November 2018

Whole Foods AKA Operation Sneaky Cupcakes

BLOG / Whole Foods AKA Operation Sneaky Cupcakes

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Zane Wilemon

Ubuntu Life Co-Founder and Executive Director

Our partnership with Whole Foods Market started over cupcakes...well actually it started by my pretending to be a cupcake delivery guy in order to secure a meeting with someone at Whole Foods. It worked! In 2010 I finally got our meeting at the Whole Foods HQ in Austin, Texas which then led to Ubuntu hosting the very first Whole Foods team to the continent of Africa the following year. Like all of Ubuntu's key partnerships, the future of this collaboration came through the leadership of an individual, David Lannon, who at the time of our inaugural trip was the President of Whole Foods Northern California region. I'll never forget David Lannon saying to Jeremiah, me and the entire Whole Foods volunteer team sitting in a circle at the end of our time together in Kenya, "Ubuntu reminds me a lot of Whole Foods when we were first starting out. There are so many similarities in our culture. And you know it's companies like Ubuntu that Whole Foods needs to be partnering with. I'm going to make sure this partnership happens as I go back to the States." And he did!


Today our partnership with Whole Foods has expanded from hosting volunteer impact trips to Kenya with their employees to selling products like our reusable canvas coffee sleeves and bracelets to launching our collaborative Cafe Ubuntu Coffee to physically building our Cafe Ubuntu building in Maai Mahiu, Kenya. 

Even more importantly than these tangible results of our partnership are the intangibles that have changed the trajectory of Ubuntu. Whole Foods mentored Jeremiah, me and our entire organization on the power and impact of conscious capitalism. They taught us what it means to live into our core values as a business and embodied this to us by believing in what we were trying to create before we even knew fully what it was that we were creating.

I will forever be indebted to those leaders at Whole Foods Market like David Lannon, Kurstin Leith, Tara Cross, Jeff Teter, Joy Stoddard and so many others who believed in us and took a chance on this little no name non-profit in Maai Mahiu, Kenya. It's leaders like these that make Whole Foods Market the conscious powerhouse that it is today. It is also thanks to these leaders that Ubuntu is now leading the charge in Kenya on what it means to create meaningful jobs while making products that are ethically sourced and beautifully made.



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