Teen’s coffee business aims to bring a better quality of life to Ethiopia
CEO Eden Tarik Wild sells coffee and more online to help children in Ethiopia.
Eden Tarik Wild, 13, is a change-maker. She knows her life story is the answer to a prayer and now, to help others in her birth country of Ethiopia, she runs a company—Buna Tarik (BT) Roasters—“coffee with a story,” which she launched in August 2019 at age 12. Profits from sales of home-roasted coffee, handmade bracelets and apparel go directly to Ethiopia to improve living conditions. Eden said one bag of coffee sponsors a child’s access to clean water for 20 years.
Eden was adopted from Ethiopia as a young child into the Wild family, joining parents Majors Ivan and Jennifer (Salvation Army officers) and siblings, Sarah, Chelsea and Keegan. Her birth name was “Tarik,” chosen by her aunt to represent her unique story; the Wilds retained that as her middle name. Eden’s birth mother died during childbirth from complications due to factors including the lack of clean water, proper nutrition and good health care. Her aunt took her in, but she couldn’t afford to raise a baby, so Eden was placed in an orphanage.
“[My aunt] prayed that a Christian, loving home would take me and that is what happened,” Eden said. “My parents, the Wilds, adopted me. I want to give others the opportunities that I’ve been given. Every day I have access to clean water, sanitation and education.
She knows many Ethiopian children don’t have such access.
“Buna Tarik Roasters is my way of changing their story,” she said. “Our motto is ‘coffee with a story.’” The company name encompasses its mission: “Buna means coffee and Tarik is my middle name, meaning ‘story,’ because of my story or my history. Buna Tarik Roasters is a story of changing the stories [of others], inspired by my own adoption story.”
At the forefront of her mission is the memory from the orphanage of her best friend there, Brotakan. Not knowing what happened to her friend—if Brotakan was among the one in 15 Ethiopian children who die before their 5th birthday—is one of the motivations driving her cause.
As she thought of Brotakan over the years, Eden knew she wanted to do something about the conditions in Ethiopia. She and her dad would watch “Shark Tank,” and anticipate their big idea. Things began to take shape when, for his birthday, Ivan Wild received a coffee roaster from Keegan Wild. They figured they could sell coffee online, make money and help provide clean water for Ethiopia.
A family effort
BT Roasters is a family project. Eden and her father home roast the fair-trade Ethiopian coffee beans purchased from a wholesaler. Each pound takes about 18 minutes to roast; afterward, the beans cool and settle for a few hours. They then grind the beans and she packages them, which takes about five minutes per pound of coffee.
Her brother Keegan built the website and her mother helps sell the coffee. The finished product is distributed through website sales or directly to the local community. BT Roasters has expanded its product line to include Buna Tarik sweatshirts, hoodies, mugs and handmade bracelets.
“My whole family has helped me along the way to see it grow and bring opportunity to the people of Ethiopia,” Eden said.
BT Roasters has repeat customers, but experienced an exciting holiday season.
“During Christmas we underestimated the demand and had a hard time keeping up,” she said. “Our largest one-time order was 50 bags of coffee. We were up late that night.”
Proceeds from BT Roasters go to Ethiopia to fund wells, education and sanitary supplies. Salvation Army connections have helped with obtaining some donations, while new partnerships help facilitate big projects, like the wells. BT Roasters partnered with Texas nonprofit Water to Thrive to build a well.
“So far, we have funded a $5,000 well in the rural village of Haro, serving 1,800 people,” Eden said. “Most recently, we sent 50 children backpacks filled with education supplies and sanitation supplies including masks, hand sanitizers and hand wipes. We partnered with ‘Because of Kennedy,’ a nonprofit that works directly with orphans in Ethiopia. We were able to supply them with 500 masks and they took the backpacks personally to Ethiopia for us.”
Among BT Roasters’ new products, the handmade bracelets, created by Ethiopian youth, offer a “hand up,” not just a “hand out.”
“We started Amarabi (Amharic for bracelet—Amharic is the official language in Ethiopia) works as a goal of creating long-term sustainability and breaking the cycle of poverty and waterborne diseases through clean water, sanitization and education. When a community has clean water, sanitization and education it will thrive,” Eden said.
About 50 Ethiopian youth signed up for the Amarabi project. Through its coffee sales, BT Roasters supplied the initial funds to purchase jewelry-making materials. Participants make the jewelry and BT Roasters sells the items with its coffee.
Ultimately, Eden hopes that no child anywhere goes without clean water and other basic needs. With that in mind, youth in the Marshall Islands are also participating in the bracelet-making project. Eden arranged this with the help of her Salvation Army corps, Sacramento Citadel, which has a number of Marshallese attendees.
Lately, the company is working on “Love in Action” boxes. Customers can choose between two different kinds of beans along with bracelets, and proceeds go back to the Ethiopian project participants.
“We hope it will help them to have a small, sustainable business,” she said. “The funds are sent to reinvest. The money goes to education funds, personal funds and savings with the ultimate goal of changing stories.”
Sharing the story
Eden has shared her story at two Ethiopian churches in Oakland, California, which offered to sponsor her to visit Ethiopia. On March 28, 2021—Palm Sunday—she will speak about her project at City Church of Sacramento (California); its pastor, Mark Meeks, is on The Salvation Army Sacramento Metro Advisory Board.
“At only 12 years old, Eden fostered a righteous goal that required hard work, sacrifices, faith, and passion,” said Leilt Habte, a leader at Fares Prophetic Church, one of the churches where Eden spoke and that took up a love offering for her future trip to Ethiopia. “Born as a visionary person, to Eden, this was just a natural decision. This monumental and compassionate act that many adults only dream about in fleeting moments, to this pre-teen was a simple contribution and an honorable duty.”
Eden hopes to visit the well and The Salvation Army of Addis where they sponsor the children this summer (2021). “I really want to visit my birthplace and God has provided a way.”
She is committed to BT Roasters and its potential for changing stories for the better, and she is optimistic about its growth potential. “I just want to see how many people we can help; it has been fun to see it grow. My dad and I like to come up with new ideas and ways to market the coffee, like ‘Love in Action’ boxes. It would be cool to build a brand through our apparel: BTR.”
She emphasized that the company is about more than just clean water, because access to clean water impacts life overall; its lack perpetuates the cycle of poverty. She said many girls don’t attend school because they have to walk great distances to collect water. Fewer than half of Ethiopian children go to primary school, she added. That’s in addition to the grim child mortality statistics, with many not living to reach age five and that a child dies every hour from diseases related to poor sanitation.
“I want this number to be zero and to see thriving families and communities,” Eden said. “I want to see no one struggling to have access to the basic things we use every day—providing water for more people, getting more kids in school, getting more families out of poverty. I want to fund more wells and see Buna Tarik Roasters grow bigger so it can touch more lives and change their story.”