About FIRSTHAND Cooperative

Firsthand Cooperative partners with local businesses and community organizations to support the solidarity economy in Nicaragua and West Virginia. We are a social business that uses profits from the sale of our unique Firsthand Coffee brand to invest in cooperatives and other small businesses and to support educational programming around our core principles. We are also a community of learning that was started in the Food Justice Laboratory at West Virginia University, and students remain central to our work. Our affiliated student organization, Firsthand at WVU, engages in educational activities and solidarity activism with Firsthand partners around campus and beyond. 

Firsthand Cooperative is a people-centered network committed to:
  • Creating a solidarity economy: Profits from Firsthand Coffee sales are invested into the development of cooperatives and small family and social businesses in the mountain communities of Nicaragua and West Virginia. We work closely with partners to strengthen local solidarity economy networks and foster the creation of economies that are people-centered and focused on meeting a variety of local needs.
  • Supporting the cooperative movement: Firsthand Cooperative is guided by the sixth cooperative principle "cooperation among cooperatives," meaning we prioritize offering financial and other forms of support to organizations that also ascribe to cooperative principles such as democratic ownership and governance and concern for community.
  • Building lasting relationships: Firsthand fosters relationships with partner organizations, students, and consumers over the long term. Our aim is to build the capacity to address the evolving needs of each member of our network, and to ensure mutual benefits that can be sustained and shared with new partners as the Cooperative grows. 
  • Fostering a community of learning: Firsthand began as a small group of students who sought to educate themselves and others about coffee origins and fair trade through research and partnership with a coffee cooperative in Nicaragua; our mission has since expanded beyond a focus on coffee, but we retain the spirit of learning and self-reflection in our work.
  • Promoting social justice: Firsthand Cooperative is committed to promoting social justice in every aspect of our work, and we expect the same commitment from our partners.