30 million slaves in the world need help, but startups are more sustainable than charities. So rather than raise donations, Causes .com is crowdfunding anti-slavery group Not For Sale’s new beverage startup REBBL. The company will employ freed slaves in the Amazon, and reinvest proceeds into projects that combat human trafficking.
Two weeks in, REBBL is half way to its goal of raising $150,000 in a month, and today the first bottles of Organic REBBL Hibiscus Mint Tea are coming off the production line. If it can raise another $75,000 in the next 13 days, REBBL will prove that crowdfunding can launch not-for-profit startups, and remake the concept of charity for the digital age.
Since it was founded in 2007, Facebook-based social good fundraising platform Causes has pulled in $45 million for a wide variety of health, education, environmental, and human rights initiatives. Causes itself is a for-profit business, though, and has raised $16.4 million from investors including Founders Fund.
Crowdfunding an actual business is a new experiment for Causes — something that brings it closer to the space Kickstarter operates in. Instead of just letters and photos from people they’ve helped, donors of $35 will receive a four-pack of REBBL. By combining the satisfaction of helping others with a tangible product that contributors can hold, Causes hopes people will be more inclined open their wallets.
Creating Jobs, Drinks
REBBL will be manufactured deep in the Peruvian Amazon. This is a place where thousands of residents are seven hours from the nearest marketplace. Without an easy way to sell goods, some become desperate for jobs and fall prey to human traffickers who promise employment but sell them into slavery.
The money raised through Causes will got towards creating a supply chain, warehouses, and training staff. With enough demand, production will fire up and REBBL will be able to hire more locals, protecting them from the slavers.
To make sure REBBL tastes great and people know it, the company has brought on board Palo Hawkin, who invented the massively popular Zico Choccolate Coconut Water flavor, which I think is delicious even though I generally dislike coconut water. TechCrunch will be getting a “first sip” of the REBBL beverage tonight at its launch event, and will update with our review. The joy of saving the world won’t matter unless people also want to drink it.
If Not For Sale’s spin-off can produce a tea that’s tasty but also feels good to buy, soon you might be closing the loop a contribution to ending slavery with a cool sip of REBBL.
Update: I tried REBBL and was pretty impressed with the taste. The mint was refreshing but but didn’t overpower the hibiscus. The bottle’s design is pretty, though its shape and label are very similar to the popular Synergy Kombucha. The connection to Not For Sale could certainly be more prevalent. I think that’s a big reason to buy it instead of another drink, but the fact that proceeds fight slavery only appears in fine print on the back of the bottle. Overall, though, REBBL left me with me with a calm sense of motivation.