The Sisu Coffee Project is, in every sense of the word, a community project.
Inspired by the resiliency of the North Shore and its inhabitants, the Sisu Coffee Project is a collaboration between three Cook County businesses. Java Moose, Fika Coffee and Hoaglund Designs have come together through Sisu to provide financial support to community members in need by doing what these small businesses do best: selling coffee.
“It all started after the fires last spring,” says Josh Lindstrom, founder and owner of Fika Coffee, referring to the fires that destroyed three beloved North Shore businesses—The Crooked Spoon, Picnic & Pine, and White Pine—in downtown Grand Marais during one of the darkest moments of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Hannah (owner of Hoaglund Designs) does some marketing work for Fika,” continues Lindstrom, “so we talk on a regular basis, and it was in one of these discussions right after the fires that I brought up the idea of doing a community coffee blend.”
“So, when Sarah at Java Moose reached out a few days later with a similar idea,” continues Lindstrom, “I was like ‘absolutely, let’s make this happen.’”
And make it happen they did.
After ironing out the concept of a “community coffee blend” and settling the details of the endeavor, the three businesses came together to make the Sisu Coffee Project a reality.
Lindstrom got to work roasting a special blend of coffee for the initiative, while Hannah Hoaglund designed the graphics for the bag and put together a website.
Meanwhile, Sarah Jorgenson-Hallberg prepared Java Moose to start selling and promoting Sisu Coffee as soon as it was ready for the shelves.
“I think everybody brings so much to the table,” says Jorgenson-Hallberg, “Josh roasts great coffee, Hannah builds incredible websites and spins a beautiful story, and we have the visibility.”
“So many people in our community have tried to pit Java Moose against Fika,” adds Jorgenson-Hallberg, “or peg us as competition, but nobody ever asked us how we feel about that.”
“We’ve always only wished the best for one another,” continues Jorgenson-Hallberg, “because what makes one of us better, makes us all better. Being able to come together with Josh and Hannah through this project has been an incredible experience, it’s what this community is all about.”
The three entrepreneurs decided to name the project “Sisu,” a Finnish word that speaks to one’s ability to “keep fighting, against all odds, when others have given up,” something that they believe is at the heart of the North Shore community and the project’s mission as a whole.
“This project was never just about the three of us,” says Jorgenson-Hallberg, “it’s about the community and the people who love this place that we are so fortunate to call home.”
“Sisu has been a way for us to give back to this community that has done so, so very much for us,” continues Jorgenson-Hallberg. “But more than that, it has allowed our visitors to be a part of that effort, it’s given them a way to give back to a place that they hold close in their hearts.”
Today, Sisu Coffee is a special blend of coffee that can be purchased either online or in-store at both Fika Coffee and Java Moose, where $10 from each bag sold is used to “support the livelihoods and everyday needs” of the Cook County community.
Lindstrom, Jorgenson-Hallberg, and Hoaglund work together when deciding where best to direct the revenue from the project, relying heavily on local nominations received through the Sisu website.
“One of the driving motivations for this project,” says Hoaglund, “was to meet needs within the community that wouldn’t otherwise be taken care of.”
“There can be a lot of requirements, regulations and things of that nature that people need to meet in order to qualify for help,” continues Hoaglund, “so one of the benefits of a project like ours is the immediacy of the help that we are able to provide. The county has been a great resource in this way, providing insight into where our dollars will have the largest impact.”
The Sisu Project’s goal is to ultimately raise $30,000 to put towards this effort by selling 3,000 bags of Sisu Coffee. As of March 1, the Sisu Coffee Project had sold 2,158 bags of coffee and raised $21,580 for the community.
An extensive and up-to-date list of all of the community good being done by the Sisu Coffee Project can be found on the Sisu website.
When asked whether or not the project would continue after reaching its goal of raising $30,000 for the community, Lindstrom left his answer open ended.
“I think that there is some desire to keep the project going,” says Lindstrom, “but what that would look like is still up in the air.”
“One challenge that both Sarah and I have come across,” adds Lindstrom, “are people who just want to donate money to the cause without buying coffee. The other day I had a guy stop in the shop and try to donate $6,000 dollars!”
“So maybe down the road we will turn this project into something where we can accept donations like that,” continues Lindstrom, “or maybe we won’t. I think that there is a definite value in the creation and production of a product to go hand in hand with the donation. It involves more of the community; it touches not only those giving and receiving the donation, but also the people and businesses that create that product. It creates jobs and builds relationships between people.”
To confidentially nominate someone in need for the Sisu project, keep up to date on the projects progress, or purchase your own bag of Sisu coffee, visit: sisucoffeeproject.com. Or stop by Java Moose in Grand Marais or Fika Coffee shop in Lutsen.