders creating companies like REBBL each year, companies that are born out of a desire to solve the social problems of our age. And maybe we just will.

More from Sheryl in her new book, Killing It! An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Keeping Your Head Without Losing Your Heart, available now online and in book stores.  You can purchase the book here!

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