In real estate, the saying is “location, location, location.” The same might be said for the 2018 Spark Tank Pitch Fest organized by the Fresno Pacific University Center for Community Transformation. This year’s location for the Spark Tank is a clue to its significance.

The theme of this sixth annual event—from 3:00-5:00 p.m. Thursday, November 15—is “The Aroma of Social Impact,” a not-so-subtle nod to its location at Lanna Coffee Company, 617 Broadway, Fresno.

But there’s more than wordplay to the connection between Spark Tank and Lanna Coffee: Spark Tank encourages social enterprise, which uses the principles of business to get beyond charity and create products and services that address specific community problems while employing people who have challenges to traditional employment. Spark Tank has helped catalyze 38 social enterprises throughout the Central Valley, with a success rate double the national average, and is unique in the region.

Enterprises that have won Spark Tank awards have hired 122 people, many with barriers, according to Carlos Huerta, CCT program director for community initiatives. “We are talking about dozens of families impacted; in fact, it’s been transformational,” he said.

Lanna Coffee is a local company that lives that spirit by working with growers in Thailand who used to grow opium, but were helped to transition to coffee. Now a portion of the profits from the coffee return to help provide clean water wells for the growers. So far 70,000 Thai people have received access to clean water. Lanna Coffee is available at Vons, Costco and Whole Foods as well as directly from the company and is served at some local coffee shops.

A social enterprise demonstrates a triple bottom line:

  • Financial sustainability
  • A clear intent to impact a specific social problem
  • Environmentally non-toxic

For more information on Spark Tank, contact Huerta at 559-453-2374, carlos.huerta@fresno.edu or check the CCT website cctfresno.org/social-enterprise/