This Storytelling Project Combines Coffee and Kindness [Q&A]

Lauren Heineck’s Coffee Stories calls all coffee lovers to ‘gift a coffee, unlock a story.’

Dec 10, 2015


Lauren Heineck, CEO and Founder of Coffee Stories

Lauren Heineck is the coffee-loving Founder of Coffee Stories

To Lauren Heineck, coffee has always been more than just a liquid in a cup – she believes there’s more to that iced latte, milky cappuccino or shot of espresso than meets the eye. Coffee is there to greet us in the morning, to stimulate our conversations, to provide us with sustenance. Coffee connects us. And it’s this very connection that Heineck is hoping to build on with her pay-it-forward, digital storytelling project, Coffee Stories.

Here’s how: Customer A buys an extra coffee to be gifted to a future client, Customer B. When Customer B places an order, he is informed that a previous client has already covered the cost of his coffee. All he has to do in return is answer the questions about a monthly topic, such as friendship or travel, on a Coffee Stories prompt.

In this week’s 10 Good Questions, Heineck tells Goodnet how Coffee Stories is spreading coffee kindness, creating community, and connecting coffee-drinkers one story at a time.

1. What is your organization’s mission?

Coffee Stories was created to spread coffee kindness, build community, and to offer a medium for members of society to empathize with each other over two adored pieces of our modern lives: coffee and stories. We're striving to make ordering a 'coffee stories' coffee' as ubiquitous and quotidian as ordering a coffee for yourself: "Gift a coffee, unlock a story." We aim to leave the coffee shop kinder, more hospitable than we found it, and to listen attentively to what others think, feel, and are moved by when we read and share their stories.

2. What makes you guys different from the rest?

We're confident we're doing something innovative in the space. Although we're aware that as we grow we can improve our efficacy and reach (winking at you future ambassadors), our values will stay true to giving and telling stories. We also hope, by the nature of the gifting, that we can have a positive impact on small businesses (coffee shops) and social agricultural projects where coffee is sustainably farmed.

3. What three words describe your organization?

Kindness, Empathy, Contemplative.

4. What inspires you?

Humanity's goodness. A fantastic cappuccino makes me swoon as well.

Alina from Mexico City receives free coffee

In return for her pre-paid coffee, Alina from Mexico City shared her thoughts on travel

5. Who's your favorite good doer figure?

I've long admired Kiva's mission to empower people in developing nations or stagnant economic situations to reach their goals. There is so much hope for every citizen of the world to live a dignified life, doing things that they are passionate about, and I have much respect for all of the entrepreneurs and organizations that reach for that to take place.

6. What is the best part about your job?

While we've delivered a storytelling platform for a specific user base and gifter, I can't help but pay homage to the superstar facilitator of it all - coffee (and sometimes tea!). When I contemplate the misty cloud-capped mountains of coffee plantations, the numerous farmers who hand planted and picked their product, the suppliers, roasters, baristas that all allowed a humble bean to make it to a cup, and in turn make someone's day special, I geek out over our beautiful world.

7. How do you measure success within your organization?

Putting a smile on someone's face, making them feel like a valued member of society is something we accomplish with each gifted coffee our community gives. However, Coffee Stories defines true success by learning of the story of that customer (they're asked to share after receiving a coffee) - and being able to share that story for posterity. We're definitely of the belief that storytelling is a powerful tool for understanding and caring for one another in the present and future.

8. Facebook or Twitter?

If we may throw a curveball - Instagram; it's a great community of good doers and coffee lovers! We also use both Twitter and Facebook and love connecting with anyone that has given or received a coffee and tagged their coffee photos with the movement's hashtag (#thisismycoffeestory).

Muffin and coffee

Coffee Stories celebrates coffee-drinkers, but also small businesses and sustainble agricultural projects

9. What do you want Goodnet users to know about your organization?

That we have many, many more people to reach -- we're just getting started. Most importantly, YOU can be a catalyst in helping the movement reach all corners of the globe by starting with your favorite coffee shop.

10. How can people get involved?

Glad you asked! For Goodnet community members who'd like to gift a coffee to a stranger, instructions and the printable card are found at: or if they prefer to gift directly to Coffee Stories, we accept donations.

Additionally, we want to put no limitations on who or where people can get involved; we foresee a world of coffee stories. Currently the gifting card is in English and in Spanish, but that hasn't stopped others from using those templates in Pakistan, Indonesia, Vietnam, or French-speaking Canada. That said, we'd happily accept volunteers to translate the gifting card in their language.

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