From Kolkata to Denver: An Interview with Kristen Lanning

Kristen Lanning, the Executive Director of 8th Day Coffee, is from Colorado, she attended the University of Denver where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with minors in International Studies and Leadership. She attended Denver Seminary for a short period of time in hopes to complete her Masters in Justice and Mission, but was given an opportunity to move to Kolkata, India to work for International Justice Mission as a Communications and Community Mobilization Assistant. She took that opportunity and ran with it!

Lanning stated in an interview that when she started going to Kolkata she “immediately fell in the love with the city.” She continued, “When I was given the opportunity to move there and work with an anti-human trafficking organization, I knew it was what I was supposed to do.” It was during her time there that she began to learn more about the needs for the marginalized around the world. Lanning goes on to say, “I learned so much about the needs of the women who are exploited by the sex trade. One of the main needs I saw was long-term and adequate employment. If you can provide dignified and well paying jobs, this helps prevent women from becoming vulnerable to trafficking in the first place. But employment is necessary even on the rehabilitation side after a woman has been rescued. She needs the empowerment to stand on her own feet, especially in a culture where her family has likely abandoned her because of her involved in prostitution-even when it’s not her choice. Employment also provides dignity to these women and allows them the space to believe they can achieve more in life.”

For Lanning, transformational life for marginalized women can happen anywhere. While living in Kolkata she started dreaming of what it could look like to start a coffee shop to provide this transformational employment to women in that city, however she left India after living there one year and moved back to Colorado. Although her plans changed she was still able to say, “my dream of seeing this happen never waived.” And to her surprise, six months after she returned from India, she learned about a couple who was in the process of starting a cafe in Kolkata with the exact mission and vision she had. She said she immediately got in touch with them and her dream of bringing a similar model to Denver was launched!

There is much to hope for in the city of Denver! And people have asked questions about the heart behind starting 8th Day Coffee and also more logistical questions. In the interview with Lanning, she answers questions about the model 8th Day Coffee is taking to hire women and next steps.

How will 8th Day function?

“8th Day is a hybrid model in structure. This means that we have a parent non-profit, 8th Day Restoration, which then owns 8th Day Coffee. Profits generated by our social enterprise(s) are then used to pay participant salaries and go towards additional support services and programs for them.”

What organizations is 8th Day partnering with to give women employment? And how does this process work?

“Right now we have generated a number of interested partners agencies. Our hope is to partner with groups that are in the “front-line” work of providing for basic needs and protection for women. They are our first advocates for helping these women. Once a woman goes through their designated program, the agency will then refer them to us as a potential candidate for employment. We go through an application and interview process and then the woman is accepted in to our year-long fellowship program.”

What are next steps?

“Our most immediate need is to raise the capital to purchase the tuk-tuk. Once that happens, things will ramp up so quickly! We will need to do some design work to the tuk-tuk and make sure we have all the equipment in place. Once that happens though, we will be able to start operations almost immediately. We already have our coffee and food vendors in place. Our program manager, Halie, will begin operations alongside myself for the first 3 months until we feel really solid in our business performance and  then we will hire our first woman!"

The future with 8th Day Coffee in Denver is promising and exciting. The 8th Day team has worked hard and they are all looking forward to the day when they can hire their first fellow. 8th Day Coffee will be a place that is unique to everyone involved. To the women hired, it will be a saving grace and place of freedom; to the costumers is will be a place to buy good coffee and know they're making a difference and to Lanning, “8th Day is all about new life. It's a place, an idea, a lifestyle where people are given the opportunities to thrive and to live the abundant life they were created to live!”

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