Dean’s Beans founder lauded with business peace award

Submitted photo by Dean's Beans
Dean Cycon with farmers from Papua New Guinea.

Submitted photo by Dean's Beans Dean Cycon with farmers from Papua New Guinea.

ORANGE — From Randall’s Pond Industrial Park to the farm fields of Papua New Guinea, Peru and Colombia, Dean Cycon has been instrumental in promoting economic and social change through his coffee importing business.

This month, the founder of Dean’s Beans coffee wholesaler, was recognized as an honoree of an Oslo Business for Peace Award 2013. The award, touted by its originators as the “Nobel Prize for Business,” recognizes creative business owners who make a difference in the world socially and economically.

The Leverett resident was one of five honorees picked from across the world by the Award Giving Committee of Nobel Laureates based in Norway. And he was the only American chosen among 80 nominees from 50 countries.

“It’s exciting and humbling to be recognized for the work we do and have done for 20 years,” said Cycon from his small office. “It’s wonderful to share it with farmers around the world and hear how excited they are.”

The Oslo Business for Peace Award was created in 2009 by the Business for Peace Foundation, a nonprofit based in Norway to recognize achievements in business ethics.

Each year, the foundation recognizes seven business people worldwide for the award.

The award winners are selected by an independent committee composed of winners of either the Nobel Peace Prize and the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

The mission of the foundation is to inspire and encourage business people to foster peace and stability to the benefit of humanity.

Though many businesses operate to solely make profit, Cycon preferred a different business model.

He started Dean’s Beans in 1993 as an experiment to see if it was possible for a business to be active in social change and still be profitable.

From the Orange beanery, Dean’s Beans produces certified organic, fair trade and kosher roasted batches from cooperative farms from around the world.

“For 20 years, we’ve been profitable and grown,” Cycon said. “Our values resonant with people’s values. They find a kinship in that and support us. Our business model requires us to do work in the country as part of the price of doing business. We do direct activism in the coffee communities,” said Cycon.

And so, Cycon traveled to countries across Asia, Latin America and Africa to meet with local farmers. As part of the business deal, Dean’s Beans will sell coffee beans if farmers want to create programs for their communities.

The farmers choose the programs for their communities and Dean’s Beans trains them to run the program.

Before approaching a community or farmer, Dean’s Beans does its due diligence.

“We only work with cooperatives that are already transparent and democratic,” Cycon said.

At the same time, Dean’s Beans provides high quality coffee at a reasonable price.

The coffee beans can be found and brewed at the Green Fields Market, the Night Kitchen in Montague, the Leverett Food Coop and other local cooperatives.

Currently, Dean’s Beans works with communities in 12 countries, including Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Colombia and Peru.

Dean’s Beans most recent project is in Nicaragua, where women formed a cooperative to develop economic plans for when they are not working in coffee plants.

In El Salvador, Dean’s Beans is training a cooperative to produce organically to have a better crop yield.

The coffee bean only grows 20 degrees above and below the equator. It’s also the place where most of the major world conflicts take place.

“For us to go in as a positive, peace-building business helps locals and makes us good ambassadors for the American people,” Cycon said.

Cycon never thought he’d be in the coffee business.

A social activist, the New York native earned a law degree from New York University, then when on to work for a Wall Street law firm for two years to understand the corporations from the inside. Later, he obtained an advanced law degree from Yale Law School, focusing on international business, and worked at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution researching law and policy on Third World resource development and other issues.

After he gave a 1987 lecture at the University of Rhode Island about rain forest deforestation, the professor asked him to meet a friend to discuss an organization for coffee farmers. In Providence, Cycon met the owner of the Coffee Exchange, a popular coffee shop that sells Arabica coffee and supports environmental sustainability. The partnership led to the creation of Coffee Kids, which is committed to helping coffee-farming families liberate themselves from their dependency on coffee as their only source of income.

Coffee Kids inspired Cycon to start his own business with an intent to help others.

With a small $7,000 roaster and a bag of coffee, Cycon started Dean’s Beans in a small shed at his former New Salem home.

He burned his first roast. But it was only one of two bad batches in 20 years.

Eventually, Cycon’s small business grew and he looked for a spot to expand.

Though Cycon could re-locate Dean’s Beans to the bustling towns of Amherst or Northampton, he chose Orange, a place with few jobs.

Dean’s Beans sits on two acres of Randall’s Pond Industrial Park.

The land was originally intended for a hazardous waste recycling facility, but Cycon bought the property instead. While many residents feared the loss of potential jobs with the loss of the waste facility, Cycon assured them he would provide the town with just as many good jobs with a better purpose.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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